$500m promise for non-govt NSW schools

Gladys Berejiklian promises $500m for non-government schools if coalition re-elected in NSW.
Gladys Berejiklian promises $500m for non-government schools if coalition re-elected in NSW.

NSW's religious and private schools have welcomed a half a billion dollar election pledge from the Liberal state government, but public school teachers feel their growing system should be the priority.

The $500 million will go towards building more classrooms and upgrading facilities for non-government schools across the state over the next four years.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian made the announcement on Thursday, a fortnight out from March 23 election.

The government was committed to supporting parents whether they choose to send their children to public, Catholic or private schools, Ms Berejiklian said in a statement.

NSW Education Minister Rob Stokes said the funds will be directed to the areas of greatest need and will take into account fees, demographics and socio-economic characteristics of the school.

The peak body for Catholic schools in NSW said it expects its share of the funds to be at least $75 million per year which will provide the certainty needed for schools to plan ahead.

Catholic Schools NSW chief executive officer Dallas McInerney said the money will be prioritised for schools most in need.

"This brings a focus to needy schools serving low socio-economic communities, schools in fast-growing areas and schools with an urgent need for new or improved learning facilities," Mr McInerney said in a statement on Thursday.

The NSW public school system, according to Infrastructure NSW, has hosted between 750,000 and 800,000 students over the last three decades.

But immigration and higher birth rates is causing a sustained population growth and the public system will swell to over one million students in the next two decades.

"The state government should be prioritising the construction of public schools," NSW Teachers Federation president Maurie Mulheron said in a statement on Thursday.

"We know that by 2031, our public school system will be accommodating an extra 168,000 students. All of that adds up to an extra 7,200 classrooms required by the public system in NSW by 2031 on the state government's own predictions."

Current funding will only deliver a quarter of the required learning spaces, the union leader said.

Labor leader Michael Daley said he wanted to see how the government planned to fund the "extravagant rivers of gold".

"You cannot at the same time spend that $2.2 billion on schools and policy," he told reporters in Sydney on Thursday.

"It cannot be done. It defies economics and it defies physics."

The public system in NSW caters to about 65 per cent of students while the non-government system has the remaining 35 per cent.

Infrastructure NSW, in February 2018, urged the government to help the private sector keep up with its own similar growth rate in order to keep pressure off the public system.

A five per cent drop in the non-government sector would trigger a $3.4 billion public infrastructure bill, the planning group warned.

Australian Associated Press