Deputy Premier James Merlino, Federal Education Minister Stuart Robert, experts outline visions for future of schooling

Victoria’s school building program is the biggest construction boom since the Education Act was passed 150 years ago and the state is on track to change schooling in the state, says Education Department secretary Jenny Atta.

“It’s not just about bricks and mortar, it literally is the changing face of schools,” she told The Age Education Summit.

“Since 2015 there’s been more than 1700 school upgrades and expansions across Victoria. And since 2017 I think 69 new schools, 13 will open next year, another 38 to open by 2026.”

The state had the fastest-growing schools in the country before the pandemic, prompting the Andrews government to promise 100 new schools by 2026, focussed in growth outer suburbs.

But recent official figures showed the number of Victorians aged five to 19 fell by 0.1 per cent last year, while student numbers grew by just 0.47 per cent. This was the state’s lowest student growth rate since 2007 and below the national rise of 0.6 per cent.

Ms Atta said Victorian schools had experienced a “quiet revolution in some ways”, and no system had done more to improve evidenced-based teaching, student wellbeing and ensure modern facilities.

“Looking ahead one thing is clear to me: what we do in education is going to matter more than ever before. Education is critical, for instance, to our recovery as a state from the pandemic.”

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