23 June 2023

ACT Budget: Second college for Gungahlin, 500 more students for Telopea Park High

| Ian Bushnell
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Yvette Berry MLA.

Education Minister Yvette Berry: “The new college in Gungahlin is being eagerly awaited by people in our city’s north.” Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

Gungahlin will get a second public college in Nicholls, the ACT’s 10th, and Telopea Park High School will be expanded to take a further 500 students as part of the ACT Government’s education package in next week’s 2023-24 Budget.

The record $800 million spend over four years aims to meet increasing demand in growth areas and to upgrade school infrastructure across the ACT.

Also included is funding for feasibility, planning and design work for a new college in the Molonglo Valley.

However, the government has not announced any plans for new schools in the Inner North where enrolments are booming and public schools are struggling to accommodate them, although it said North Ainslie Primary would be “modernised”.

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A site next to Gold Creek High School was identified last year for the second college, and $1 million was set aside in the 2022-23 Budget for planning after calls for many years for action on population pressures.

Parents at Gungahlin College went public in April complaining that the campus was bursting at the seams. The February census put enrolments at 1161 students.

The second college, which will feature state-of-the-art learning environments and have facilities for community use, will ease pressures in the north, but it is not planned to open before the end of the decade.

The government says it will have an initial capacity of 800 students, with room to expand to 1100 students if required.

Instead of building a new high school in the Inner South to cater for population growth, the government will spend $45.2 million over four years to expand the Telopea Park High campus so it can take an enrolment of more than 1500 students, making it the biggest public high school in the ACT.

In February, 1038 students were enrolled in the Barton school, which runs Australian and French streams side by side, and the International Baccalaureate.

Modernisation projects are also planned for Fraser Primary School, North Ainslie Primary School and Forrest Primary School.

Telopea Park School in Barton. Its high school will be expanded to cater for more than 1500 students. Photo: Facebook.

Latham Primary, Gowrie Primary, Red Hill Primary and Telopea Park School will get roofing upgrades, while Cranleigh School and Black Mountain School will be upgraded to ensure the continued delivery of high-quality specialist education services across the north of Canberra.

The government says the projects are in addition to the funding for infrastructure works already underway across ACT public schools, including the annual Public School Infrastructure Renewal Program projects announced last week.

New schools are already being built, including the new high school in East Gungahlin, which will open next year after wet weather delayed construction, and the new high school in North Gungahlin, to open in 2025.

Like many building projects in the ACT, some school projects are experiencing higher construction costs.

This budget provides additional funding to cover these extra costs – at Garran Primary School, the new primary school in Strathnairn and the new high school in North Gungahlin, which had been expected to open last year.

In its budget submission, the ACT Council of Parents and Citizens Associations said it had been warning the government for years about the Inner North and reiterated calls for the government to purchase land close to the light rail corridor and consider innovative solutions such as a vertical, multi-storey school close to and linked with existing open spaces.

Movement on the Molonglo College will be welcome after the council said older students had to commute to Canberra College, which was also reaching capacity.

The council had also called for the government to fast-track measures to provide more demountable classrooms at Gungahlin College, relocate Gungahlin CIT so it can be refurbished for college use and complete refurbishments within the cafe area of Gungahlin Library to create additional classrooms and dedicated library space for the college.

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Minister for Education and Youth Affairs Yvette Berry said significant and sustained investment in new and upgraded education infrastructure was a priority for the government as the city grew.

“Our youngest Canberrans deserve the very best education facilities. This budget delivers that,” she said.

“I know the new college in Gungahlin is being eagerly awaited by people in our city’s north.

“School communities all across Canberra will benefit from these announcements.”

Original Article published by Ian Bushnell on Riotact.

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