'Decaying demountables' linger in Hunter classrooms, MP Kate Washington says

Schools: Kate Washington says Hunter students deserve better than 20-year old demountables.
Schools: Kate Washington says Hunter students deserve better than 20-year old demountables.

HUNDREDS of demountable classrooms more than 20 years old are being used in schools across the Hunter.

Records obtained under Freedom of Information have revealed Maitland and Cessnock students are more likely to learn in “decaying demountables,” with each electorate home to more than 60 of the movable classrooms, Shadow Minister for the Hunter, Kate Washington, said.

“The Hunter’s students deserve better than this,” Ms Washington said.

The MP said the documents showed the NSW Government had spent almost $1 million “carting demountables around the state” throughout January, rather than spending the money on building new schools or permanent classrooms.

There were 329 demountable classrooms in the Hunter in total, including 64 in Maitland, 62 in Cessnock, 41 in Charlestown, and 34 in Port Stephens, and 33 in Wallsend, 28 in the Upper Hunter, and 23 in Swansea and Newcastle respectively. Almost half of the movable classrooms across NSW were at least 20 years old, she said.

“The government tried to defend these figures by saying around half of the demountables have been renovated since 2010. Why are we upgrading demountables instead of building real schools?” she said.

Jack Galvin Wright, the regional organiser for the NSW Teachers Federation, said the number of demountables being used was concerning.

“Public school enrolments are projected to increase by 23 per cent over the next 15 years,” he said. “While the state government is spending an extra $1 billion over the next four years on building new schools and classrooms, this is less than half of what the Department of Education says is needed.

“Similarly, spending on school maintenance is less than half of what is needed.

“It is unacceptable that teachers are teaching, and students are learning, in conditions that are not befitting a modern, 21st century school environment.”

Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter, Scot MacDonald, said demountable buildings were used to manage changing enrolment patterns and temporary accommodation needs, such as a result of capital works and maintenance projects.

“The Department of Education continually undertakes planning work to ensure school facilities properly cater for student demand,” Mr MacDonald said.

Mr MacDonald said the NSW Government was spending $4.2 billion over four years to build more than 120 new and upgraded schools across the state –  the biggest investment in public education infrastructure in the “history of NSW.”

This included capital works at Bolwarra Public School, Francis Greenway High School, a primary school upgrade in the Maitland electorate, and Rutherford Public School.