Principal hits out as school drowns in fees

TWEED schools might cancel their annual learn-to-swim courses because the new $10 million-plus Murwillumbah swimming complex is too expensive to use.

Murwillumbah East Public School principal Darren Scott says charges to use the new pool are so high it is cheaper to go to theme parks such as Wet'n'Wild, Dreamworld or WhiteWater World on the Gold Coast.

Mr Scott has told Tweed Shire councillors his school was one of several forced to cancel swimming lessons because the new charges amount to $25 per child for a 10-week course.

"This same decision has been made by Murwillumbah Primary School and several of the other non-government schools in the area,"he said.

"This means that every primary or high school student in this township is now not able to develop the essential swimming skills to be safe in and around water due to unreasonable financial requests."

But the council says while it will listen to special cases put by schools, the swimming pool will run at a huge loss and "somebody must pay".

Mr Scott said he had support from nearly every other school around Murwillumbah and warned that Murwillumbah East Public School, Murwillumbah South Infants School, Murwillumbah Public School, Wollumbin High School and Dungay Primary School were all or have been "priority schools".

"This means that we serve the poorest 10 per cent of the state," he said.

In the past when the cost for pool entry was $1.70 per visit -- or $17 for a 10-week program -- Mr Scott said about 15 per cent of his school's families could not afford the fee. But to ensure all children could learn to swim, the school "had no option but to pay for them to be involved from school funds".

The new rate of $2.50 -- or $25 for a 10-week course -- would be too expensive for about 40 per cent of the parents.

"East is also not financial enough to subsidise this large amount for families," he said.

Mr Scott told the councillors that even a season pass at the proposed rates was more expensive than a two-year pass to both Dreamworld and White Water World.

""or $250 per year I gain access to our local public pool, however, I can get a two-year access pass to the theme parks for $254 per adult or $168 per child," he said.

The council's recreation services manager Stewart Brawley said the increased fee and a range of other fees for pool hire would not be charged to schools, although they would apply to corporations.

Mr Brawley said the new complex would lose $500,000 a year.

"It is a matter of striking a balance between what users pay and how much that use should be subsidised," he said.



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