Where Queensland needs 21 new schools now
MORE than 20 new independent schools are urgently needed in Queensland just to cope with rising demand, a new report has warned.
A report released by Independent Schools Queensland (ISQ) today found parents were at risk of missing out on school choice for their kids if the expected growth in demand wasn't radically addressed.
The infrastructure report found that by 2036 the state would need 21 new Prep-Year 12 independent schools at a cost of $935 million, to help cope with 41,000 extra students.
Six extra schools would be needed on the Gold Coast and Ipswich while Logan, the Sunshine Coast and Moreton Bay were also named as top growth areas.
More than 210 independent schools operate in Queensland with 123,000 enrolments - about 15 per cent of primary and 20 per cent of secondary students.
ISQ executive director David Robertson said Queensland parents valued school choice, which he said was evident by the sector's record-breaking growth of an extra 2800 kids in 2019 alone.
"However, parental choice could be curtailed if the sector cannot afford the high infrastructure price tag associated with future forecast growth in Queensland's school-age population," he said.
"Time is critical, with the report showing that the majority of new schooling provision will be required from 2021 onwards."
ISQ called on the State Government for an additional $20 million in annual infrastructure funding, with Mr Robertson saying a "small level of capital" was more cost effective than the cost of educating extra students who may otherwise turn to independent schools.
Independent schools spend more than $300 million on facilities each year, with about 80 per cent funded by parents and borrowings.
ISQ is also pushing for land planning changes to allow better access to suitable school sites that were "well-located and affordable".
King's Christian College's Stephen Wruck said the school had identified high-growth areas and consequently opened a new campus in Pimpama in 2015, with another new site at Logan set to welcome its first school students next year.
"One of the great benefits of our education system is that choice is available, and parents are able to make a decision which suits their family best," he said.
But Mr Wruck said securing the land was the most difficult part of the process, with the school either buying land early at a lower price with no guarantee of zoning permits being approved, or being slugged very high prices.
"The land aspect is really the biggest stumbling blocks for schools," he said.
"It's a difficult choice schools have to make, whether or not to take a financial risk which may not eventuate into anything."
Education Minister Grace Grace said all school sectors, including the independent sector, were facing growth challenges with the rapid expansion of school communities.
She said the Federal Government was responsible for the bulk of non-state school government finding.
"Notwithstanding, the Palaszczuk Government invests significantly in non-state schools," she said.
"In the 2019-20 state budget, $705.3 million was allocated for recurrent funding grants and $100 million was allocated for capital assistance grants for non-state schools.
"Since 2015, we've provided the non-state school sector with around half a billion dollars for capital assistance grants."