New Sydney high-rise school for 1200 students revealed

A new 14-storey high school will be built in inner Sydney for 1200 students as the government scrambles to meet a surge in enrolments that will require 12 new schools to be built every year.

The new Surry Hills school, to be built on the site of the existing Cleveland Street Intensive English High School, is expected to open in 2020 and is one of five high-rise government schools currently planned for greater Sydney.

Education Minister Rob Stokes said most new schools will involve “multi-storey buildings” amid increasing cost and space pressures.

“Where land is constrained, we’ll have to look at going up,” Mr Stokes said.

“It really depends on context, we won’t necessarily be building high rises in the outer suburbs for obvious reasons.”

Fairfax Media yesterday reported that the first of the five high-rises, Arthur Phillip High School in Parramatta, has experienced a cost blowout of $50 million. The development, which will now cost $225 million, is expected to be completed by 2019.

Elizabeth Carpenter, managing principal of FJMT, the head architectural firm for the project, said it would look at the “lessons learnt from that building”.

“We are using the Parramatta school as a benchmark,” Mrs Carpenter said.

“The whole thing with these buildings is that it really is a process of development as we move through these new types of schools.”

The school is part of a new $5 billion, 10-year school plan announced yesterday, along with projections that enrolment numbers at government schools will surge 21 per cent over the next 15 years.

Currently, 180 schools, or 5 per cent, are over capacity and 37 per cent are at capacity.

The plan includes increased standard enrolment capacities of 1000 students for primary schools and 2000 for secondary schools, significantly higher than the currently maximums of 640 and 1190 students.

However, Mr Stokes said that class sizes are “non-negotiable” and will not be increased.

The Labor opposition says that based on current investment levels and school-building activity, it will take the government “45 years to deliver enough schools to meet the projected demand”.

“I fear that following six years of inaction on schools building, the Liberals are now softening us for increased class sizes,” Opposition Leader Luke Foley said.

The nearest primary school to the new Surry Hills development, Bourke Street Public School, is one of the fastest growing schools in Sydney, with student numbers surging by 130 per cent since 2013 to 430 pupils this year, according to the NSW Department of Education’s latest enrolment data.

The high school with the most enrolments in greater Sydney, Cherrybrook Technology High School, currently has 1931 students.

Some overcrowded schools are also experiencing high growth rates, such as Bonnyrigg High School, which has grown nearly 34 per cent since 2013 to 1510 students and Castle Hill High School, which has grown nearly 17 per cent to 1595 students.

Among the state’s most crowded primary schools, Westmead Public School has grown more than 31 per cent since and has 1408 students, which already exceeds the government’s new standard enrolment capacity.

Similarly, Chatswood Public School has grown 41 per cent to 1246 students, with parents at the school reporting that there are 60 girls to a toilet and some classes have been moved to demountables across the road on high school land.

A spokesman for the Department of Education said changing school catchments is a common strategy used to respond to overcrowding.

“Enrolment boundaries are regularly revised at NSW public schools, particularly in response to changing patterns of enrolment,” the spokesman said.

However, Mr Stokes said: “As education minister, I have a clear responsibility to provide a place for every student in their local primary school, and that will continue to be the case.”

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