Lessons for future school planning

An audit of enrolment growth in NSW will inform better school infrastructure planning into the future.

The NSW Government logo overlaying a photo of bags on a wall. The NSW Government logo overlaying a photo of bags on a wall.

The failure of the former government to plan and deliver school infrastructure in the state’s fastest-growing communities has been laid bare in an audit of enrolment growth in NSW that will inform better school infrastructure planning into the future.

Delivery of the Enrolment Growth Audit, released today by the NSW Department of Education, is a key election commitment of the NSW Government and part of its Growth Areas Schools Plan to ensure families in fast-growing areas have timely access to high quality public schools.

The audit found that the former government neglected the needs of booming communities after failing to respond to their rapid, concentrated growth, instead relying on broad statewide projections to plan for individual schools.

The audit found that the top 10 student growth areas between 2018 and 2023, all located in Sydney’s north-west and south-west corridors, collectively accounted for close to 40 per cent of all student enrolment growth in NSW.

These areas have been identified as priority growth precincts by successive NSW governments since the mid-2000s; however, planning has failed to accurately predict the growth and deliver the schools needed.

These growth corridors not only exceeded the population projections made in 2016, but have done so at lightning pace: the growth of student populations in these areas has skyrocketed by more than 240 per cent in the past five years.

In the areas of Schofields (east), Marsden Park-Shanes Park, Denham Court-Bardia, Gledswood Hills-Gregory Hills, and Jordan Springs-Llandilo, enrolments in 2023 more than doubled the 2016 projection for 2023 and have already surpassed the 2016 enrolment projections for 2041.

Edmondson Park, Denham Court, Marsden Park and Ryde/Denistone were identified as examples of areas where a failure to factor in the speed of development left families without the local public schools they need.

The audit also identified the regional communities of Gillieston and Lennox Head as areas with booming populations where planning for school infrastructure had not kept up with development.

As part of the NSW Government's plan to address the school infrastructure backlog and rebuild essential services, the 2023-24 Budget is delivering a record $3.5 billion for new and upgraded schools in western Sydney and another $1.4 billion for regional schools.

This includes 15 new schools and 17 upgrades in the state’s top 10 student growth areas identified in the Enrolment Growth Audit. All top 10 student growth areas have funded capital works projects in the 2023-24 Budget.

For future planning, the audit identified an improved population projection methodology to more accurately monitor growth and demographic changes, improving enrolment and population projections.

It also lists actions for School Infrastructure NSW to adopt to ensure effective and timely responses to enrolment growth. These include developing localised school population projections using an enhanced range of data sources, developing a strategic property provision pipeline in priority growth areas, and active monitoring of the top 10 growth areas.

Top 10 student growth areas 2018-2023:

  • Schofields – East
  • Marsden Park – Shanes Park
  • Oran Park
  • Denham Court – Bardia
  • North Kellyville
  • Box Hill – Nelson
  • Gledswood Hills – Gregory Hills
  • Jordan Springs – Llandilo
  • Leppington – Catherine Field
  • Epping (East) – North Epping

Deputy Premier and Minister for Education and Early Learning Prue Car said:

“The NSW Labor Government is committed to building new and upgraded facilities to ensure every student has access to high quality learning environments at their local public school.

“We have delivered on our commitment to conduct this Enrolment Growth Audit as a matter of priority, to fix the school planning failures of the former Liberal National government.

“We delivered a record budget for new and upgraded schools in Western Sydney to fix the former Liberal National Government’s school infrastructure backlog.

“Communities in growing suburbs like Schofields, Gregory Hills, Leppington and Sydney Olympic Park have been fighting for years for much-needed new schools, and elected Labor to deliver the schools the former Liberal National government did not build.

“Our targeted investment in growing communities, supported by this audit, will ensure working families get access to a world class public education on their doorstep into the future.”

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