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Education | Infrastructure

Planning the delivery of schools in a changing world

10 Apr 2018, by Amy Sarcevic

The Greater Sydney Commission has forecast a 74% population growth in Sydney over the next forty years, driven by immigration policy and fertility rates. That equates to a population of 8 million Sydney-siders by 2056. Other states are also experiencing this phenomenom.

How will the city landscape change to absorb this staggering increase?

This is a question continuously asked by John Neish the Executive Director of Strategic Planning at School Infrastructure NSW (SINSW); the schools planning and delivery wing of the NSW Department of Education.

Neish directs Planning & Strategy within SINSW which currently plans and seeks funding for additional schools across NSW. As a result, the State Government has invested a record $4.3 billion budget over four years for developing school infrastructure across the state.

With such rapid growth predicted, the challenge for Neish lies in identifying the horizons of where, when and how cities will evolve; and where to effectively channel school investment.

“Growth causes cities to adapt and become both centralized and decentralized in often unforeseen ways”, he told Informa ahead of his presentation at the School Planning, Design & Construction Conference.

“Yet the schools we build today will need to serve the state for fifty years and more”, when both the workforce and the requirements of the educationalists and students will look very different to what we see today.

With an additional 300,000 students entering the public school system in the next fifteen years, Neish argues, “It is essential we try to accurately identify these changes in landscape and allocate investment accordingly”.

Given all of the moving parts involved, getting the right number of student places in the right locations at the right time provides lots of challenges. Collaboration and flexibility is the key.

The evolution of Sydney’s suburbs and urban centers is not the only concern for the Department.

Disruptive innovations in learning technology and subsequent changes in pedagogy will redefine current classroom models in ways which are difficult to predict.

“We need to continually ask questions regarding the nature of teaching in the future”, says Neish.

“Will students in senior years need to attend bricks and mortar schools, or will they require drop-in centers with access to tutors? What will be the role of artificial intelligence and virtual reality in the teaching methods of the future, for example?”

The task is far from easy for the Department, who are currently working closely with city planners and industry stakeholders, to more accurately predict the nature of infrastructure demand in the future.

Extending these efforts, Neish will address delegates at the School Planning Design and Construction Conference at the Rendezvous Hotel Melbourne on 22-23 May.

Delegates will include government departments and agencies, schools, contractors, analysts, academics and architects.

Learn more and book your place here.

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