The youngest residents of Ballarat’s booming suburbs will be some of the biggest winners of the state election, regardless of which party takes power after the polling booths close.
Labor and Liberal have both promised new primary schools for Miners Rest and Lucas, which have the fastest growing populations in Ballarat.
At Miners Rest, the school population has trebled over the past six years to about 350 pupils on its small site with new housing estates popping up throughout its catchment area.
In August, Education Minister James Merlino promised, at a school assembly, that a re-elected Andrews Labor Government would invest $17.1 million to build a new school on a new site, or acquire more land and rebuild on the current site. The money is in addition to $4.5 million already budget for in the May state budget to master plan and buy land for the new school.
That new-school pledge came five months after Opposition education spokesman Tim Smith and Ripon MP Louise Staley visited the school to promise that a Liberal state government would develop a new Miners Rest Primary School in its first term, a project expected to cost upwards of $15 million.
“The current school was built in the 1860s, on a small parcel of land. Increasing the school’s size will provide the much-needed space for the students that they require to interact effectively and have their own play space,” principal Dale Power said.
On Ballarat’s western fringe, the young residents of Lucas and their families have been demanding a government primary school be established - a call which both parties have heeded.
The Liberals have promised to go ahead with the construction of Lucas Primary School if they win government this month. The incumbent Labor government funded $4.5 million in the 2017-18 state budget to buy land, which was acquired in April, and $17.1 million in the 2018-19 budget for construction with the 475-pupil school scheduled to open in term 1, 2020.
Last month, both sides promised to contribute funding – $1.5 million from Labor and $1.8 million from the Libs – toward construction of a gymnasium, and bus exchange at Siena Catholic Primary School, the only existing school in Lucas.
Ballarat’s existing schools have welcomed multi-million dollar promises from Labor for upgrades if they are re-elected, but as yet the Libs have not committed any extra funding to individual schools around Ballarat.
But that’s where the similarities between the two end.
Labor has promised Mount Rowan Secondary College a further $3.5 million to upgrade school facilities including the gym, music block and a new synthetic court. Phoenix P-12 Community College stands to receive $11.7 million to build an extra two indoor competition-grade courts and relocate existing tennis courts, while Mount Clear could receive $5.5 million to upgrade its ‘Block A’ which houses the school’s art, music, drama and science facilities.
And at Ballarat High School, Labor has promised $8 million to upgrade the ground floor of the J.J. Sheehan Wing and upgrade its administration building.
The Opposition has pledged $4.28 million to build a science complex and modernise the STEM facilities at Maryborough’s Highview College, which has 426 students, and $50,000 to install solar panels at Ballarat High School to help reduce their soaring power bills.
In the last month, before the government entered caretaker mode, Labor also announced a $51.2 million Mental Health in Schools Program and a $22.6 million expansion of virtual learning for regional VCE students, including virtual VCE subjects.
In that time the Liberals announced they would provide $2.8 million to help schools buy decodable readers for prep students and specialist training for teachers.
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