06 August 2019
Dr MARJORIE O'NEILL (Coogee) (17:35): I gladly take this opportunity to speak during Education Week about the state of education in New South Wales and particularly in the electorate of Coogee. As my colleague the member for Londonderry pointed out, if this Government really believes this issue is important this motion should have been debated much earlier in the day. I acknowledge the motion of the member for North Shore, which states that every student, no matter where they live, should have access to a high-quality education. I am glad she acknowledges this right to high-quality education and I am sure that she would be extremely disappointed by the way in which her Government has ignored the pleas made by Randwick Girls and Randwick Boys high schools.
These schools are in limbo. Both are underfunded but the boys school is currently being considered for transition to coeducational. Neither school is receiving the upgrades they need due to the lack of clarity around this potential transition. During the 2019 State election campaign the Government admitted that there was both a capacity problem and an infrastructure problem in high schools across the Eastern Suburbs. To address this, the Government committed to major upgrades at both Randwick Boys High School and Randwick Girls High School, a well overdue and welcome announcement.
It was therefore incredibly disappointing to see that in the 2019‑20 budget the Government has significantly downgraded its commitment and has budgeted for only minor upgrades. This downgrade is a complete backflip on the Government's election promise and its promise to bring much‑needed infrastructure upgrades to the only public high schools in my electorate. Having spoken at length with representatives of both P&Cs, local educators and students, it is clear that the community is crying out for these major infrastructure upgrades. On June 5 I asked the education Minister a simple question on notice: When will the proposed infrastructure upgrades to both Randwick Boys High School and Randwick Girls High School commence?
The Minister's response revealed that in June 2018 an upgrade to Randwick Boys High School and Randwick Girls High School was announced, noting that the scope of the projects could be informed as part of the consideration from the coeducational survey and a decision to make Randwick Boys High School coeducational. It is now 14 months on and we are no closer to an answer on what the upgrades will be and when they might be delivered—total radio silence. If you are confused don't worry, it's a mess. In addition to the backflip, there is potential to convert Randwick Boys to a coeducational school and the downgraded upgrades have been delayed because there is community consultation to convert Randwick Boys to a coeducational school! Community consultation ended in February. This decision is still pending despite the department telling the community that it was to be made in the first half of this year. It is also impossible to get any clarification on the decision.
A recent freedom of information request made by my office was refused by the education department. A letter explains that disclosure of the information would reveal the position of the Minister that would be taken on the matter. That was the point! The point is we want to know what is planned for our schools. We want to know what the Minister has planned. We want some idea about the future of education in the Eastern Suburbs. Information on this survey is being deliberately withheld from the public. We in the Opposition know that there is not only a capacity need in the Eastern Suburbs but there is also a desire for choice. That is why Labor committed to building a new coeducational comprehensive high school in the Eastern Suburbs. Of the eight public primary schools in the electorate of Coogee, all bar one in the electorate are at capacity. Where does the Government expect these kids to go? Does it expect all of these kids to go to private schools? That is just in Coogee. Let me talk about the State.
In the first term of the Liberal-Nationals Government, under O'Farrell and Baird, the Government cut $1.7 billion from the education budget. It cut the demountable replacement program and 212 schools across New South Wales had their budgets slashed from 2013, including eight special needs schools. It is no wonder that New South Wales is not performing when it comes to educational outcomes, in particular when it comes to science, mathematics and reading literacy. In New South Wales 45 per cent of students are not mathematically proficient. In New South Wales mathematical literacy is behind the Australian Capital Territory [ACT], Western Australia [WA] and Victoria. Our scientific literacy falls behind the ACT, WA, Victoria and the national average and our reading literacy is behind the ACT, WA, Victoria, and South Australia. I welcome the amendment to the motion moved by my colleague. It is critical that in Education Week we shine light on the Government and its failings to the people of this State.