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Planning for growth

Good article this morning from Timna Jacks and Royce Millar at The Age about how non government schools are ahead of the state system in providing new schools in Melbourne’s growth suburbs.

Some quick observations:

  1. There’s a massive challenge in trying to provide the education facilities needed in Melbourne’s growth areas. Inevitably some of the demand is going to be taken up by non government schools.
  2. There’s a lag factor at work in the data quoted. It takes years to plan and then deliver a new school. From 2010-2014 Victoria’s government sat on its hand in terms of new education infrastructure. For example, there was not one new government school set to open in 2016. Non government schools stepped into the void. Spending has ramped up again now. See the Victorian School Building Authority website for a snapshot of current activity.
  3. Why does the government fund part of the infrastructure costs for non government schools?
  4. The Victorian School Building Authority has a big job ahead of it and it can only deliver to the extent that government makes funding available for new schools. It needs to be proactive in ensuring land is set aside in known growth areas. Most of that demand is going to be in Melbourne but even in places like Bendigo, Ballarat and Geelong some forward planning is needed.
  5. There are areas of school aged population growth and areas of decline. Government is extremely cautious in closing down schools (they still haven’t got over the backlash from Kennett’s closures in the 90’s) but they will be watching for opportunities. And when they do sell a government school site the funds should go back into new school infrastructure. What they do need to be careful of is that regeneration can occur, as we’ve seen in many middle suburbs, and those suburbs can be left without local schools.
  6. There is only so much education funding to go around. Infrastructure will inevitably compete with the recurrent cost to government inherent in the new Gonski 2.0 deal.

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