A public primary school in Taylor has doubled its capacity from 600 to 1200 students less than five years after first opening in the fast-growing Gungahlin district.
Margaret Hendry School opened in 2019. By the time the expansion was completed in August (2023), it was already over capacity with 660 students enrolled.
Gungahlin Community Council president Henley Samuel said the expansion was “great news” but could have been avoided with more proactive planning.
“They could have saved a lot of dollars if they did it in one go … it’s not surprising to see the population growth,” Mr Samuel said.
“We’re always playing catch-up games, not just in schools, but every infrastructure.
“That’s the trend we see with what government is doing in the Gungahlin region.”
Education Minister Yvette Berry said she was confident the expanded Margaret Hendry School and others slated for the Gungahlin district in coming years would meet demand.
These included a new high school opening next door in Taylor in 2025, another in Kenny opening in 2024, and a new college in Nicholls scheduled to open before the decade’s end.
“Expanding and building new schools in this area has been an important part of making sure we meet the needs of existing students, but also students into the future,” Minister Berry said.
Two of the first students to step foot in the two-level, multi-purpose learning spaces with Minister Berry, Bonnie (year 5) and Kyra (year 4), said they were excited.
“It’s really exciting to have a really cool new building,” Kyra said. “Everyone at our school wants to move in, so we’re all crossing our fingers.”
The new indoor spaces feature general-purpose and specialist classrooms, for food technology, STEAM subjects (science, technology, engineering, the arts and maths) and small-group programs.
“We now have really highly specialised spaces for digital technology, with 3D printers included and opportunities to do more scientific experiments in better facilities,” principal Kate Woods said.
“The inclusion of a kitchen is fantastic because we have really fantastic gardens throughout the school that we produce food from that the children cut up and work with and eat.”
The expansion also includes new outdoor learning and landscaped play areas, a community hub also available to the local community, and two new carparks.
Principal Woods also defended the culture and learning model of the school, which was the first to operate under the Government’s Future of Education strategy.
She said the school’s inquiry-based model of learning was a “fabulous approach” taken in many ACT public schools, with opportunities for collaboration and critical thinking.
“We have a gorgeous school culture that is formed on the basis of our pillar of love, which is about love for self, love for others, love for learning and love for Country,” she said.
“We have a really strong wellbeing team and they’re focused on positive behaviour for learning, which continues to evolve. It is a long process when you do it very deeply and very well.”