Timboon school upgrade ignored for years 

An estimated 60 per cent of Timboon P-12 school’s infrastructure needs replacing, with a new report showing $420 million is needed to bring Victoria’s government school buildings up to standard.

School council principal Chris Hibburt told The Standard yesterday plans for a $6m refurbishment had been sitting in government offices for several years awaiting budget allocations.

“There hasn’t been an official update for 12 months or so,” Mr Hibburt said.

“The Education Department agrees we need a significant upgrade and says that will happen as soon as budget money is available, but we’ve been waiting for several years.”

The school’s 480 students are housed in a mixture of buildings dating back to the 1940s, many with leaky roofs and no air-conditioning.

Yesterday the government announced it would spend $51.5 million at more than 200 schools on urgent maintenance following “a decade of Labor neglect”.

Schools will be told of the funding at the beginning of term two.

“The Coalition Government has set aside this funding, in challenging financial circumstances, to urgently fix the worst buildings to restore them to an appropriate standard,” Education Minister Martin Dixon said.

Timboon P-12 principal Rosalie Moorfield hoped  some of the cash would come her way, considering Timboon was in the top-three priority list.

“Our annual maintenance allocation has been spent on fixing a leaking roof and re-stumping part  of an old building,” she said.

Across the Barwon South-West region’s 129 schools a total of $93.5m is needed to bring buildings up to standard at an average expenditure of $725,000 ­— double that of any other region, according to a report by the Auditor-General’s department tabled in Parliament yesterday. It showed that between 2007 and 2012, $4.5 billion was invested statewide in government school infrastructure through the state Victorian Schools Plan and the federal Building the Education Revolution.

However, more than 5000 individual buildings are still below accepted standard, needing another $420 million to address the problem.

Although the majority of school buildings were in good operational condition the audit results showed a third of schools had one or more buildings that had failed or were at the point of failure.

More than 5000 individual buildings are below the department’s accepted standard, requiring further investment of $420 million to address the issue.

Australian Education Union state branch president Meredith Peace said the Baillieu government had broken its pre-election promise to rebuild or modernise every Victorian public school by 2016.

According to the audit report the government stimulus programs more than doubled the amount of excess space in state schools and led to an oversupply of buildings, with Barwon South-West having a 55 per cent surplus.

pcollins@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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