Education & Skilling | Planning & Design

An Insight into School Planning with John Neish

5 Mar 2018, by Informa Insights

The fourth annual  School Planning, Design & Construction Conference will examine how to build adaptable learning environments that effectively serve the country, it’s growing population and the needs of students and teachers. Held in May at the Rendezvous Hotel, Melbourne, this event is fast approaching.  In the lead up to this unmissable conference, we spoke to John Neish, Group Director – Planning & Strategy, Department of Education NSW, to understand his perspective on school planning in Australia.


Could you please provide your insight into the changing needs and trends within school environments?

People are moving into global cities and living in much denser environments. This places more pressure on inner ring suburbs to accommodate schools in high priced land. New school models are required. This will be echoed in migration to rural centres.

To prepare students for the workplaces of the future, collaborative learning spaces are required, which are flexible and rich in technology. More flexible arrangements between learning places and future employers will emerge, where in the later years of schooling spaces will blur between school, learning experiences and future employment.

As AI, gaming technologies, and teaching techniques blend, new teaching environments will start to emerge. Given the higher densities and demand for social infrastructure schools will blend into specialist community hubs where social infrastructure is optimised.


How do you plan schools in a changing environment?

With great difficulty.  Factors that affect school planning include;

  • Growing migration and fertility rates
  • Changes in economic cycles
  • Displacement of low income families to outer areas of cities
  • Government policy


We must work collaboratively with other agencies and organisations like never before to integrate infrastructure planning.  Planning tools that provide value decision making, partnerships with the private, non-government and local government are essential elements for effective decision making.

Available and affordable land and the optimum use of shared facilities must also form part of the mix to ensure schools become part of broader social infrastructure. Communities expect more engagement as well and we need to take them on the change journey. All of this makes schools planning more complex.


You are speaking at the School Planning Design and Construction conference – What are you most looking forward to at the event?

For me the things to look forward to are networking and hearing about what others are up to. I rarely have an original idea in my life so being exposed to lots of inspiration from others helps. I’m looking forward to hearing about modular school construction, grappling population growth, new funding models, new teaching methods, innovation in design –  it’s all there!

Bringing people together to talk about the future of schools is another issue again. Talking with others who have been through it really helps to understand that we are not alone and collectively hold the answers.


The annual School Planning, Design & Construction Conference will be held on the 22nd – 23rd of May 2018 at the Rendezvous Hotel Melbourne. This Conference will discuss pressing issues in building and planning learning spaces for future generations. Register Now

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