As the new school year begins, Chatswood Public is one of the schools across Sydney wondering just how to fit everybody in.
In 2006 there were around 670 students at the northern suburbs school. By last year, that number had almost doubled to 1,160.
Parents and Citizens (P&C) spokeswoman Jennifer Lee said 2017 looked like another record breaker.
“Last year we had 10 kindy classes and they had to have their own assembly because they took up the whole space in the hall,” she said.
Like other schools, Chatswood is using demountable classrooms to accommodate the increase in student numbers.
The school, in Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s electorate, has been forced to open a temporary campus across the road at Chatswood High School.
Teachers have to walk year three and four students across a busy road from the main campus to the collection of demountable classrooms known as the “Bush Campus”.
The split campus has caused particular problems for Chatswood parent Ellen Bischoff.
“My younger two children have been diagnosed as autistic and they’re quite anxious and worry about things,” she said.
“A problem for me has been not being able to pick them [both] up at exactly three o’clock when the school finishes.”
Ms Lee said she wants the NSW Government to stump up to reunite the campuses.
“There’s land next door [to the main campus] which the developers want to make into apartment blocks,” she said.
“This is a small window. If we could get it for the school it would be fantastic,” she said.
Labor calls on Government to increase school spending
NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley said the Government had never been in a better position to spend more on school infrastructure.
“I just don’t understand that at a time of record stamp duty windfall revenue for the Government, we’re not expanding the schools that are jam-packed,” he said.
To some extent Chatswood Public is a victim of its own success.
The school has a good academic track record, and offers selective or “opportunity classes” to talented students in years five and six.
Yet, a little more than three kilometres away, Mowbray Public School, which is less than five years old, has spare capacity.
Present school area boundaries, or catchments, allow many families to choose between the two.
Mr Foley said rezoning solutions should also be considered.
“We’re constantly encouraging the Department of Education to rejig the local boundaries which can assist,” he said.
“In my electorate for example, Newington Public School’s completely overcrowded. Kids in that zone could and should be sent to the Victoria Avenue Public School.”
The Opposition’s education spokesman, Jihad Dib, said the Government’s planning policy had also pushed student numbers up.
“A thousand new units in a period of two years just highlights the fact that this Government is very friendly towards the developer,” he said.
“We need to see a government that is also taking the responsibility of implementing all of the services, including the right for everyone in their catchment area to go to their local public school.”
Online Source: www.abc.net.au