East Marden Primary School - 19 November 2015

Friday 05 February, 2016

Mr TARZIA ( Hartley ) ( 17:35 :09 ): Today, I would like to speak about East Marden Primary School. I also attended an absolutely extraordinary sports day recently at East Marden Primary School in Campbelltown. 

It is a fantastic school in my local area. Today, I also hosted an impeccably well-behaved group of students from the school. They are a fantastic group of students, teachers and parents. They have an extremely hardworking governing council as well. It is a community with so much warmth and positive energy. The school certainly punches above its weight: that is for sure.

Unfortunately, the state Labor government has not given East Marden Primary School the attention and support that it deserves for quite some time, and I will speak a little bit about why that is the case. East Marden Primary School is a highly respected school within the community and they are certainly very proud of their achievements over the years—the achievements of the students, the teaching staff and, also, the wider school community. However, their needs have been consistently somewhat overlooked by this government.

If you go to the facilities in Campbelltown, you will see that many of them are from the 1960s, if not before, and there are many ageing buildings and facilities that need to be repaired and mended. The school simply cannot meet the requirements of a learning environment without added facilities and funding put in by the state government. It is about time that the state government took notice of this.

If you visit the site, you will see that there is much asbestos, which I understand is in a long-term plan for removal. However, it needs to happen sooner rather than later. Over the past five or more years, the school leadership group (the governing council) has worked tirelessly to lobby DECD and the state government to improve conditions at the school, and also provide adequate facilities to cater for the ever increasing enrolments as well as changes to the curriculum that have been imposed on the school. I have been given some facts as they currently stand.

Current enrolments for 2015 are 642, which is an increase of 68 from 2014. When you look at the enrolments for 2016, it is (incredibly) up to 754, which is an increase of 112 from 2015. I am advised that a waiting list has been set up for students within the zone. We all know that, obviously, Campbelltown council is an area where there is more density, not less, and therefore there are more students. The public school system is fundamental to the overall education system. We know that, alone, the private sector cannot do it and the public sector cannot do it, but this is an area where there is constant strain on a fantastic school. It has great standards and NAPLAN results. Whatever benchmark you want to use, it punches above its weight. It is time that the South Australian Labor government took notice and gave this school its fair share of facilities and resources.

They have actually reviewed their ability to house the 754 proposed students who they are expecting to start next year; and I am advised that, without further buildings, they will need to utilise shared spaces such as the library or the gym, and be forced to self-fund major renovations. Are you kidding me? A public school will have to create suitable learning areas instead of spending that money on, say, educational equipment. It would be an embarrassment for the state government if the school was put into this situation, so it is about time that the state government listened to this.

There have been many requests for assistance aimed towards this state government. I understand that two new portables to accommodate this year's increases are in the pipeline; however, they are still not equipped for use and do not address the increase in the student population for 2016. I understand that two further portables have been requested, but DECD is unable to begin work on them until confirmation of enrolments on the first day of term 1 in 2016 has been put forward.

The school has asked that the project be expedited so that it can accommodate students from day one. I would have thought that this was quite a reasonable and genuine request and that the government should listen to it. I am advised that a recent audit revealed, in fact, that 52 per cent of years 1 and 2 students and 58 per cent of years 3 to 7 students felt unsafe in the toilets due to poor lighting, difficulties with door locks, cleanliness and use by older students.

This is completely unacceptable and obviously leads to many issues. This is completely absurd and it is not on. I think what the state government should do, if the minister has not done so already, is visit the school, have a look at this, see that the facilities are substandard and actually do something about it—allocate the resources and the time to this. I know that the governing council chair and the governing council have written to the previous minister and to the minister before that, as well as to the current education minister.

In the past, the school has always been willing to work with the government of the day and it has politely followed departmental guidelines. They have put their case forward formally, as well as informally, for more buildings and more assistance, but the time is now. Action is needed right now. I would implore this state Labor government and the minister to please consider that these are our children in our community that we are talking about. We want them to have the best opportunities in life and the best opportunity to have a great education in a safe and pleasant environment just like any other child in South Australia.

It is time that the state Labor government took notice and gave East Marden its fair share. As the member for Hartley, I have always had school students and their welfare at the forefront of my mind, and I will keep fighting for school students and families in our area to make sure that they are given the best opportunities and grow up with the best facilities in our local area.