Hunter schools face $71.9 million maintenance backlog

HUNTER schools need $71.9 million to bring them up to scratch, despite the state government wiping $19.9 million from the region’s maintenance backlog over 18 months.

The NSW Department of Education’s first audit since 2012 on the condition of schools shows Newcastle High has the highest pending bill across the region’s nine electorates.

It needs $3.07 million to complete outstanding works, such as roofing, flooring and painting.

Other schools with backlogs of more than $1 million include Belmont High with $1.87 million, Hunter School of the Performing Arts with $1.28 million, Morisset High with $1.06 million,  Muswellbrook High with $1.41 million, Scone High with $1.04 million, Singleton High with $1.48 million, Whitebridge High with $1.35 million and Windale Public with $1.07 million.

This doesn’t include maintenance that is a safety risk or broken items impacting teaching and learning, which are prioritised.

Shadow Minister for Education Jihad Dib said the size of the backlog was “in no way acceptable”.

He said data obtained under freedom of information laws in November 2016 showed Newcastle High’s backlog was then $1.08 million. 

“It’s phenomenal its backlog has almost tripled in two years,” he said.

“You’ve got teachers at that school busting their guts to do the best they can.

“Their school community deserves better than what they’ve got.

“We’re talking about carpet, fans, toilets, the roof. These are not luxury items.”

Minister for Education Rob Stokes said Labor had racked up a near billion dollar maintenance backlog in its 16 years in office, a sum Mr Dib disputed.

Mr Stokes said the government had cut its planned maintenance liability from $775 million in June 2016 to $570 million in December 2017. 

Another $100 million has been allocated to schools with the highest needs for the rest of this financial year. 

He said the Hunter’s backlog has been slashed by $19.9 million – or 21 per cent – from $91.81 million in June 2016. 

The largest reductions have been $1.76 million at Rutherford Technology High, $1.52 million at Irrawang High, $1.36 million at Maitland High, $1.23 million at Cessnock High and $1.19 million at Maitland Grossmann High.

Mr Dib said the funding was a “drop in the ocean compared to what is required” across the region’s 237 schools. 

“The government has this attitude ‘We’re spending lots of money’, but they’re spending 20 per cent on education as a ratio of budget and the average is 24 per cent across other states.” 

NSW Teachers Federation’s Jack Galvin Waight said it was “unacceptable if students aren’t learning in 21st century learning environments”. 

The government announced $747 million in last year’s budget for school maintenance.