(Question Without Notice, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament)
My question is directed to the Minister for Education. What is the progress of the Inner Sydney Schools Working Group, established last October, including plans for additional primary education facilities in the Pyrmont and Ultimo area?
Response from Mr Adrian Piccoli
It is progressing very well, I might say to the member for Sydney. I am pleased to confirm that the Inner Sydney Schools Working Group, which currently meets once a month—and was established after the member was elected in a by-election—has analysed the school accommodation needs in the Pyrmont and Ultimo area. The group is meeting regularly, with the last meeting on 4 September; the next meeting is scheduled for mid-October. The chairperson, and one of the department's asset planners, met with the Ultimo Public School Parents and Citizens Association on 26 August 2013, and an undertaking has been made to keep the association informed of progress. I am very pleased to be able to confirm that the working group has identified draft options to provide additional primary school facilities, which are currently being considered. I would not have thought Opposition members would interject, given the number of schools they closed in the inner-city. This would have been a relatively easy problem to solve had the member for Marrickville not closed those schools.
Following final analysis of the draft options, the department will prepare a business case for approval of the projects that are supported. That will be done through the department's asset management planning process. I assure the House that the Government is committed to the provision of high-quality public education and the facilities to support its delivery. That is what we are doing in the inner-city. I do note however that Glebe Public School, for example, has seven spare classrooms available. Glebe public is not that far from Ultimo public. I have had a look, where everyone looks these days, on Google. On the map, according to Google, it is a 17-minute walk. So where there is spare capacity in schools, we encourage people to enrol in those schools. We have a responsibility to maximise our assets. They are all great schools, staffed by great teachers. And where we have seven spare classrooms in a school that is a 17-minute walk from another school that is bursting at the seams, we would of course encourage people to use that excess capacity. So there is school accommodation in the inner-city.
Mr Jamie Parker: Fifty-two new classrooms needed by 2018.
Mr ADRIAN PICCOLI: Sorry?
Mr Jamie Parker: Fifty-two new classrooms by 2018.
The SPEAKER: Order! The member for Balmain will come to order. He did not ask the question.
Mr ADRIAN PICCOLI: There are seven at Glebe, and they are not being used.
The SPEAKER: Order! This is not a two-way conversation. The Minister will direct his remarks through the Chair.
Mr ADRIAN PICCOLI: If somebody wants to tell me why those seven classrooms are not being used, I am happy to listen. I take this opportunity to reflect on the other great work that this Government has done because of its financial management and general management of government. We heard that great story about WestConnex today. But in 2013-14 this Government has a capital expenditure in education of more than half a billion dollars. Major investments include funding for five new schools—Spring Farm, The Ponds, Strathfield, Crows Nest and on Sydney's lower North Shore—with about $50 million for the lower North Shore to deal with capacity issues there. But, beyond that, we have purchased a couple of private schools that have gone into administration: I think it was $6 million to buy the Hope Christian School in the seat of Camden, when it would have cost us more than $12 million to build an equivalent school. We bought in Strathfield the Sydney Adventist College, which will become a new public school as of next year. We have Lake Cathie, on the North Coast—a great commitment that I know the member for Port Macquarie has been championing for a long time.
We are, of course, using the $96 million of leftover Building the Education Revolution money to redevelop 19 schools for special purposes, commonly referred to as special schools. That funding is being scattered right across this State. We were in East Hills the other day at Caroline Chisholm School; they could not have been more thrilled. We saw what this Government built at Caroline Chisholm for $1.2 million. Those opposite built the equivalent of a couple of little tuckshops and a hall. The school values those, of course, but for $1.2 million you would want to value them. For about four times the amount, we have built about ten times as much space. That is a great victory for that school, particularly given the support that it gives to meet the complex needs of worthy students in this State. That example is replicated across 19 schools. This is a Government that knows how to invest its money properly, and we are very proud to do so.