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New schools for Gungahlin, demountables elsewhere as classes fill up

Ian Bushnell 3 June 2019 19

Lyneham High will be one of the first schools to receive the new demountables. Photo: George Tsotsos.

The ACT Government will deploy a fleet of new mobile demountable buildings to house students in overcrowded established schools such as those in the Inner North while it focuses on meeting the growing demand in new Gungahlin suburbs.

As part of tomorrow’s Budget, Education Minister Yvette Berry has announced two new schools in Gungahlin, money for the previously announced expansion of Franklin Early Childhood School, and extra places for Gold Creek School Senior Campus and Gungahlin College.

It also provides for feasibility studies and planning to support detailed mapping of future student demand in residential growth areas in West Belconnen, the Molonglo Valley, south-east Canberra and the Belconnen and Woden town centre areas. The Inner North also gets money for planning work to address capacity within existing schools in the City and Gateway area, which are bursting at the seams.

There will be a new K-Year 6 in Throsby, with capacity for 450 students and up to 132 preschool students, and space to accommodate future student growth. It will be ready to take students for the 2022 school year.

A new high school in Kenny will cater for enrolments from across Gungahlin, and cater for 800 students from Years 7 to 10 with room for temporary expansion to accommodate more places if required. It is planned to open in the 2023 school year.

Franklin Early Childhood School will grow its permanent capacity to 600 students across Kindergarten to Year 6, in addition to the existing early childhood offering, while Gold Creek School Senior Campus will gain 200 extra places by the beginning of the 2022 school year through the use of demountables

There will also be 200 extra places at Gungahlin College, where new specialist science teaching facilities will be built, along with upgrades to accommodate more staff.

The demountables will also help out at Gungahlin College in 2021 but soak up demand elsewhere, with Lyneham High and Hawker Primary to be the first to receive them. Ms Berry said they would help the Directorate respond quickly to increased enrolments across Canberra, delivering a further 350 places.

There are also pressure points in Belconnen, Woden and Weston Creek where several schools are at capacity but the Inner North’s school populations are booming even before the influx of new residents with the development of the Northbourne Corridor, and the situation appears to have slipped under the radar.

The Budget acknowledges this but some say the Inner North growth has caught the Government on the hop and it is trying to manage the situation through manipulating the Priority Enrolment Areas.

An Inner North parent says a baby boom, along with new development, is flowing through to fill schools to bursting point.

The parent says feeder primary schools such as North Ainslie have doubled in size since the current Year 7 cohort started school, partly due to changing demographics and new areas such as New Watson, in effect a suburb in its own right but without infrastructure.

North Ainslie has gone from two classes in each year to four while Majura in Watson has five kindergarten classes.

This has led to classes being held wherever there is free space.
“Campbell Primary holds extension classes in the staff room, North Ainslie had two classes camping in the library for term one, waiting for a demountable to be finished. The rest of the school then had no library or computer room. Whole school assemblies can’t be held as there is no room in the hall for kids and parents,” the parent says.

While there may be a need for a new school in the Inner North, the growing area is running out of sites, with the former Downer Primary school soon to be made into units and the old Watson High site set to be developed.

But the Government rejected claims of overcrowding in the Inner North saying primary schools are currently using less than 80 per cent of their available school capacity in 2019.

A spokesperson said the feasibility studies would be conducted over the next two years and examine a range of options for responding to demand, including changes to priority enrolment areas and/or more active management of enrolment policy, as well as a range of temporary and permanent infrastructure.

The Government was also working to gain a stronger understanding of future development and occupancy trends, including how many families will choose to live in multi-unit developments increase demand for schools over time.

 “As well as managing ‘out of area’ enrolments more actively at schools in this region for 2020, the government may investigate opportunities for further expansion on existing school sites in the area, in consultation with the community and schools,” the spokesperson said.

Last year the ACT Council of Parents and Citizens Association even floated the idea of a vertical or multi-storey school in the Inner North as a possible solution.

