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A state of disrepair

Think Local

The spotlight is on state schools in the Manly and Warringah region, as new education department figures show 30 schools face millions of dollars in 'maintenance backlogs'.

The term maintenance backlog refers to the estimated cost of current and future repairs required to ensure buildings continue to perform at an acceptable level.

The schools received an average 16 per cent in funding towards reducing the combined backlog costs of over $10 million, according to the NSW Department of Education figures supplied by the Labor Party and obtained under Freedom of Information laws.

Topping the list is The Forest High School, located in Frenchs Forest, which has a backlog of over $1 million for which it was allocated $73,750 in the last state budget.

Labor says on these funding levels, it would take 15 years to pay for the works.

Meanwhile, Harbord Public School's backlog is over $820,000, and Collaroy Plateau Public School's is just under $670,000.

It is unclear what works are required as details on individual outstanding requests could not be obtained before Peninsula Living went to print, however the Labor Party says they are for everything from rundown toilet blocks to damaged roofs, windows and carpet.

Labor MLC Greg Donnelly says the figures, which apparently total $775 million across the state, demonstrate an appalling failure by the state government.

"Under the Coalition government, schools in our community have been allowed to wither away into a state of dilapidation," he claims.

NSW Teachers Federation organiser David Ferguson, who is tasked with looking after schools in the Northern Beaches region, claims he sees evidence of how "grossly inadequate" maintenance budgets are for the area's ageing schools.

"I have walked into schools where the roof is leaking... where I have advised a room shouldn't be used because water had come through the ceiling near electrical equipment," Mr Ferguson says.

"We have schools where cabling is inadequate for wifi, where the heating and cooling of rooms is inadequate. I've had numerous phone calls from parents and direct comments from teachers about the appallingly hot conditions of classrooms. What we need is a long-term commitment from government and politicians to significantly increase the budget."

However, NSW Secondary Principals Association president Chris Presland says the $1.8 million backlog does not mean a school needs works worth that amount to be up to scratch.

"They've introduced lifecycle costing, which takes into account depreciation so [it means] if everything that is going to depreciate did so tomorrow, we'd need $1.8 million to fix it all," he explains.

"Having said that, in many of these NSW schools there is maintenance work that needs to be done beyond the available budget."

It seems the issue is nothing new. Mr Presland says backlogs have existed since government expenditure was diverted to the Sydney Olympics.

Political finger pointing is also still going on.

In 2012, then NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli claimed in a press release that Labor exited government leaving "a $156 million maintenance liability and another $798 million in infrastructure backlogs".

NSW Education Minister and Pittwater MP Rob Stokes says backlogs are to be expected given the government's $25 billion in education infrastructure. He says he is not aware of any local schools missing out on urgent repairs.

"None of these issues are relating to matters of children's safety and wellbeing - they are not urgent - they relate to routine-planned maintenance for which there is a schedule to be done," he says.

"We have got some excellent facilities up here and we also have some that are of an age where they do have maintenance challenges because they were built during the baby boom of the '60s."

Locally, the government is also investing heavily in new school infrastructure with the expansion of Manly Vale Public School and a new school at Ingleside, he says.

The NSW Department of Education reports that the last state budget allocated a record $330 million over two years to the issue, with $7.3 million for planned and priority maintenance in Wakehurst, Pittwater and Manly.

"I'm not going to pretend there aren't maintenance challenges," says Mr Stokes."But we are addressing them -we have a plan to address the backlog."

None of the schools contacted by Peninsula Living agreed to be interviewed.




















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