A peak body has warned the Gold Coast will need up to six new independent schools to be built over the next two decades to maintain the existing levels of school choice in the region but high land and infrastructure costs could make it impossible.
A Independent Schools Queensland infrastructure report, released today, shows an additional 21 new Prep-Year 12 independent schools and 622 extra classrooms, at a total cost of $1.25 billion, will be needed across the state by 2036.
This funding is in addition to the significant investment school communities already make to maintain and upgrade existing school buildings. On average, the independent schooling sector spends more than $300 million on school facilities each year. About 80 percent is funded by parents and borrowings. The remainder is provided by governments.
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It forecasts the Gold Coast will see an additional 6,404 independent school students by 2036, mostly in the northern part of the city.
It believes five new schools will be needed in the Ormeau-Oxenford area and another one in Nerang.
ISQ Executive Director David Robertson said over the past five years the profile of new independent schools had shifted dramatically with community-driven smaller suburban and regional schools, specialist trade training schools and schools for disengaged students driving sector growth.
“While some existing schools are continuing to expand by adding additional campuses, year levels or classes, this trend is unlikely to be sufficient to meet the projected future demand for independent school places,” Mr Robertson said.
According to the report, to maintain the sector’s existing 15 percent share of student enrolments state-wide, it will need to accommodate an extra 41,000 students of the anticipated 229,000 additional school-age children projected to be living in Queensland by 2036.
Mr Robertson said taxpaying Queensland parents valued school choice as evidenced by the highest annual growth rate recorded in the sector in about five years – rising 2.3% or 2,800 students in 2019 to more than 123,000 enrolments at more than 210 schools.
“However, parental choice could be curtailed if the sector cannot afford the high infrastructure price tag associated with future forecast growth in Queensland’s school-age population,” he said.
“Time is critical, with the report showing that the majority of new schooling provision will be required from 2021 onwards. Six new independent schools are forecast between 2021-2026 and 14 between 2026 and 2036.”
Mr Robertson said the cost of land, particularly in boom areas, and infrastructure were significant barriers to new proponents entering the sector or existing school governing bodies expanding their education footprints.
“The independent schooling sector acknowledges the capital assistance it receives from the Queensland and Australian Governments for new and upgraded facilities at existing schools, particularly those that do not have the same community fundraising capacity as other schools,” he said.
“The independent sector will be advocating strongly for new school start-up support during the 2020 Queensland State Election. We’ll be putting forward a case for an additional $20 million a year in state government funding to go towards the $62.5 million annual investment for the forecast future independent school facilities that will be needed.”
“It’s more cost-effective for governments to provide a small level of capital and land seed funding, rather than face the full public cost of accommodating and educating students who may have otherwise been educated in the independent sector.”
New independent schools forecast to be needed by 2036
|REGION||Forecast additional independent school students||Total new independent schools||New school cost||Statistical areas||New independent schools|
|Sunshine Coast Hinterland||1|
Note: Capital costs include land. This table includes forecast total additional independent school students in each statistical area but does not include additional classrooms required in existing schools over and above the new school requirements to accommodate these extra students. This detail can be found in the report.