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Infrastructure growth spurt: planning for Queensland’s future education needs

Infrastructure growth spurt: planning for Queensland’s future education needs

As families across Queensland settle into the school year, few will contemplate that the infrastructure which makes their education possible was planned years in advance.

The State Infrastructure Strategy (SIS) outlines the approach for successful education and training infrastructure. This encompasses population growth, flexible design, integrated community hubs, fit-for-purpose facilities and sustainable buildings.

Schools accommodating growth and skills

Well-planned education and training infrastructure is essential as the state’s population continues to grow, to ensure all Queenslanders have access to education facilities regardless of where they live.

In Logan, Ivy was preparing for her first week of high school.

“I’m really nervous, but also excited for the big change,” Ivy said.

Ivy was one of a growing number of Queensland school aged children with the state’s school age population forecast to increase by 11.6% between 2021-2031. Planning infrastructure which reflects this growth and fosters an inclusive learning environment is necessary.

The Department of Education monitors enrolment growth to ensure access for all students, managing a portfolio of 1,262 state schools plus more than 35,000 learning spaces and support facilities.

There are four school expansion projects currently in progress within Queensland and plans underway for 12 new schools. This includes two new Prep to Year 6 state primary schools. Scenic Shores State School opened in January 2024 and continues to accept enrolments in Redland Bay. Bellbird Park State School is accepting enrolments while under construction and is expected to open in early 2024.

As the state’s population increases, smart design solutions are necessary for the success of these institutions.

Ivy’s mother, Lucie agreed that smart design and diverse infrastructure was a factor when selecting schools for her two daughters.

“In addition to providing the best educational experience and enhancing academic outcomes, it’s really important the school focuses on projects or facilities that will allow students of all calibres and all interests to excel,” Lucie said.

“All practical learning-based areas have specialist spaces that cater for each of those subject areas. There's a really good theatre space, a proper stage area as well as a dance floor with a bar and mirrors.

“The school has plans to invest significant funds improving a number of infrastructure projects across the college, enhancing the educational experience for our kids.”.

Ivy was enthusiastic about the subjects on offer in high school, having elected to study industrial design, food technology, art, drama and dance.

“Where we get to build things, there’s a cool laser you can use which I’m really excited for” Ivy said.

Vertical education infrastructure

Almost 73% of the state’s residents live in South East Queensland, with access to existing infrastructure such as public transport and hospitals. As this region continues to grow, it is critical that plans for additional education and training infrastructure incorporate non-traditional solutions and flexible designs to complement existing assets.

Fortitude Valley State Secondary College is a prime example of delivering functional infrastructure within an existing area. The site of the former Fortitude Valley State School was revitalised to implement one of Queensland’s first vertical state secondary schools; utilising multiple levels to retain a small footprint instead of a sprawling campus. This state-of-the-art approach enabled the school to open in 2020; the first to be opened within inner city Brisbane in over 50 years.

© Queensland Department of Education

The SIS promotes partnerships between secondary schools and universities to drive learning innovation. The partnership between Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and the vertical design of Fortitude Valley State Secondary College creates spaces which can be activated in flexible ways to foster engagement with the broader community.

Buzzing community hubs

The SIS highlights that education and training facilities will be better integrated over the next two decades, forming local hubs which empower the community to flourish.

Multi-purpose facilities generate opportunities for different services to be co-located on the same premises. For example, an early childhood service, healthcare provider, school and recreation activity offered in one central location can meet community members’ needs at all ages or support an entire family simultaneously. Shared infrastructure facilitates investment from multiple providers, increases demand, shortens delivery timeframes and promotes collaboration.

The Buzz at Yarrabilba is one such mixed-use precinct which opened on December 5, 2022 to meet the diverse needs and growing demand for services in the community. Located between two secondary schools, Yarrabilba State Secondary College and San Damiano College, the community hub features an inclusive, dedicated youth space.

The community centre offers a variety of support services, activities and career development pathways giving locals the opportunity to connect and learn, creating a thriving community.

The 6000m2 precinct is comprised of modular pods; two of which are being managed by the YMCA, where spaces are available for hire. TAFE Queensland has leased the third pod; the campus provides easy access to green spaces and hospitality options.

The Buzz at Yarrabilba is a community space delivered through an innovative partnership with the Queensland Government, Logan City Council, Brisbane Catholic Education and Lendlease.

By pooling resources, The Buzz has become a much larger facility than project partners could have delivered individually. This partnership also dramatically sped up the delivery timeline, as community centres are usually only constructed once the population of a catchment area reaches 50,000, compared to Yarrabilba’s population of 10,000. Evidently, collaboration streamlines the delivery of training infrastructure in Queensland.

Setting students up for success in the jobs of the future with dedicated infrastructure

With Queensland being a decentralised state, the SIS embodies a place-based approach to support the needs of our diverse economies.

As Queensland capitalises on the opportunities that renewable energy brings, fit-for-purpose training infrastructure is needed to prepare the next generation of workers with the skills needed to deliver renewable energy. Cue the release of the Hydrogen Industry Workforce Development Roadmap in July 2022, which encourages secondary students to enter hydrogen training pathways.

Gladstone State High School is one example for students are being primed for the jobs of the future. The school is set to take advantage of the emerging hydrogen sector, with the Queensland Government having committed $2 million for a facilities upgrade to arm students with skills specific to the industry.

Building a hydrogen talent pipeline will meet local community needs for job security, with roles ranging from engineers to logistics needed as the renewables industry supersedes traditional energy sources. Furthermore, these facilities will grow the productivity of Queensland’s workforce.

It’s not just schools looking at their future infrastructure needs. Tertiary education institutions are planning for state-of-the-art facilities to ensure students are primed for the jobs of the future. The SIS identifies industry-centric TAFE facilities are increasingly needed to support technology-driven employment pathways.

As a result, the state government has committed $10.6 million to build a hydrogen and renewable energy training facility at the Trade Training Centre, within the Bohle TAFE campus in Townsville.

Upgrades to the neighbouring Pimlico campus involved sustainability measures, both during construction for reduced power consumption and thereafter, with the introduction of solar power. This reflects the industry-relevant courses already available at TAFE Queensland including Certificate II in Sustainable Energy.

Reduced carbon impact a key for new or upgraded facilities

With Queensland accelerating towards the renewable energy target of 70% by 2032, there are significant opportunities to have a more sustainable approach to education and training infrastructure approaches.  

There are opportunities to decrease the carbon footprint of education and training infrastructure in Queensland, both during construction and operation thereafter. Engaging the community who utilise these facilities can help drive a more sustainable workforce.

For example, TAFE facilities will continue to apply sustainable building approaches like embracing natural light and water efficiencies.

There’s also ways to make existing infrastructure more sustainable. Through the Advancing Clean Energy Schools program and the Cooler Cleaner Schools Program solar panels have installed in Queensland schools to offset the schools’ air conditioning usage. These programs have already generated 61.4 megawatts of solar power.

The education and training infrastructure strategies currently implemented in Queensland will continue to deliver successful outcomes for students in 2024 and beyond. The exciting initiatives being implemented today are preparing students for roles beyond their formal education, including a prosperous renewables workforce.

Without a doubt, Queensland is planning for a green energy future. And now we're ensuring we can build a workforce ready for all the jobs that future will bring.

Last updated: 31 Jan 2024