Schools transformed into community hubs in draft strategy

Tuesday 4 October 2016

Infrastructure Victoria has today recommended transforming new and expanded state schools into shared community facilities in the draft of the state’s first ever 30-year infrastructure strategy.

The independent authority’s draft strategy lays out a pipeline of new and expanded infrastructure alongside policies and reforms to get more out of existing infrastructure – including early childhood facilities, schools, TAFEs and public libraries.

Infrastructure Victoria Chief Executive Michel Masson said the recommendations addressed challenges facing schools – including imbalances in supply and demand, and maintenance backlogs - but went further to think about how schools could be used outside of school hours.

 “While digital technology will continue to transform education, bricks and mortar schools will still be important over the next 30 years and they can play a bigger role in our community,” he said.

The draft strategy reconceptualises state schools in the future as places for shared community use.

Under this concept, school campuses can become shared hubs, where sports grounds or arts facilities are shared with local communities and kindergartens, childcare and even public libraries could be located onsite.

Infrastructure Victoria has recommended this model should be rolled out for all new schools and schools undergoing major upgrades.  

“While this would require new funding, planning and governance arrangements, it would ensure state schools have the best facilities, fully utilised 7 days a week, and available to the wider community,” Mr Masson said.

The draft strategy also recommends reforms for better coordinated and more transparent planning, new models for school maintenance, and teaching subjects remotely via video conferencing.

“As well as sharing school facilities with the community, we have recommended investing in the ICT infrastructure which would support sharing teachers and resources between schools so students at rural schools or disadvantaged schools can access a wider range of subjects and courses,” he said.

Key recommendations include:

  • Reviewing existing school local area planning including lifting enrolments in underutilised schools before approving new schools to be built nearby and having high performing schools assist surrounding schools by sharing teachers, resources and facilities
  • Publishing a five-year pipeline for investment in new and upgraded government schools, alongside planning data to demonstrate the need
  • Piloting a new regional maintenance model for schools
  • Encouraging Vocational Education courses to be taught on school sites, particularly in regional and rural areas where access to vocational training is a significant issue
  • Conducting an audit of TAFE assets to support these facilities being made available for shared community use, in turn improving their longer-term viability
  • Providing additional funding for new or upgraded public libraries

Infrastructure Victoria has also made recommendations to help fund refurbishments or replacements of out-of-date council and community-run early childhood facilities and provide temporary facilities in high growth areas.

 “Beyond formal education, we have also looked at the role of libraries and TAFEs in supporting lifelong learning,” Mr Masson said.

Feedback on the draft strategy will inform the final strategy, which will be delivered to Parliament in December. 

To read the draft strategy and supporting technical documents, or provide feedback, visit the consultation website. The consultation period closes on 31 October 2016.

For media enquiries contact Anna Whitelaw - 0438 500 294 or media@infrastructurevictoria.com.au