Monday, 22 February 2010
Statements by Members
La Trobe Electorate: Berwick Primary School
I wish to talk about the Berwick Primary School, which relocated at the end of 2003 after more than 100 years at its former site on Peel Street. I had the great honour and privilege of being present at the opening of the new school on Fairholme Boulevard by former principal Dick Bartley, along with former member for La Trobe Mr Bob Charles. In term 1 of 2004, Berwick Primary School’s enrolment was 596. In just six years it has grown to 777. This increase in enrolments of almost 200 students since the relocation demonstrates how vital Berwick Primary School is to the local community. When Berwick Primary School was allocated $2 million for a multipurpose room under the Building the Education Revolution program, they were initially delighted to have the funding injection to improve facilities for their students. The multipurpose room was not exactly what the school needed, or wanted, but Berwick Primary School was grateful nonetheless. However, since that time, they have been let down by red tape, buck passing and a lack of communication from the state and federal education departments.
Berwick Primary School has been unable to find out basic information from the departments such as the cost of the project. The multipurpose room has been independently quoted at $750,000. That means a project has been overfunded by $1.25 million. Berwick Primary School would like to use the surplus funding for the companion project, a gymnasium to accommodate the school’s 770 students. The school’s current gym was designed and constructed in such a way that the gym could be extended to full size when funds permitted. The extension of the gym has always been the school’s goal. Plans have been prepared and the project could be completed well within ER timelines. An extension to the school’s gym would accommodate the needs of one of Australia’s fastest-growing electorates. It could also be used as an emergency rendezvous point for students in the event of a bushfire.
I wrote to the Minister for Education on 24 June last year when the school contacted me about their concerns, and again on 1 December. The school has been badly let down by Minister Gillard. In question time on 3 February this year when I asked her a question, her response, in part, was:
If there is some issue the principals would like to raise with a government that cares about education, obviously we always stand ready to work through issues.
For schools such as Berwick Lodge Primary School, Berwick Primary School, Oatlands Primary School and Belgrave South Primary School, this program has been an absolute and total failure. These schools need a lot better from a minister who says she cares when in fact she is letting education down in my electorate.