Boys forced to use girls' showers in WA high schools due to 'unfair' underfunding

Boys have been forced to use girls’ showers at some WA high schools due to chronic underfunding by the federal government, the State School Teachers’ Union of WA says.

The union has raised concerns after $20 million was drained from the Capital Grants program's $300 million fund by the federal government to go towards capital works funding in WA’s private schools.

Unlike almost all other rich economies, Australia runs three school systems rather than one.

Photo: Quentin Jones

The grant is only available to private schools who are seeking to upgrade their school facilities, and is not available to the public school system.

State School Teachers’ Union of WA president Pat Byrne said it was disappointing to see funding sorely needed by WA’s state institutions spent on seminar rooms, food studios, landscaping and sporting complexes.

“We have heard that boys are using the girls’ showers at some high schools because there are no individual cubicles for the boys’ privacy in their bathroom.

“Meanwhile private schools are enjoying upgrades such as food studios and new soccer pitches. It’s simply not fair and definitely not needs-based.

“There are public school facilities across WA that are dilapidated to the point where students safety is at risk.”

Figures from the union indicate 24 WA private schools have so far received $21 million through the program, and the arrangement has previously been criticised by a 2017 report by Save Our Schools Australia.

In the report, author Trevor Cobbold said an audit of the Commonwealth government’s monitoring of its education funding was a “scathing indictment” on its ability to force public accountability of private school organisations.

“Specifically, the Department of Education has failed to ensure that private school system authorities’ needs-based funding arrangements are publicly available and transparent, private school systems distribute taxpayer funding to affiliated schools on a needs-basis, [and] progress of agreed national reform directions is adequately monitored,” he said.

“These are not new criticisms... the Grattan Institute has also provided evidence that Catholic systems have allocated funding to schools in richer areas at the expense of those in poorer districts.”

A demountable classroom.

Photo: Kitty Hill

The Gratten Institute is an independent public policy organisation, and it has delivered a number of reports on government education spending.

“WA public school children are being educated in un-air conditioned demountables and transportable because there is no equivalent fund for our public schools,” Ms Byrne said.

“In fact, at last count, 582 WA schools had students learning in 2241 transportable classrooms.

“Some private schools are diverting millions in recurrent funding to capital works because in many cases they are getting more than 100 per cent of their school resource standard.

“The union is calling on our state and federal governments to work together to reduce educational inequity.

“There needs to be a new capital funding stream for public schools. All students deserve safe, comfortable learning facilities.”

The state government has previously committed $465 million to improve public school infrastructure, including schools in Balcatta, Canning Vale, Mount Hawthorn, North Morley, Tapping and more.

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