Parents alarmed at safety concerns at growing Cowaramup Primary School and call for help

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Vasse MLA Libby Mettam and Cowaramup Primary School P&C president Joel Hall and some of the Year 4 and Year 1 students affected by the school's safety issues.
Camera IconVasse MLA Libby Mettam and Cowaramup Primary School P&C president Joel Hall and some of the Year 4 and Year 1 students affected by the school's safety issues. Credit: Warren Hately

The head of Cowaramup Primary School’s Parents and Citizens’ committee has called on the State Government to stop dragging their feet on long-running safety issues at the tiny school.

While Cowaramup was already struggling with booming student numbers, P&C president Joel Hall said population growth was not the key issue.

Rather, it was a raft of safety issues as well as unworkable spaces unable to deliver key education outcomes which spurred his letter to Education Minister Sue Ellery.

“The 2016 audit shows that the shortfalls are much more severe and diverse than teaching classroom space, and we are at the point that adding more transportable classrooms will not cut it,” Mr Hall said.

“The audit noted that some existing buildings ‘were insufficient in almost all aspects’ and had ‘well and truly surpassed’ their lifecycles.

“Buildings are sagging and cracking and have been recommended to be completely replaced due to safety concerns.”

Cowaramup also had more transportable classrooms than State-recommended guidelines designed for them to be a temporary measure, and specialist programs including art and craft, science, technology, engineering and mathematics, library services and also administration were affected by space as well as safety issues.

While focused on safety concerns, Mr Hall said the school had gained 80 students since 2016 and was headed towards another 50 due to the town’s State-leading population growth.

While the Minister has already nixed any prospect of immediate work on the primary school — with concerns raised with the Times by Vasse MLA Libby Mettam multiple times in the past decade — there was a ray of hope in plans for a fresh audit of the school, possibly as soon as next year.

But that meant the prospect of any substantial works were at least several years off, which Ms Mettam said was unacceptable.

“The failure by this Government to address the much-needed upgrades have highlighted urgent safety and capacity issues, which is of immediate concern,” she told the Times.

“Despite the audit undertaken by the Department of Education in 2016 highlighting the need for urgent upgrades, these remain outstanding.

“The growing community of Cowaramup deserve better from this Government and the Minister has a responsibility to ensure a safe and accessible learning environment for students and their families.”

A State Government spokesperson said the department actively monitored growth and capacity at schools, but did not respond to the specific cited safety concerns other than to acknowledge $75,000 awarded in 2019 for “maintenance and minor works”.

“The Department of Education undertakes a regular building condition assessment survey across all schools every three-to-four years,” the spokesperson said.

“This assessment informs future programs of maintenance, with the last inspection process occurring during 2017-18 and any urgent maintenance works identified now addressed.

“The department will continue to monitor enrolment growth in the Cowaramup area to determine when enrolment relief is required.”

The school also recently received $40,000 to support STEM education.

The Minister’s office confirmed the next audits would start in early 2023.

Cowaramup-based Labor MLC Jackie Jarvis was also asked to intervene on the issue, but deferred inquiries to the Minister’s office.

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