Classroom shortage by 2023 as bureaucrats bungle plans
There will not be enough classrooms for the students in the state's public education system in just two years time, according to a scathing NSW Auditor's General's report released on Thursday.
The audit of the Department of Education's school building program found bureaucrats failed to properly plan for project costs, leading to budget blowouts on new school building projects.
They also failed to adequately anticipate for future population growth in students, which is expected to grow by 180,000 extra pupils by 2039.
"School Infrastructure NSW has been focused on delivering existing projects, election commitments and other government announcements," the report said.
"This has diverted attention from identifying and delivering projects that would have better met present and future student and classroom needs."
It recommended that the Department begin making longer-term plans to reduce the amount of schools by updating "on an ongoing basis a ten-year list of priorities to meet the forecast demand for new classrooms and contemporary fit-for-purpose learning environments".
"In early 2020, SINSW advised the NSW Government that the currently funded infrastructure program would not meet forecast classroom requirements for 2023 and beyond," the report said.
The audit also addressed the issue of ghost schools - those which have only 15 per cent of the possible students from their catchment areas because due to adverse reputations in their local communities.
"While the school is under-capacity, surrounding schools are at, or over, capacity," it said.
"It is vital for the school to enrol more students from its catchment to break the 'vicious cycle' in which it is trapped." Outgoing Department of Education Secretary Mark Scott said the organisation accepted the report's eight recommendations in principle but asked for the proposed six-month timeline to implement them to be doubled.
Opposition Education spokeswoman Prue Car said the government should have already done something to address the looming overcrowding problem given it already knew about the problem.
"School Infrastructure NSW told the Berejiklian Government a year ago that it wasn't building enough classrooms but Sarah Mitchell has sat on her hands and done nothing," she said.
Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said the Department was already working to implement many aspects of the report's recommendations.
"This report has shown that we are on the right track and it's important to focus and improve on the program because it is essential," she said.
Originally published as Classroom shortage by 2023 as bureaucrats bungle plans