By Jade Lawton
THEY are less than two kilometres from each other, but the experiences of Berwick Primary School and St Michael’s are worlds apart.
Both schools have received millions of dollars from the Federal Government under the Building the Education Revolution (BER) program.
In the case of St Michael’s, the money was given to the Catholic Education Office; Berwick Primary School’s funds have been handled by the state’s Department of Education.
Berwick Primary principal Kaye Seton says her school has been left in the dark.
“We wanted to extend our gym and have a space for performing arts,” Ms Seton said.
“We got a $2 million multi-purpose building. The facility we are getting should be great, but we don’t see a quote and there is no control.”
Ms Seton said the department originally told the school the money left-over from the building could be spent on a second ‘companion’ project.
However she has since been told there would be no money leftover from the building, despite an independent architect estimating the room would cost just $750,000 to build.
St Michael’s principal Michael Hanney said his school was allocated $2.5 million for a stadium, which he described as ‘gold class.’
“It was on the master plan, something we were going to do, but it would have been 10 years off,” he said.
“Everything we asked for, we got. Everything we need is there and our whole project from beginning to end has been smooth.”
The school also received $150,000 under the National schools pride program, which funded shade sails, interactive whiteboards, and a library refurbishment.
Berwick Lodge Primary School principal Henry Grossek has also had problems with the BER funding. Work on the school’s library has ground to a halt after a dispute over the re-routing of a stormwater drain.
Mr Grossek said he sourced a legitimate quote for $60,000, while the project managers said the job would cost $201,000.
“I applaud the Catholic Education Office; I think we can take a leaf out of their book in how they manage the whole process.
“We (state schools) don’t have any real empowerment in it. That’s the difference I reckon.
“This parallels the pink bats problem. The State Government has an inflexible approach to managing which means schools are getting very bad value for money.”
Both Ms Seton and Mr Grossek praised La Trobe MP Jason Wood for advocating their cause in parliament.
A Department of Education spokesman said the $16.2 billion scheme had ‘strong support’ from 85 per cent of school principals.
“The BER guidelines include guidance about complaints management and principals or school communities may email any concerns they have to BER@deewr.gov.au,” he said.
By Jade Lawton