MLA John McGrath has received confirmation of the allocation of State funding for significant upgrades to the Como Primary School, including the long-awaited undercover assembly area.
Education Minister Liz Constable informed Parliament last week that the Department of Housing and Works would shortly call for tenders for the project, the cost of which has blown out from the original $600,000 promised by the Carpenter Government to $825,000.
The Minister advised that the new area would include a canteen and sports, gardener’s and art storerooms. It would be completed by the middle of 2009.
Earlier, Mr McGrath had asked the Minister to confirm whether the undercover area at Como Primary School was still “a goer”.
“This issue has been a real saga for the school,” Mr McGrath told Parliament. “Parents have been fighting for this for more than 10 years.
“I approached the former Minister for Education a number of times and even presented a petition to Parliament, containing over 200 signatures, supporting the undercover area. But the funding was not found until just before the 2007 federal election.”
During his Parliamentary speech, Mr McGrath emphasised the efforts of the school’s P&C as well as praising the involvement of Federal Member for Swan, Steve Irons, and the efforts of the former Member for Swan, Kim Wilkie.
The South Perth MLA also took the opportunity to spearhead a campaign for assistance to the many ageing schools in older and more established electorates like South Perth that are struggling to cope with increases in enrolment numbers.
“The increasing number of young families moving into some of the more established suburbs has meant that many of the older schools are faced with rapidly increasing enrolments,” Mr McGrath said.
“To accommodate the rise in enrolment numbers, schools have had to strictly apply their enrolment policies because the available places fill up so quickly. This has resulted in some unfair and peculiar results where, for example, students have been unable to continue at the same school after kindergarten or pre-primary, or have not been able to enrol in the same school as siblings.
“I have been approached by a number of parents concerned about enrolment issues and while the schools are trying to do their very best on a case-to-case basis, the intake boundaries and shortage of places pose significant restrictions on how much flexibility they can exercise.”
The Minister confirmed Mr McGrath’s concerns by noting that she had spoken to teachers who had also expressed the need for more space for both teachers and students in some of the older local schools.
The Minister acknowledged that demographics have been changing and while new schools are being built, older schools needed to be upgraded and maintained.
To facilitate this, she said the Government had committed an additional $300m over and above the forward estimates for new schools over the next six years as well as $50m to maintain existing schools, particularly older schools, over the next four years.
Mr McGrath said he was very pleased with the Government’s response to the issues he had raised. “I look forward to seeing the problems in the education system – both in terms of service and infrastructure – addressed by the new team,” he said.