Sassafras Primary School: funding

I raise a matter for the Minister for Education, and the action I seek is that the minister intervenes to reinstate the remaining school improvement program (SIP) funds to Sassafras Primary School in my electorate. This is not a recent issue that I am raising with the minister. I wrote to the minister on 15 March and received a holding letter reply on 28 March, but I have still not received a considered response to this very serious issue and consider it necessary to raise it in tonight’s adjournment.

As part of the state budget handed down in May 2010 Sassafras Primary School and Silvan Primary School each received $300 000 from the school improvement program. I am advised that Sassafras Primary School expended about $200 000 on improvements to the school oval and the installation of a roof for the basketball court.

The intention of the school was to use the remaining $100 000 to improve lighting and rectify the leaks in its old building — a project that would have transformed that building. I visited the school last week and spoke to the principal, who informed me that the roof continues to leak and this is a big problem for students and teachers.

Unfortunately, for reasons not explained to the school, the remaining funds are being withheld by the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. Additional costs associated with the school’s BER (Building the Education Revolution) project seem to be the issue. The physical constraints and topography of the site have created additional costs which are completely outside of the school’s control.

As members can imagine, any school built in the beautiful community of Sassafras will have unique challenges. Additional works are also required given that the school is located in a bushfire zone.

Despite being two distinct projects which were separately funded and managed, it seems that the department is trying to use the remaining $100 000 of the SIP funds to pay for the costs associated with the BER project. It is both inappropriate and unfair. Sassafras Primary School is a small school, and it needs the full allocation of these funds to be used as intended and as it was funded in 2010. It is also unfair when compared to the experience of Silvan Primary School, which also received $300 000 from the school improvement program for a project that, along with a BER project, was funded, managed and completed entirely separately without a problem, and rightly so.

This is an equity issue.

Sassafras Primary School should be treated in exactly the same manner as Silvan Primary School. The works at Sassafras are urgent, and I ask the minister to intervene and reinstate the $100 000 owing to the school.