Sydney’s top private schools reveal extravagant new building plans
St Catherine’s School has submitted modifications to its previously approved $62.5 million redevelopment, which still includes an orchestra pit, a ballet studio, a playbox theatre and a new aquatic centre.
St Aloysius’ College is also planning a major redevelopment, including a new sports facility and extensions of its great hall, chapel and existing learning facilities. The plan does not provide an exact value but will cost over $30 million.
Loreto Normanhurst is planning to construct a number of new buildings and a “bush chapel” and increase its student cap from 1150 students to 2000, with costs expected to exceed $20 million.
The school’s principal Barbara Watkins said the projected student increase “is in line with the expected growth in demographics in schools over the next 30 years” and that the school funds its physical site through loans, fees and fundraising.
“Government funding goes directly to the educational needs of our students alone,” Ms Watkins said.
Associate professor in the school of education and social work at the University of Sydney, Helen Proctor, said the top private schools often become “caught in a bit of a cycle”.
“It becomes an arms race where those schools are charging very high fees and they feel like parents want something very visible for those fees, they want the state-of-the-art sports stadium, library and performance centre,” Dr Proctor said.
“It would be difficult to find a top school that doesn’t have a current building project.
“It’s hard to imagine what more they need. It does seem extraordinary that those very top schools would need government funding.”
Two of the schools with planned redevelopments were revealed as being among the most overfunded private schools in the country.
Loreto Kirribilli last year received federal government funding equivalent to 196 per cent of its appropriate level, as calculated under the Gonski Schooling Resource Standard (SRS), and St Aloysius’ was funded at 183 per cent of its SRS.
Sydney’s high-fee private schools raised fees by up to 5 per cent this year and SCEGGS and Cranbrook are currently two of the most expensive, with annual fees rising to more than $37,200 for year 12 students this year.
The combined price tag for the seven schools’ planned developments is close to the $390 million allocated by the NSW government last year to address an enormous maintenance backlog across the state’s 2100 public schools.
A number of the plans have been met with concerns from local residents and councils over ongoing traffic issues in areas surrounding the schools.
A spokeswoman for Woollahra Council said it has raised concerns about “ongoing parking problems and traffic congestion” with Scots College, and has refused a previous development application by the school due to traffic issues.
Similar traffic congestion issues have also been raised by local residents and local councils in relation to the submissions by SCEGGS, Loreto Kirribilli and Loreto Normanhurst.
Two letters of opposition from local residents to Loreto Kirribilli’s planned redevelopment said nearby streets are “gridlocked” in the mornings and afternoons, and residents and North Sydney Council told the Department of Planning that the school should be required to build dedicated pick-up and drop-off areas on its grounds.
Loreto Kirribilli, Scots College and SCEGGS did not respond to questions by deadline.
Education reporter at The Sydney Morning Herald
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