The school infrastructure challenge

NSW is experiencing extraordinary population growth in Sydney and major regional centres.

On current trends, Sydney’s population will double in size in just over 40 years. To put this growth into context, for more than 30 years, NSW public education has had relatively stable student numbers. We are now seeing the first major increase in the school-age population since the Baby Boom of the 1950s.

We need to build, upgrade and maintain our school infrastructure to plan for the growing number of student places required:

  • There will be a massive 21% growth in student numbers by 2031. This means NSW schools will need to accommodate an extra 269,000 students, with 164,000 of these students in the public system.
  • 80% of growth will occur in Sydney – particularly in urban growth areas
  • In many rural communities there will be population changes as families move to regional centres and larger cities. Other centres will grow and the needs of local student populations will change
  • Sydney’s population projections indicate growth will continue over the next 30 years – the equivalent of 7,200 extra classrooms by 2031.

Central to all this work is the need to ensure that schools respond to modern teaching methods and deliver flexible and adaptable learning spaces to meet the needs of our 21st Century students.

Key to the success of this new approach is an increased partnership with the private sector who can help us innovate around world-class design, technology and construction ideas to achieve our educational, financial and sustainability goals.

School community planning

Population growth won’t be evenly spread across the state and there will be new demands on education facilities to meet the needs of a changing learning environment.

Instead of upgrading education infrastructure one school at a time, school community planning will assess schools within an area or region, to identify the best way to distribute student numbers and deliver new and upgraded facilities for the whole community. Existing sites may need to be redeveloped, or school catchment boundaries realigned so that all schools are fully utilised by area before brand new schools are considered.

The opportunities

Our mission is to provide school infrastructure solutions by working together with all our stakeholders to create learning environments across NSW that serve our future needs and make us all proud.

In many parts of Sydney, our existing school sites will need to be redeveloped. The size, amenity and functionality of surrounding schools may need to be increased and school catchment boundaries realigned. Amalgamating and rebuilding older schools in rural areas where a larger secondary school can offer a broader curriculum will also be considered. Temporary classrooms will still be needed to manage enrolment peaks and troughs.

To future-proof our state’s education offerings we will seek to:

  • Supply learning spaces that support modern teaching practice
  • Ensure play space at our new schools meets student needs
  • Incorporate design principles that make our schools more environmentally sustainable
  • Engage with local communities during the planning process for new and upgraded infrastructure
  • Effectively manage school maintenance needs
  • Make school facilities and grounds more accessible to local communities
  • Work with the private sector to ensure we are innovative in the way new schools are delivered.

To address the enrolment and growth challenge we have a 10-year rolling capital works plan which provides the security to plan for the long term. This means we can get on with the job driving the planning and construction of school facilities in response to changes around population growth, new ways of teaching, learning, and social change.

Our work has oversight by School Infrastructure NSW Advisory Council, to ensure that education infrastructure needs are met with innovative and sustainable solutions that represent value for money.