Pressure on schools to rise ‘significantly’

State Education Minister James Merlino announced construction of the new Bendigo Tech School last month, but the new facility will not provide places for students not already enrolled at other schools. Picture: NONI HYETT
State Education Minister James Merlino announced construction of the new Bendigo Tech School last month, but the new facility will not provide places for students not already enrolled at other schools. Picture: NONI HYETT

The Victorian Auditor-General has identified Bendigo as one of three regional cities forecast to experience a “significant rise in pressure for school places over the next 10 years”.

Auditor-General Andrew Greaves noted Bendigo would be home to an extra 4500 school-aged children between the ages of five and 17 by 2026, with Geelong and Wodonga also singled out as growth areas.

But the state government would not be drawn on whether there were any new schools planned for the area, or any other measures in place to address the forecast growth, instead referencing $18 million in funding already earmarked for Bendigo schools in this month’s budget.

“We consistently monitor current enrolments and population projections and work with local authorities and other organisations to ensure there are enough school places for the future,” Education Department spokesman Steve Tolley said.

“This government has recognised the importance of meeting increased demand as a result of population growth and has invested more than $2.5 billion in school infrastructure over the past three years.”

The only new school already planned for Bendigo, the state-of-the-art Bendigo Tech School, is due to open next year and will accommodate students from across the region.

But Weeroona College Bendigo principal Leanne Preece said while the BTS was an exciting prospect for all schools in Bendigo, it would not address growth issues as it will not be a standalone school.

“It won’t ease any space issues if we have that, there’ll just be more demand for that as well,” she said.

Ms Preece said WCB would likely reach capacity within the next decade, but was comfortable the school would be able to accommodate the area’s growth rate, at least in the short term.

“We’re really comfortable with the number of young people we’ve got there now, bigger’s not necessarily better,” she said.

City of Greater Bendigo growth director Bernie O’Sullivan said the city was working with the department to identify future education needs, including the development of new schools and how current schools could be developed to house more students.

“The city’s Plan Greater Bendigo, which looks at how we can support a future population of 200,000 people, is also looking at how to accommodate more schooling options in our region as it continues to grow,” he said.

“In addition, a representative from the city is involved in the development of a new state government Bendigo Education Plan, which is another way we can provide input into the future education needs of Greater Bendigo.”