Adjournment debate – Warrnambool Special Developmental School

My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Education, and the action I seek is confirmation that the Warrnambool Special Developmental School (SDS) will receive funding to build their new school in the 2017–18 financial year. Minister, as you know, in 2014 you promised you would rebuild the Warrnambool SDS, in 2015 you gave $5 million to buy the land and do the planning and in 2016 you announced that the land had been purchased. You said that only Labor would finish the job; I ask that you deliver what you promised. Since then the school has worked with the department to develop plans. These plans are well developed. Architectural drawings to the department’s specifications are done, samples of interior and exterior materials have been provided and costings have been discussed with the school council.

The school was led to believe that the funding for the next stage was imminent, but when the budget was handed down there was nothing new listed for the Warrnambool SDS, leaving the project stalled. I have been contacted by a number of parents who are devastated, and now the community has gotten behind the school and is loudly advocating for its completion. The school organised a public meeting, but in the days leading up to the meeting the school council was contacted by the department, which said that they are supporting the school to progress this project, that the original departmental commitment to the project stood and that the school simply needed to work through a process. This gave the school council confidence that the community support and advocacy had gained a result, so the meeting was cancelled. I am pleased the school council feels they are being supported, but the $5 million is the only funding committed to date, and that will not finish this job.

This school is at capacity. The school was built for 30 students; there are now 131 enrolled at the school. The staff are doing an incredible job sharing small, cramped spaces — for example, the library is someone’s office and is inaccessible to students in wheelchairs. Should all children not have the ability to access a library to choose their own books? There are three separate lunchbreaks because the kids cannot all fit into the playground at once. There is very little or no grass area, and these kids cannot even kick a football or play cricket without putting each other in danger.

Most importantly there is no room for any more classrooms. In 2008 four portable classrooms were placed in the top play area, which helped ease the overcrowding at the time but made it very obvious there was little room for expansion. There were 67 students in 10 separate classrooms then, and in 2017 there are 131 students in 17 separate classes. The school has one therapy area shared between several specialists, physical education teachers, fitness instructors and occupational therapists — and that is one area for 131 students. There is no spare room to serve as offices, meeting rooms or quiet workplaces. How can you justify a 60 per cent cut in funding for regional schools when you have an $8.3 billion surplus? This is an ask of 0.2 per cent of that surplus. Minister, the parents, teachers and children need a commitment from you so they can get on and build a school that is of the same standard as every other school in this state.