LARGER CLASS SIZES, LESS MAINTENANCE FOR SCHOOLS: A-G REPORT REVEALS

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The Liberal Government is considering increases to school class sizes as a solution to the state’s overcrowding crisis, the Auditor-General has revealed.

In a scathing independent report that exposes the wilful neglect of our schools under the Berejiklian Government’s watch, the Auditor-General reveals that the Department of Education has conducted a ‘sensitivity analysis’ to explore increasing class sizes.

The secret analysis shows that increasing the average class size by one student would “reduce the funding gap significantly”.

The revelation comes as other sectors face a funding shortfall under Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s new education plan that will see NSW schools funding go backwards. As a result some Catholic schools could close or shrink, thereby placing yet more pressure on enrolments within the public system.

The Liberals have starved the NSW public schools system of funds in the six years it has been in office, the effects of which are revealed in the Auditor-General’s report.

We already know that the Liberals have failed to invest in maintaining our schools: the gap between what is being delivered by the Government and the demands of a growing population has blown out to $10.8 billon.

Under the Liberals the school maintenance backlog sits at $775 million, and will continue to grow unless the Government is prepared to put meaningful amounts of money into fixing the problem.

There are five key areas in the Auditor-General’s report which criticise the Government’s record:

1)  Failure to keep overcrowding down. Over a third of Government schools are at or over capacity. 180 schools are operating beyond their permanent classroom capacity;

2)  Failure to keep up with maintenance. Over the next 15 years- ‘40 per cent of existing government school buildings will be in such poor condition that learning outcomes could be compromised’;

3)  Failure to plan for the future. Kids could be facing far bigger class sizes while year classes could be staggered across the day due to population growth;

4)  Failure to accommodate for extra classrooms. 7,200 new classrooms are required along with the upgrade of many existing classrooms to meet future teaching and learning needs as the student population increases by 21 per cent;

5)  Failure to provide the funding needed. The Government is yet to commit to the Department’s Strategic Plan which estimates ‘that significantly more money will be required to provide the necessary number of fit-for-purpose student places when and where needed up until 2031’.

Quotes attributable to Opposition Leader Luke Foley

“It is clear that this Government is softening parents up for larger class sizes to help the Liberals get out of the overcrowding crisis currently gripping the state’s schools.

“This Government has wilfully neglected the state’s schools, starving them of funds and now it is students that will be made to pay with larger class sizes.

“Instead of funding schools to meet our needs the Government’s answer is to cut back on classrooms and increase class sizes. It’s their only solution to a crisis that is entirely of their own making.”

Quotes attributable to Shadow Education Minister Jihad Dib

“This Government has failed to plan for a growing student population and now we are seeing the effects of it.

“The Minister made a cynical announcement to build new schools because he knew the scathing report that was coming.

“This Government has completely neglected to build the schools that we need. For a long time they’ve just kicked the can down the road and it’s our students that are suffering.”