Record public school enrolments but Tuggeranong struggling

Ian Bushnell 30 July 2020 24
Wanniassa School

Wanniassa School is running at 40 per cent capacity. Photo: File.

Enrolments at the ACT’s 88 public schools have reached a record 50,272 students, but many schools in Tuggeranong’s ageing suburbs are well below capacity.

The annual February school census shows public school enrolments have continued their run of rises since 2016, increasing by 1,120 students (or 2.3%) on last year, and by 5,441 students (12.1%) over the past five years.

More parents are sending their children to government schools, with public schools accounting for 62.5 percent of the total student population, up marginally from 62.4 per cent in 2019 and 61 per cent in 2016, with the Independents and the Catholic system virtually splitting the remainder in half.

All up, a total of 80,416 students are enrolled across all school sectors, a 2.1 per cent increase on the same time last year, and 6,905 students (9.4%) more than in 2016.

The ACT’s strong population growth has also boosted non-government school enrolments by 544 students (1.8%) compared with 2019, and from 2016 to 2020, by 1,464 students (5.1%).

Across the three school levels of primary, high and college, Tuggeranong had the lowest proportion of enrolments, at 17.7, 14.3 and 18.8 per cent respectively.

At the primary level, the booming North/Gungahlin (31.6%) was the highest followed by Belconnen (25.5%), South/Weston (25.3%), and Tuggeranong.

At the high school level, North/Gungahlin (33%) again was the highest followed by South/Weston (29.2%), Belconnen (23.5%) and Tuggeranong.

At the college level, South/Weston (31.8%) was the highest followed by North/Gungahlin (28.7%), Belconnen (20.8%) and Tuggeranong.

Gilmore Primary recorded the lowest enrolment in the ACT at 145, less than half its capacity of 314, followed by Richardson Primary at 156, running at 43 per cent of its capacity of 358.

Both the combined primary and high schools of Namadgi and Wanniassia are well below capacity.

Namadgi can take 1240 students but the census shows only 446 primary and 262 high school enrolments, more than 500 below capacity.

Wanniassa’s limit is 1163 but it only had 271 primary and 213 high school students in February, running at 40 per cent capacity.

Erindale College had 604 enrolments, 400 below capacity, while Lake Tuggeranong had 645 students, 351 less than its limit.

Education Minister Yvette Berry

Education Minister Yvette Berry won’t be closing schools any time soon. Photo: File.

The low enrolments at this stage in Tuggeranong’s demographic cycle again raises speculation about school closures but Education Minister Yvette Berry has been quick to quash any such suggestions so close to an election, focusing on the new schools the government is building.

”The ACT Government is expanding and building new schools across Canberra to keep up with this strong population growth and confidence in the public education system,” she said.

Canberra’s newest school in Molonglo is set to open its doors for the 2021 school year for preschool and primary school with the high school set to open in 2023.

Construction will begin later this year on a new primary school in Throsby catering for kindergarten to Year 6 which will open in 2022 and cater for 450 and up to 132 pre-schoolers. Plans are also underway for a new high school in Kenny.

The permanent capacity at Franklin School (previously named Franklin Early Childhood School) is being increased, now catering for students from preschool to Year 6 to grow its capacity by 400 students. The Gold Creek School Senior Campus will have an additional 200 places by 2022.

Ms Berry said the ACT Government was also investing heavily in high-quality transportable learning spaces that can be moved as needed to respond to the fluctuating demand across schools as suburb demographics change.

These would service schools that are at or over capacity such as Fraser Primary and Mt Rogers Primary in Belconnen; Lyneham and North Ainslie Primary, in North/Gungahlin; and Garran Primary in South/Weston.

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24 Responses to Record public school enrolments but Tuggeranong struggling
Robyn Holder Robyn Holder 12:52 am 31 Jul 20

Oh for goodness sake. It's the way Canberra works with our town centres. Belconnen is now coming out if the slump in numbers with more students in all school levels than a few years ago. The same will happen in Tuggeranong. The ones who were at college when Hawker had more than 900 now have their own children and they are filling up the primary schools and Y7. The numbers dropped way down for several years. It will eventually even out.

Melissa Ross Melissa Ross 2:58 pm 30 Jul 20

Cutting off NSW residents would have also caused a drop

Amanda Britten Amanda Britten 9:10 am 30 Jul 20

Smaller class numbers isn't a bad thing!

My children have absolutely thrived in a smaller capacity school, with more one on one help from their teachers

Jess Nicholson Jess Nicholson 9:00 am 30 Jul 20

Maybe there is a systemic issue with the quality of some Southside public schools, and parents end up working 3 jobs 7 days a week just to afford private school because they aren’t prepared to subject their children to what goes on at some of these schools....

Amanda Evans Amanda Evans 10:05 am 29 Jul 20

The demographic cycles of a city will always see this happening.

Jo Hann Jo Hann 9:43 am 29 Jul 20

Schools are not factories. The numbers deemed "efficient" don't translate to quality. There are around 400 children at the school my kids attend and I love that they aren't crammed into classrooms and that the principal knows their names.

Thank you Minister Berry for understanding this and for supporting our schools.

Jodie McGuire Jodie McGuire 9:29 am 29 Jul 20

Possibly a larger number of catholic schools in the valley?

Moira Begg Moira Begg 7:25 am 29 Jul 20

Kevin Begg lowest fill rate is Gilmore

Darron Marks Darron Marks 7:13 am 29 Jul 20

Because they are moving to the North. Which is why we need more investment to cope with the extra growth.

    Ashley Wright Ashley Wright 4:07 pm 30 Jul 20

    Darron Marks they being the kids who filled these schools 10-20 years ago who after having moved to new suburbs now need schools for their ruggies.

    Darron Marks Darron Marks 5:54 pm 30 Jul 20

    Probably yes Ashley, Or they could be new residents.

    But I would assume the ACT Government would have a better idea of why we have had such a large population expansion in Gungahlin over the last few years ?

Grant Sc Grant Sc 7:43 pm 28 Jul 20

Belconnen went through the same dynamic when it came of age. Primary schools in every second suburb closing. But one the original first home owners get old and move away it receives itself with new blood. Even Ainsley the oldest suburb did it with both primary schools.

Gregg Heldon Gregg Heldon 2:50 pm 28 Jul 20

Tuggeranong is less than 50 years old. How is that ageing compared to a suburb like, say Ainslie.

    John Kerry Tozer John Kerry Tozer 9:26 am 29 Jul 20

    Gregg Heldon - just check what happened in Belconnen when it was only 30 years “old”.

    Jo Hann Jo Hann 9:45 am 29 Jul 20

    They're talking average of residents, not average age of houses. Median age in Wanniassa is 39. Median age of Watson/Ainslie is 40....

Gloria Altinger Gloria Altinger 11:36 am 28 Jul 20

Maybe the kids can now get the appropriate attention they need within class time without being over populated.

Shaun Hoy Shaun Hoy 10:20 am 28 Jul 20

Nappy Valley is fast becoming unaffordable for new mums and dad wanting a big block for the kids to play in.

    Michael McDonald Michael McDonald 10:56 am 28 Jul 20

    When Chisholm is more expensive that Fadden, you have to wonder.

    Sam McCracken Sam McCracken 5:39 am 29 Jul 20

    Shaun Hoy agree! We’ve been looking for a new rental house and the prices in Tuggeranong suburbs are ridiculous. There’s a basic 3 bedroom 2 bathroom place in Isabella Plains for $690 a week!! Isabella Plains!! If our kids weren’t already in school in Tuggeranong we’d be looking to move Northside. Way more bang for your buck over there.

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