In recent years, outstanding building and facilities maintenance has reached a tipping point. Some issues include unusable toilet facilities, asbestos containing materials and a primary school ceiling collapse causing huge concern. In 2015, the maintenance backlog was calculated at $135 million and, though 2015-16’s maintenance spend was estimated at $125 million, we know that most of these funds were allocated to regular maintenance and not outstanding issues, with an estimated $23 million to be spent on addressing the backlog.
In June 2016, the Minister for Education conceded during a budget estimates hearing that the state was behind in delivering maintenance to decades-old schools experiencing severely suboptimal conditions. Specifically in the central metropolitan area and northern suburbs, issues have emerged with schools being filled beyond capacity. When schools are built they are designed to cater for an optimal capacity. Whilst there can be some leeway, with schools using innovative solutions to cope with a rise in population, facilities and utilities are simply not intended for such significant increases of student numbers.
WACSSO affiliates have been reporting a number of maintenance shortfalls that must be addressed in order to provide for the comfort and safety of students and staff, as well as offer a sound learning environment. For example, we have heard concerns surrounding the need for facilities upgrades – especially toilet facilities, undercover areas, canteens, and specialised classrooms (e.g. music, dance, art, science). Drop-off zones are another area of concern. They are particularly essential for ensuring children leave and arrive at school safely and to relieve traffic congestion around schools that weren’t designed to cater for inflated populations.
WACSSO regularly raises this topic with both the Minister and the Director General as we are concerned that maintenance issues will continue to grow. There are neither sufficient funds nor an effective program in place to rapidly and significantly address the concerns, which is a matter of angst for school communities.
WACSSO calls for:
- the development of an effective maintenance plan that will address the current backlog within an acceptable timeframe;
- the State Government to fund the maintenance backlog in order to ensure that all government school students and staff have access to comfortable, sanitary and safe learning environments that are adequate in all aspects; this includes quality (including size) of buildings, grounds, facilities and equipment; and
- ongoing maintenance programs to be developed and implemented which will address the pressure of aging facilities and population growth facing government schools.
For referencing and the full report, click here.