If you’ve just moved to NSW and you have school aged children, you’d be impressed with the 2018-2019 state budget. In brief, a thousand public schools across the state will get air conditioning, $160 million will go towards school maintenance over the next twelve months and $6 billion over four years to build and upgrade 20 schools. Very little talk though about how we improve learning and teaching but at least students/teachers will have great facilities.
We all know that Sydney’s population is expanding, which places greater demand on school infrastructure. The challenge is always how we invest wisely. Perhaps I’m the only one who looks at the budget and wonders why we are still investing billions in bricks and mortar!
Both the UK and US have experimented with the full-service community school. This is a collaborative approach between education, health and community services that becomes a one stop shop for families. The full-service community school model is an attempt at doing something differently – a response that aims to be effective and economical. At the moment we aren’t seeing either.
Look around and you’ll see that the most successful companies like Uber and Airbnb aren’t investing in the new, they are re-purposing the old. We need to be thinking differently about schooling before the educational funding well dries up for good. This may mean looking at commercial sites that could be re-purposed and rented to schools. It may also mean designing shopping centres to include space for schools. This would ensure that schools were at the heart of community and social life.
Today’s school infrastructure needs to be as agile and connected as today’s learners are.