Future of Brisbane inner-city schools in doubt as population pressure ramps up

Future of Brisbane inner-city schools in doubt as population pressure ramps up

Delays to two inner-Brisbane school campuses are frustrating communities as Queensland’s growing population puts pressure on school capacity.

Key points: The location and opening date for the new inner west primary school due to open next year is under review. The East Brisbane State School community has been waiting almost two years to find out what the future holds for the school. Politicians called for better community consultation and transparency

The opening date of the planned new inner west primary school will be delayed for the second time after the Queensland Education Department quietly updated its project website last year.

The school’s construction timeline on the Education Department’s website was last updated in October 2022, changing the scheduled opening date from “day one, term one in 2024” to “under review” and the project phase from “design” to “planning.” downgraded”.

Meanwhile, the East Brisbane State School community has relaunched calls for consultation with the Government to save the school from relocation due to plans to demolish and expand the nearby Gabba Stadium ahead of the 2032 Olympics.

It comes as the latest forecast from the Australian Government’s Center for Population suggests Brisbane will be home to almost 3.082 million people by 2032-33 – half the state’s projected population.

KPMG’s director of planning and infrastructure economics, Terry Rawnsley, said population growth could lead to 3,000 to 4,000 additional school-aged children in inner Brisbane over the next five years.

Unpopular locations

The Palaszczuk Government announced in July 2020 that it would build the first vertical state primary school in Brisbane’s inner western suburbs to open for the start of school in 2023 for $65 million.

The first preferred location was at Indooroopilly State High School, but after outcry over flooding, traffic and the government later announced the site of the former Toowong Bowls Club and delayed the opening until 2024.

That decision was made despite community concerns that the area had previously flooded significantly and environmental concerns about a flying fox colony in the park.

The department said the draft master plan takes flood levels into account and places all learning, administration and indoor areas at least 2 meters above the 2011 flood.

The area was flooded again in February last year, causing an outcry from residents about the unsuitability of the site.

Education Minister Grace Grace then suggested a new site could be required in August last year in light of community feedback and stabilization of enrollments in the area, with a departmental report on a subsequent round of consultation to be released.

An artist’s impression shows a proposed design for a school at the former Toowong Bowling Club site. (Provided: Department of Education)

Acting Education Minister Leanne Linard said the consultation report is currently being finalized for the government’s consideration.

Ask for transparency

LNP education spokesman Christian Rowan said the State Government’s consultation on the new inner west primary school was a complete failure.

Christian Rowan says the planning of schools must be an open and transparent process. (Provided: Twitter)

“The fact that the state government won’t even include Brisbane’s Inner West on its list of ongoing planning work for new Queensland schools tells residents everything they need to know about the lack of commitment this Labor government has to desperately needed school infrastructure deliver,” he said.

Ms Linard said she had been advised “that after the 2022 floods, the indication is that the inner west community does not support a new school on the Toowong Bowling Club site”.

“This is in contrast to feedback given in two rounds of extensive community consultation prior to the 2022 floods, where sentiment was in favor of this site over other options.”

Future years in doubt East Brisbane State School students rally against plans that threaten their campus.(Supplied: Dane Beesley)

Meanwhile, the future of East Brisbane State School remains in doubt almost two years after the State Government announced plans to redevelop the neighboring Gabba Stadium ahead of the 2032 Brisbane Olympics.

The school community strongly opposed any plans to redevelop the Gabba Stadium which would result in the school being relocated.

East Brisbane State School P&C chairperson Haline Ly said the government should consult the people it represents before making plans to demolish a much-loved community.

She said most students walked or rode their bikes to school, with 85 percent of parents agreeing there should be a school in the catchment area.

“Paws on busy roads. How far will they make us walk,” she said.

Amy MacMahon says the government has left East Brisbane families in the dark. (AAP: Regi Varghese)

Greens MP Amy MacMahon said the government had left East Brisbane State School and the community in the dark about how the Gabba redevelopment would affect the school.

Ms MacMahon said there were prep kids who enrolled last week who didn’t know if they would graduate from the school.

She said there was a huge need for a school in the area with a “huge amount of property development” and a “steep growth of school communities” in the South Brisbane electorate.

Ms Linard said options would be discussed with the school once a decision was made on the scope and timing of the stadium rebuild.

Growth increases the demand for schools

Queensland’s school-aged population will increase by 11.6 per cent, or 102,600 students, between 2021 and 2031, according to state government data.

Leanne Linard says some of the schools are below their student capacity. (ABC News: Stephen Cavenagh)

The state government opened four new state schools this year, with plans to open at least six more in 2024 and five more in 2025 and 2026.

Mr Rawnsley said the South East Queensland school-age population was around 470,000 and was expected to grow by up to 100,000 over the next decade.

“The main bottleneck for Brisbane is in Ipswich, Ripley Valley, City of Logan, where about half of all the growth in school-going people is going to be,” he said.

Mr Rawnsley said people would be more likely to move to outer suburbs if inner-city schools lacked capacity or were difficult to get into.

“When new capacity comes, new schools open, it actually attracts younger families to the area,” he said.

“So longer term it could become a bit of a chicken in the egg situation.”

However, Ms Linard said schools in Brisbane’s inner west were operating below their student capacity, as were East Brisbane State School and its neighboring schools.

Those schools are understood to include Ironside and Toowong State School and Dutton Park, Buranda, Coorparoo, West End and Norman Park State Schools.

“Since we came to government we have opened 25 schools,” Ms Linard said.

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