Union slams public funds for elite schools

Public school teachers have attacked the Turnbull government after it was revealed seven private schools in Sydney are planning to spend more than $365 million on new facilities, including a castle-like library, rooftop learning terraces, an orchestra pit and a ballet studio.

The NSW Teachers Federation says the privileged projects come at a time when the federal government is ignoring the capital funding needs of government schools.

“Despite the urgent need to invest in public school infrastructure to address burgeoning enrolment growth and deal with the existing massive maintenance backlog, the federal government has instead pursued a capital funding program that will accelerate the achievement gaps between the advantaged and the disadvantaged,” federation president Maurie Mulheron said in a statement on Sunday.

“By funding existing wealthy private schools the Turnbull government is ignoring the capital funding needs of public schools.”

Fairfax Media reports development applications before the NSW Department of Planning and Environment show seven of the most exclusive private schools in Sydney are scheduled to spend a combined $365 million on new facilities.

The schools are Scots College, Loreto Kirribilli, Cranbrook School, SCEGGS Darlinghurst, St Catherine’s School, St Aloysius’ College and Loreto Normanhurst.

Scots plans to upgrade its library including a “complete recladding of the exterior in a Scottish Baronial architectural style” while Loreto wants outdoor rooftop terraces.

St Catherine’s is planning to build a new orchestra pit and ballet studio along with its playbox theatre.

Loreto Normanhurst wants a “bush chapel” but principal Barbara Watkins has defended the spend, telling Fairfax “government funding goes directly to the education needs of our students alone”.

Fees at the wealthiest private schools in Sydney can reach close to $40,000 a year.

Australian Education Union federal president Correna Haythorpe on Sunday said in a statement: “Funding should be spent where it is needed most, and with public school enrolments rising fast, that’s in the public sector.”