Murray Farm Public School
Mr MICHAEL RICHARDSON (The Hills) [4.54 p.m.]: Once again I bring to the attention of the House the need for an assembly hall at Murray Farm Public School, Carlingford. With 880 students, Murray Farm is the biggest primary school in my electorate and one of the biggest in the State. The school is a living advertisement for public education: the range of programs on offer is outstanding, as are the results achieved. Murray Farm has been growing when one might have expected it to shrink. When the school was built in 1969, Carlingford was a growth area. Today it is a mature suburb and many of the children in the area are beyond primary school age. But that has not stopped the inexorable growth of Murray Farm Public School. It attracts students from near and far. Houses are advertised as being in the Murray Farm catchment area—surely unique for a primary school—and it has not been unknown for some parents to rent in the area to ensure that their children attend the school.
Fifty-five per cent of the students at Murray Farm come from a non-English-speaking background—surely a great advertisement for our non-discriminatory immigration program—and they are great achievers. The school obtains the best basic skills test results in the Hornsby district, which, in turn, enjoys the best basic skills test results in New South Wales. Murray Farm students consistently score around three times the State average in literacy and numeracy. This year an incredible 33 students, or one in five year 4 students, were offered opportunity class placement. They will be the scientists, medical specialists, computer engineers, and entrepreneurs of the future—people, who, almost by definition, will make an enormous contribution to this country's future.
These bright students want to learn, and it is always a delight to visit the school and spend time with these wonderful children. Even watching them queue in an orderly fashion to get onto the bus is a pleasure. They are supported by parents who value education, and by excellent, dedicated teachers. It is an unbeatable combination that the Carr Government should be using to promote public education. Instead, the school community feels neglected and ignored by the Carr Government. It has been campaigning for some time for an assembly hall big enough to accommodate the whole school. At the moment the school makes do with a demountable food servery, converted to a hall, not by the Department of Public Works and Services but by the school parents and citizens association.
Students from only two grades can fit into the building at one time, so any activities involving the whole school are held outdoors, unless it is raining, in which case the activities may be cancelled. There is a limit to what can be undertaken outside. Performances involving musical instruments, actors, dancers, props and backdrops are not possible—not for the whole school, anyway. Therefore, these kinds of activities tend to be restricted to single or joint years. That means that the little kids cannot see what the big kids do and what might be expected of them when they reach the ripe old age of 11 or 12. Parents are frequently not invited because it is too difficult to ask them not to attend if it rains. Theatre, dance and music groups have to give three performances. Speech night, which I attend every year, is held in Carlingford High School assembly hall. It is very hot, it has to be specially booked, and it is not the same as having a hall on site. I have received many submissions from parents on this issue, including an email from Peter Schouten, which states:
Dear Mr Michael Richardson,
Member for The Hills,
We are seeking your support for the construction of a much waited for and much needed school/community hall at Murray Farm Public School in Carlingford. We strongly urge you to use your influence and position as our elected member of the NSW Parliament to ensure capital works funding is attained for this purpose in next year's NSW government budget.
Given that you have written in the past that you support the need for a school hall at Murray Farm Public School, and the fact that funding was attained for the nearby West Pennant Hills Public School for the same purpose, we had expected that it would have been announced in the current budget, but along with the whole school community we were deeply disappointed to learn that we had yet again been overlooked. As you know, this public school has one of the highest levels of enrolments in the state and has been providing for students for over 30 years without a school hall that is capable of meeting basic school needs. The existing demountable temporary hall is totally inadequate in all respects and in no way meets prescribed Government guidelines for school halls.
Whilst the school P & C and the community have started raising funds themselves for this purpose, the cost of providing such a facility will always be prohibitive without Government funding. I now have 2 children attending this fine school and we were all benefit greatly from the establishment of a school hall to help further the education of our future generations.
Mr Schouten's concerns are mirrored by those of most parents of this fine school. Murray Farm is now the only school in my electorate without a large assembly hall of its own or one under construction. For example, Glenhaven Public School has an assembly hall that doubles as the local community centre. The hall was built by the former Coalition Government on council land next to the school—a first for the State. This week I visited West Pennant Public School to view the construction of its new hall. The school dates back to 1850, so it has taken 153 years for it to get a hall. Understandably, the students and parents of Murray Farm Public School do not want to wait that long. I implore the Government to help Murray Farm Public School get its hall. The parent body is prepared to provide some financial assistance but it cannot raise all the necessary funding. I ask the new Minister Education and Training, Dr Refshauge, to visit the school, listen sympathetically to the concerns of the school community, and include funding for the construction of the hall in next year's capital works program.
Ms ALISON MEGARRITY (Menai—Parliamentary Secretary) [4.58 p.m.]: I am sure all honourable members would join me in congratulating the teachers and students of Murray Farm Public School on the excellent basic skills test results in literacy and numeracy. In August, 164,245 government and non-government students in New South Wales sat for the statewide basic skills test, and the results were very encouraging. As the honourable member pointed out, the results achieved by Murray Farm Public School are impressive. I am surprised to hear about the growth in that area. Growing up in the Dundas area, I am surprised to hear that the catchment for Murray Farm Public School is continuing to grow, which is placing demands on the school. One would have thought that the population in that area was starting to settle. It is timely that the honourable member has brought this matter to the attention of the House because, as he would know from past experience, budgets may be brought down in the middle of the year but they start to be debated and drawn up any time from now. I am sure the Minister for Education and Training will take this matter into account, along with the many other State priorities.