Victoria launches school spending blitz to ease population pressure
Apr 29, 2016 | News | by The Learning Press staff
The Victorian government has announced a $1.1 billion spending plan to build nine new schools and fund improvements to hundreds of others.
The Andrews government's education package is the largest single investment in Victorian school infrastructure and comes in response to figures showing that up to 7200 extra classrooms (equating to 220 new schools) will be needed over the next decade to cope with an explosion in student numbers.
The picture is similar in NSW, with government documents obtained by Fairfax Media showing a surge in the school-age population three times greater than government forecasts previously suggested.
The NSW boom will require $10.8 billion in funding for 7500 new classrooms, some 90 per cent of them in Sydney, equating to 235 new schools over the next 15 years.
The NSW government is predicted to announce a 3.4 billion surplus for 2015/6, but it is not expected to detail how it intends to tackle school population growth until its School Asset Strategic Plan 2031 is finalised later this year.
The Victorian government has meanwhile outlined plans for an infrastructure spending blitz, with the state’s booming economy expected to deliver a $9 billion surplus over the next four years.
State education minister James Merlino says the Victorian plan will include:
"Victoria is growing and we need to start planning the schools of the future now,” said Mr Merlino.
“This is an outstanding budget for students and will create jobs for local tradies."
NSW assistant minister for education, Leslie Williams, has blamed the state’s previous Labor government for a school maintenance backlog liability of almost $1 billion.
While failing to detail how the government intended to tackle NSW’s school population explosion, she did affirm the Baird administration’s commitment to spending on infrastructure challenges.
"Since 2011, the NSW government has committed almost $4 billion to school infrastructure and maintenance," she said.
"This includes 23 new or relocated public schools and 50 major projects.
“The $1 billion Rebuilding NSW Schools Fund will provide up to 1,600 new or refurbished classrooms across NSW.”
Fairfax Media says leaked education department documents show the squeeze on school places is causing serious concern within NSW government ranks.
It says the education department’s own analysis states: "There will be significant classroom shortages in government primary and secondary schools."