Inner Sydney Public Education
(Question Without Notice, 22 November 2023, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament)
My question is directed to the Deputy Premier, and Minister for Education and Early Learning. How is the Government working to address the public high school needs of inner city and eastern suburbs families?
Minister for Education and Early Learning: I thank the member for Sydney for his question. Through him, I thank the many advocates of his community, and the member for Coogee and her community also, for being so engaged on the future of public education in inner Sydney and in the eastern suburbs of Sydney. I have met with both members since coming to government on a few issues, including the matter that the member for Sydney raises this afternoon. I have also met with Federal member for Wentworth Allegra Spender, the Ultimo Public School P&C and many other campaigners over the past few months. These have been useful discussions about the needs for public education in that part of Sydney.
I know that the members and local communities have been making the case for many years now that the New South Wales Government should increase the provision of public education in the area. They have put forward many ideas to many Ministers for the future of public education in the city and the east, including that we should be looking at service needs in the area, ensuring our public schools are on track to keep up with population growth; that we should be looking at existing school catchments—which has been particularly fraught in that part of the world—and how we can ensure our schools are fully utilised without overburdening local families with longer commutes; and, in the future, that we should be remaining open-minded about how we can get more out of limited land in that part of Sydney, which is obviously a major challenge when considering high school educational facilities and thinking outside of the box, creatively on this.
It is incumbent on government to take those ideas seriously. The School Infrastructure team is reviewing this area to look at its needs, in particular, including considering the needs of the Pyrmont community and those areas east of the CBD. In New South Wales we inherited a significant school infrastructure backlog from the former Government across the State and we are working very hard to address that important issue.
That is not funny at all. This work will also be informed by the Enrolment Growth Audit, the early findings of which we expect to see this year. This work will include looking at public high school provision, and it is in addition to $42 million in upgrades that will support a new co-educational offering in the eastern suburbs as Randwick Boys High School and Randwick Girls' High School come together in 2025, following extensive community consultation; the redevelopment of Fort Street Public School, which will deliver 14 additional classrooms; the new Green Square Public School, which will deliver 24 new classrooms; and the planned upgrades at Orange Grove Public School, which will also deliver new classrooms. [Extension of time]
We also know that there are schools in some of these communities which have additional capacity. We will continue to work with them to ensure that they have the tools they need to cater for an increased student population in the future. While this work is ongoing, I thank the member for Sydney, the member for Coogee and the Federal member for Wentworth for their continued advocacy. I look forward to working with them to ensure that their communities are getting the public education infrastructure that they deserve into the future. This is a set of quite difficult issues because of the issues relating to land in this part of Sydney, but I am confident that we will be able to work together to increase provision in this part of the world. Every child in New South Wales has a right to public education in this State and I look forward to working with the member for Sydney on making that a reality for his constituents.