According to a damning report by the NSW Auditor’s General released Thursday, there won’t be enough classrooms for students in the state’s public education system in just two years.
The Ministry of Education’s school building program audit found that bureaucrats were not properly planning project costs, resulting in budget shortfalls on new school building projects.
They also failed to adequately anticipate future student population growth, which is projected to grow by 180,000 additional students by 2039.
« School Infrastructure NSW has focused on implementing existing projects, election commitments and other government announcements, » the report said.
« This has diverted attention from identifying and executing projects that would have better addressed the present and future needs of students and classrooms. »
It was recommended that the department develop longer-term plans to reduce the number of schools by « continuously updating a ten-year priority list to meet projected needs for new classrooms and contemporary, functional learning environments ».
« In early 2020, SINSW announced to the New South Wales government that the currently funded infrastructure program would not meet the projected classroom requirements for 2023 and beyond, » the report said.
The audit also looked at ghost schools, where only 15 percent of potential students are from their catchment areas because they have a bad reputation in their local communities.
« It is important for the school to enroll more students from its catchment area in order to break the ‘vicious circle’ in which it is trapped. » The outgoing Secretary of Education, Mark Scott, said the organization accepts the report’s eight recommendations in principle, but is calling for the proposed six-month timeline for their implementation to be doubled.
Opposition formation spokeswoman Prue Car said the government should have already done something to address the looming overcrowding problem as it already knew about the problem.
« School Infrastructure NSW told the Berejiklian government a year ago that not enough classrooms had been built, but Sarah Mitchell got on her hands and did nothing, » she said.
Education Secretary Sarah Mitchell said the department was already working to implement many aspects of the report’s recommendations.
« This report showed that we are on the right track and that it is important to focus on the program and improve it because it is important, » she said.
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