OUT CLASSED: Failure that may leave Lismore lacking schools
OUR booming population is putting pressure on schools and teachers, with experts fearing we will soon have more students than schools can cope with.
Without a change in how the State Government invests in schools, demographer Bernard Salt says the quality of schools in regional areas will suffer as teachers struggle to work in "congested, substandard" buildings.
Lismore is home to 8457 school-age children, with a further 900 students expected in the decade while there are increases in population forecast for Byron, Tweed and Richmond Valley. Ballina's population will remain the same.
Across the Lismore to Tweed region there will be 46,950 children needing to squeeze into the 147 schools that service our local government areas.
Mr Salt said the State Government could meet this population growth by constructing more buildings, which would get the best out of school land.
"By being smarter with their building development program, they can get more bang for their buck by getting more classrooms and capacity onto an existing site," Mr Salt said.
Marty Wheatley, an organiser with the NSW Teachers Federation, said the public school sector was under-resourced.
"The largest area of concern would be the number of ageing demountables, particularly in the primary sector, that should have been replaced with permanent buildings by now," he said.
Based on feedback from local schools, he said there were significant concerns for a promised but not delivered high school in the Pottsville region.
Because nearby schools were not at capacity, its construction would likely not occur for a while.
The Government said it was spending $6.7 billion on opening 190 new schools across the state during the next four years.
In the Ballina, Clarence Valley, Coffs Harbour, Lismore and Tweed regions, 10 school improvement projects are under way.
"In addition to these 10, the new Ballina Coast High School and the upgrades at Pottsville Beach Public School and Coffs Harbour Public School were delivered in 2019," a NSW Education spokesman said
Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said the state was experiencing the first major spike in enrolments since the Baby Boom in the 1950s and it was "more important than ever" to ensure there was appropriate infrastructure for students and staff.
Opposition education spokeswoman Prue Car said taxpayers should not be slugged $45 million a year to keep pop-up classrooms fit for purpose in NSW schools.
BY THE NUMBERS
Region (LGA) No. of schools School-age population School-age population forecast (2031)
Ballina 23 7,897 7,800
Byron (Northern Rivers) 21 5,743 6,500
Richmond Valley 16 4,631 4,700
Coffs Harbour 37 14,714 16,550
Tweed 48 16,863 18,600
Clarence Valley (Grafton) 38 9,149 9,750
Lismore 39 8,457 9,350