Baulkham Hills High School Hall
BAULKHAM HILLS HIGH SCHOOL HALL
Mr MERTON (Baulkham Hills) [4.53 p.m.]: I wish to raise a matter that I have raised previously in this House: the lack of a school assembly hall at Baulkham Hills High School. Baulkham Hills High School was established 27 years ago and in the past 10 years or so it has been made a selective high school. It is a very big school, attended by students from all over western Sydney - students from my own electorate, The Hills, Parramatta, Riverstone and Blacktown, and generally from western and north-western parts of Sydney. As the school does not have an enclosed assembly hall, all assemblies are held in the open, weather permitting.
That means that from time to time students have to endure very hot conditions and obviously, on the other side of the coin, in inclement weather it is often very cold and sometimes wet. It is difficult for students to find accommodation for their examinations, and that imposes additional stress on young people going through a difficult period, particularly those sitting for their higher school certificate. I have received a number of representations from Sue Lawton, the President of
the parents and citizens association, and I have attended the school. The school is concerned that after being on the waiting list for many years the school hall has not eventuated. On 3 September Sue Lawton wrote to me, stating:
We are seeking your advice as to the protocol and possible benefits of having a petition from our school community to gain attention and/or support for accelerating the provision of a multipurpose facility at the school.
She referred to a meeting she attended, at which people from the Department of Education and Training spoke about school needs and community halls. Her letter continued:
The prospects for improvements in the school seem bleak. This week I have attended a conference at which the theme was The solutions, examining Facility design and development.
She is saying that new schools appear to have school halls when they are built. This school is 27 years old, and it still does not have a school hall, notwithstanding the fact that it is a selective high school. Her letter continued:
Some of the concerns that have emerged are the continued failure to address the needs of schools that were not provided with facilities now that were commonly standard and certainly are built in new schools.
Mrs Lawton believes that the policy of the Department of Education and Training lacks equity. She said:
The DET accepts responsibility for multipurpose areas in new schools and even upgrades such existing facilities in some schools but it is very difficult for an existing school to gain what it was denied.
She also indicated that priorities seem to be such that Baulkham Hills school’s turn never seems to come around. She said she was told almost two years ago that the school could anticipate a hall in two or three years. She said:
We cannot even be advanced funds and repay them, in spite of the fact that this has been done for some schools.
On another point she stated:
Had this planning been adhered to we would be in a different position not the black hole we are.
In other words, she is saying if there is some arrangement whereby DET contributes money and the school has to contribute money, in the process of contributing that money the school could be held liable to criticism for not spending it out of the school budget. This is a difficult situation. This excellent school has a wonderful reputation throughout the north-western part of Sydney. People are frustrated. They have a marvellous school and all they want is a school hall so that students can enjoy the facilities that most students take for granted. I know that the Minister is looking into the matter, and I ask him to see what can be done to help this school.
Mr FACE (Charlestown - Minister for Gaming and Racing, and Minister Assisting the Premier on Hunter Development) [4.58 p.m.]: I thank the honourable member for Baulkham Hills for his contribution this afternoon. I will undertake to refer the matter to the Minister for Education and Training for consideration.
Another issue is to acquire the amounts needed to gain funding means amassing a large amount of money from other areas and retaining funds in the school. This flies in the face of criticism of schools that have large reserves and do not spend their money in the year it is given for the benefit of the current students.