Education Speech 31 March 2022

Clayton Barr - Private Member's Statement

Below is a speech from a Private Members Statement Clayton made regarding the need for four new schools required in the Cessnock Electorate to provide for the growing population. Clayton urged the Government to consider the schools in the upcoming budget. The areas in need of schools are Cameron Park, Heddon Greta and Cliftleigh, Huntlee and Branxton for both an Infants/Primary and High School.

Education Speech 31 March 2022 – Cessnock Electorate Public Schools

Mr CLAYTON BARR (Cessnock) (16:26): In the past couple of weeks there has been some commentary in this place about western Sydney and the trials of delivering public education and the education facilities—let us not mix the words up and make them fancy—delivering schools to western Sydney. That is an important issue. The population growth numbers that have been thrown around this Chamber for some of the local government areas are mind-boggling for a member who comes from a regional area. Blacktown in the next 20 years will have a population growth that is four times bigger than the population of my entire LGA. However, there being conversations about western Sydney does not mean we should not be talking about the educational needs—that is, schools—in regional areas also.

Today I will speak about four schools that are required in the Cessnock electorate to provide for the growing population in our area. We are putting together, as quickly as we can bring them to market, greenfield sites to provide new housing and that is bringing families which are by and large young. Of course, when you go into a small existing village with a small existing school or a medium-sized school that might be at capacity and then surround the village with another 1,000 or 2,000 or 5,000 homes, the existing school is not big enough to cope. So a decision needs to be made about whether to build a new school or to expand on the existing footprint. If you have plenty of land to expand on, you might contemplate expanding. But, if you have already maxed out the space you have, then you must be considering building a new school.

I will speak about the need for a public school in Cameron Park in the first instance. Today I will not talk about a future high school. Cameron Park is a relatively new residential area. It is about 15 years old and has some 5,000 homes. As is always the case, the developer promised from the outset a school in the future. Eleven years ago, when I was campaigning to try to come to this House and doorknocking throughout Cameron Park, every second door I knocked on had young children behind it. They wanted to inquire about where their school was because they were essentially promised a school, and rightly so. You would think a school would come with that many new houses. The two local public schools, which are not too far away, Edgeworth and Edgeworth Heights, are beautiful, wonderful schools that are doing amazing things. But they have demountables on site. They are both bulging at the seams because of the current student population. Cameron Park continues to march on and expand. It will have another 2,000 or 2,500 homes in the foreseeable three to five years. So we need a new school for Cameron Park. I have been asking that question for 11 years.

I move on to Heddon Greta and Cliftleigh, which are similar greenfield sites, where there will be some 1,500 new residential lots, occupied primarily by young families. That is who generally moves into these areas. They are going to Heddon Greta and Gillieston Heights. We already have the amazing Kurri Kurri Public School, which is busting at the seams, with more than 800 students in that little public school. They simply need another school facility. So a new school is required out there at Heddon Greta and Cliftleigh. I would welcome the Government having conversations about acquiring the necessary land there before we are forced into trying to retrofit a school. The greenfield sites have the capacity for land to be purchased early by the Department of Education. We can centralise the schools into terrific spots for bus routes and population growth in those areas. But we must act. We cannot sit on our hands and do nothing.

Finally, I speak about two schools that are needed out at Huntlee and Branxton. We need a Huntlee public school. We have more than a thousand new homes at Huntlee. The entire population of Branxton used to have 900 homes. We have put another 1,000 homes on top. The beautiful little Branxton Public School was already busting at the seams, with six demountables there, and can take no more. Of course, those students who are in primary school will need a high school. The students who are at Huntlee and Branxton at the moment have to transfer across to Rutherford Technology High School, which is also busting at the seams. So they are going to need a new high school in the foreseeable future. Good planning would see us do it early, not late. I encourage the Government to consider this in the upcoming budget.