DISTRACTIONS CHALLENGE SCHOOL PROGRAMS
While written with the Northern Territory in mind, this paper, published in the ‘NT Sun’, has applicability to all systems everywhere.
Capital works projects and major physical changes to many territory schools are presently underway. In some, facilities are being replaced, extended or upgraded. Others have outdoor area and playground restrictions in place because irrigation systems are being modified or replaced. A drive around Darwin and Palmerston, reveals many schools with restriction barriers and cautionary signage because of disruption. Schools in regional centres are also being impacted by capital works programs.
During 2015 and this year, the NT Government funded building and capital works for many of our schools. There are two elements to this initiative. One is the enhancement of school infrastructure. The second is providing a continued livelihood for building and construction firms, to counter a looming downturn in this area of economic enterprise.
A perusal of tender documentation in the NT News over past months, confirms that many schools have received hundreds of thousands of dollars for infrastructure projects. A multitude of companies have won contracts for this work.
Timing of construction works is always problematic. Principals, teachers, support staff and students in schools where physical upgrades are happening, deserve special recognition and commendation. Many Northern Territory school campuses are presently subject to major capital works modifications.
Closed off areas restrict play opportunities for students. Recreational activities have to be modified and available space is more restricted than usual. When these works are completed, grounds recovery and lawn regrowth time will still limit access for children.
Building extensions mean that in some cases, classes have to be relocated for significant periods of time. There are often dust problems to counter, while a barrage of noise associated with work has to be tolerated by both students and staff. When facilities are restricted, timetables may need to be altered and some programs significantly modified or cancelled altogether.
Those in schools which are being disrupted, deserve appreciation and plaudits. Staff and students can and do manage in spite of these major inconveniences. They work around construction issues, carrying on with teaching and learning programs. Their resilience and resolve are to be applauded.
While the present emphasis is on building improvements and facilities enhancement, what goes on within schools is the most important of all educational considerations. Allocating money for capital improvement is well and good. However, a higher priority for schools is the channeling of funds directed toward the employment and training of staff to meet student needs. What happens within classrooms to support children, is the essence of education. This is an area that remains as a challenging priority within our system.