Council executive officer Terry Sanders welcomed the new schools in Gungahlin and the strategic planning announcements for other areas.

Mr Sanders said the demountables, which were of a better standard than some of the actual classrooms, were a good short to medium-term solution.

“We’re certainly looking to see what longer-term plans they’ve got for the whole of the inner area,” he said.


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19 Responses to New schools for Gungahlin, demountables elsewhere as classes fill up
Kathy McMahon Kathy McMahon 6:01 pm 06 Jun 19

A part of the problem is that the government is building the new schools too small too. Kingsford Smith for example was at capacity within two years of opening. Art rooms had to be transformed into class rooms to meet requirements, but still not enough. Canteens built in the middle of the campus with no access for delivery trucks and community rooms far too small.

Not only does the government have to stop closing schools down, they need to put more thought into the new ones they are building.

Watson high school is a good building (although old), maybe the government should reopen it as a school again. It could become a primary school with Majura being repurposed as a junior school.

Kathy Schneider Kathy Schneider 9:59 am 04 Jun 19

It’s getting the Sydney disease!

Lynne Audsley Lynne Audsley 9:45 am 04 Jun 19

Infrastructure is more than roads. The ACT government has been very short sighted in allowing the development of huge numbers of apartment dwellings, with no thought for the squeeze that inevitably puts on services such as schools, hospitals, firefighting, policing, as well as electricity, water and waste.

Allan AJ Allan AJ 2:23 am 04 Jun 19

New model 😂 they did this in the 90’s when I was at school just on the Southside when the growth was down there. Definitely not new

David Ferguson David Ferguson 10:32 pm 03 Jun 19

The question needs to be asked with schools reaching and going beyond capacity, why are there schools such as Chifley or Watson High being used not as a school but as a community space. Short sighted ACT Government.

    James Nomis James Nomis 10:47 pm 03 Jun 19

    David Ferguson Rewind to when enrolments were in decline, maintenance and upkeep on half-full schools and expansive playing fields was slowly crippling the ACT budget. Throw on top of that the forecasts from every public and private demographer in Australia for low 1 per cent population growth in the ACT..and it made absolute sense. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Did you predict back in 2006 that the ACT would currently be growing by 25 new people a day?...which is 2.2 per cent!

    David Ferguson David Ferguson 10:51 pm 03 Jun 19

    I see your point of view, but these are ready made facilities that with some investment would be a far better option than semi permanent buildings.

    Ashley Wright Ashley Wright 11:14 pm 03 Jun 19

    David Ferguson are they in the right location to be useful? That’s always the problem with schools. Demand moved around.

    David Ferguson David Ferguson 6:33 am 04 Jun 19

    Ashley Wright the article mentions areas across Belconnen, Woden and the Inner North, so yes.

    Ashley Wright Ashley Wright 8:53 am 04 Jun 19

    David Ferguson that doesn’t mean they are in the right place. No point having an old (empty) school if that demand is required two suburbs over.

    Jeff Smith Jeff Smith 2:19 pm 04 Jun 19

    James Nomis Why do you say every government and private demographer were saying there would be only 1% annual population growth in the ACT? A number of experts argued that Canberra would match State capital city growth and that the school closures didn't adequatly address the future demographic and social data. Look back over some of the old SaveOurSchools information and read some old Handsard documents to get a better picture of how some experts accurately predicted the current situation over a decade ago.

    Timothy Friel Timothy Friel 8:55 pm 04 Jun 19

    Not all schools are reaching capacity. The lack of investment in the south means schools like Calwell and Lanyon HS are below 50% capacity

    Justine Marlin Justine Marlin 9:42 pm 04 Jun 19

    Watson High served northern north Canberra where there is growth and popular feeder primary schools. It's closure led to immediate pressure on Lyneham High. Dickson College was old and not at capacity but lucky for locals it did not get closed!

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