Learning from the Past: it's about time

In 1872 the Victorian Government passed the Education Act, which introduced compulsory, free and secular education to the colony. But those enlightened lawmakers knew that more was required. Bricks and mortar… infrastructure… schools: lots of them, and in a hurry.

Enter Henry Bastow, appointed Chief Architect and Surveyor by the newly created Education Department. Suitably resourced for the task that lay ahead, Bastow’s team built about 600 schools in Victoria during the 1870s. Most of these neo-gothic structures are still with us: beacons of the importance of accessible education for a thriving community.

Now travel forward to the present day. No government schools were opened in 2016 despite a significant uptick in the number of school age children in recent years. There was something intrinsically wrong with the Education Department's planning methodology, as demonstrated by the emergence of the Our Children Our Schools alliance. Too many schools were sold off, and when the inevitable urban renewal followed, departmental projections were shown to be seriously flawed.

The Learning Begins

Thirty new schools were opened between 2017 and 2020, as reported by the Victorian School Building Authority. A good start, although the planning methodology still needs work.

This website looks at the issues from a number of angles. We explore several detailed Case Studies and honour the memory of the Lost Schools of the 1990s and the Lost Schools of the 21st Century. Urban Renewal, Population Projections and Open Space delve into the competing challenges facing new school planning. And lastly, Spotlight: Merri Creek Corridor calls for a new approach.

Lessons Learned

We need to learn from the past. There are many lessons throughout this website:

  • Selling former school sites (e.g. Moreland High School) should only be considered once all factors have been taken into account.
  • The Education Department should not wait for parent action groups to form to address school shortages in the inner suburbs. Coordinated, proactive planning is required.
  • The memory of former schools should be acknowledged through the use of plaques and online services.
  • The heritage status of older, red-brick schools to be reviewed for state-wide consistency and expanded accordingly.
  • The Education Department to use small area population projections when determining future school needs.
  • Public open space requirements to be established with the involvement of councils, State Government, developers and the community.