Victoria’s increasing population means the state will require dozens of new government schools over the next four years, an auditor-general report has found.
The report into managing school infrastructure found another 50 schools are needed by 2021, as the population of school-aged children is projected to increase by around 90,000.
The report noted that the Department of Education and Training (DET) had made “considerable progress” since audits in 2008 and 2013 to improve its long-term strategic planning, but further significant reforms was necessary.
It also illustrated that despite the fact 60 per cent of school buildings are less than 30 years old, their maintenance was sub-par.
“Weaknesses remain in how DET holds schools accountable for their role in managing school assets,” it said.
“As a result, schools will continue to postpone much-needed repairs and struggle to maintain their assets effectively.”
Victoria’s Education Minister, James Merlino, told Fairfax Media work was already underway and 56 new schools were in the pipeline.
“The auditor-general is right to point out this demand, it’s extraordinary growth,” he said.
“Enrolment pressure is very real, and that’s why we need to build new schools, upgrade existing schools and that’s what we’re doing.”
Mr Merlino said of those new schools, 10 were opened this year and another 11 would start operating next year.
“We’ll also be making additional announcements in next year’s budget and in the budget after that if we’re re-elected.
“Our capital program now is a massive $2.5 billion, and it needs to be. Right across Victoria, in the inner city, in our growth suburbs, in regional cities, we need to find that capacity.”
Mr Merlino said finding the space for new schools was a major challenge.
“Obviously in the growth suburbs you can find greenfield sites to build new schools, but it’s a real challenge in the inner-city, and that’s why Victoria’s first vertical school will open, so with smaller parcels of land you need to go up,” he said.
Among the recommendations, the report said the department needed to clarify the role of school councils and principals in terms of asset planning and management, and how they can be held accountable.
It also said an investment strategy for school assets needed to be developed to best maintain those assets.
The auditor-general said the department had accepted the recommendations and developed an action plan to tackle them.