Shortage of high schools for a growing student population

Melbourne’s outer suburbs are facing an alarming high school shortage according to new research from Good Education Group. 

In the suburbs north of Thornbury – including the towns of Whittlesea and Kinglake — 194 schools are currently serving over 73,000 primary school students. Taken at face value those figures suggest 376 primary school students per school and 53 students at each year level. In the same area, 61 schools are serving 45,000 secondary students and if we apply the same logic those figures would suggest 738 secondary students per school and 123 students at each year level.

Naturally, such a simplistic approach to complex data doesn’t account for the effect of very large schools skewing the numbers, amongst other factors, but here’s the rub: 73,000 primary school students attending 194 schools are currently on a path to become 73,000 secondary students attending 61 schools. Using the same simple logic these figures would suggest 1,196 secondary students per school, (up from 738) with 199 students at each year level (up from 123). Put simply, Good Education Group’s simple analysis suggests that in the coming years those 61 schools in Melbourne’s north will experience a whopping 60% increase in the number of students they’re serving.

The situation in Melbourne’s south-east is just as worrying. Stretching from St Kilda all the way to Western Port Bay, via Cranbourne, Narre Warren and the Mornington Peninsula, this corridor has already grown to the point where it has 95,000 secondary school students enrolled across 109 schools. With 127,000 primary students currently enrolled, Good Education Group estimates that the burden on secondary education in the south-east is set to swell by more 35%.

Melbourne’s west is more alarming and 60,000 secondary school students attend just 66 schools from Moonee Ponds to Bacchus Marsh, with a further 85,000 primary students waiting in the wings. Based on these figures, schools in Melbourne’s west can expect to serve an extra 25,000 secondary students or roughly 40% more than present day.

More schools and bigger schools are certainly high on the agenda for governments and families. The Andrews’ government has promised to build 41 new public schools but our analysis also indicates that around 25% of students who begin their school life at a government school will complete their schooling at a non-government school. Demand for Catholic and independent schooling is set to increase along with government schools.

One thing is certain, the landscape of primary and secondary education in Victoria is primed to undergo radical transformation in the coming years and the job of finding the school that’s best is only going to become more complex for parents.

Ross White is Head of Data and Analytics for Good Education Group. Ross specialises in market insight within the education sector and has been involved in the evolution of Good Education Group’s publications and insights for over 10 years. Learn more about Ross.

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