Schools in Mitchell electorate

Monday, 18 March 2024

Mr HAWKE (Mitchell) (10:42): I rise today to raise the interesting state of schools in my electorate from growth figures that have been released recently and the feedback I've been receiving from principals over many years. New figures from the Department of Education reveal that schools in the Mitchell electorate are bursting at the seams, as they have been for many years. Four of our local public schools—Matthew Pearce, Rouse Hill, Castle Hill and North Kellyville—are ranked amongst the 20 biggest primary schools in the state by enrolment, boasting over a thousand students each. Many people will say this is not new. But there have been demountables at these schools for a long time now, and I'm concerned that public infrastructure spending on public schools isn't adequate to meet the demands in growth areas, including these public schools that are bigger than 1,000.

Castle Hill High School is one of the top three largest public schools in New South Wales, and that is the school, as we know, that has suffered from ancient infrastructure, with asbestos all through it. There are still asbestos issues. It's been cleared by the department, challenged, recleared, challenged, recleared—still no proposed infrastructure spending to lift this 60-year-old infrastructure up to where it needs to be in one of the biggest high schools in the state. What is the spend, and how is it being done by the Department of Education, if it's not being done for the largest and oldest schools with the most difficult infrastructure?

There are high schools bigger than Castle Hill High, new ones, but they're brand-new infrastructure, and the dynamic of a growth area and a non-growth area having brand-new schools and old infrastructure is of course a disaster.

The last government announced and committed to the funding and building of the Box Hill public school, and I welcome this. It's being constructed at the moment in a growth area of my electorate. But the priority of the Department of Education to actually go back and fix longstanding older schools and their infrastructure isn't there. A lot of money is spent by the Department of Education in New South Wales every year. There are a lot of people who work for the Department of Education. But what is their program to update and upgrade older-infrastructure schools? Where is it and why isn't it there? It simply isn't sufficient and it simply isn't getting the right results for kids in large and small schools around the state.

We've had to have the private sector step in. I've been meeting with independent and private schools who are going to open schools in the north of my electorate at great expense. There's capital being raised to do that, and we welcome that. That's part of our system to ensure those schools are able to open and enhance. But that should not be at the expense of re-updating infrastructure in older schools that are now 60 or 70 years old and clearly out of date. We do need a solution to this. The state government seem to have no apparent plan to fix this infrastructure backlog, and, indeed, they're not keeping up with the current growth. We've got two large schools. We've got older schools with no sufficient pipeline of new infrastructure upgrading. There is a lot of money being spent. Where is it being spent and why? The department needs to take some lessons from the independent, Catholic and other efficient systems on how to spend money and how to prioritise money.