Ballarat’s secondary colleges are preparing for a crunch next year with large intakes of year seven students starting high school – far more than the numbers of year 12 students about to sit their final exams.
At Mount Clear College and Phoenix P-12 Community College the number of year sevens starting in 2019 is more than double the number of year 12s who finished this year, and at Ballarat Secondary College’s Mount Rowan and Woodmans Hill campuses the numbers will almost triple.
Ballarat High School, which is already near capacity, also has a larger year seven intake than normal with principal Gary Palmer saying the school had been forced to refuse enrolments from students living outside the school zone.
And for the first time some schools, who have not experienced such strong demand previously, have faced appeals from parents unhappy that their child has missed out on a spot at their preferred school.
Year sevens starting high school in 2018, 2019 and 2020 were born at the peak of the baby bonus years when then Federal Treasurer Peter Costello urged couples to “"have one for mum, one for dad and one for the country".
Across Ballarat government schools, about 800 students started year seven this year but the 2019 intake will be more than 900.
The huge demand for secondary places means Ballarat’s secondary colleges have maintained tighter zoning requirements than ever before.
At Mount Clear College, 240 students will step up to high school – more than double the 110 year 12s who have just finished. Phoenix P-12 College farewelled about 80 year 12s and will welcome more than 200 year seven students. Ballarat High saw 210 students graduate with about 260 to take their place.
Ballarat Secondary College’s Mount Rowan and Woodmans Hill campuses both had about 30 year 12 students, with Woodmans Hill expecting just over 100 new starters next year and Mount Rowan just under 100.
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Ballarat High School principal Gary Palmer said unlike other schools in the city, his enrolments were fairly stable because the school was almost at capacity.
“We have got about 260 year sevens for next year but what we have done is contract a lot in to our neighbourhood because of the growth of Lucas and Alfredton,” he said.
“We are at 1500 (students) all up and we haven’t got any more room to fit them in.”
Ballarat Secondary College acting principal Simon Haber said growth was across the board in Ballarat but the college’s two campuses were able to cater for the increase in student numbers, particularly with the rebuilding taking place at both sites.
At Mount Clear College boom means 80 new lockers had to be ordered for next year.
Mr Palmer said the education department faced challenges particularly in Ballarat’s western and south western growth zones.
“There’s a new primary school going in to Lucas for 2020 which will become part of our cluster of schools, and that probably won’t be the last new primary school,” he said.
“I suspect at some stage Ballarat would get another secondary school, where exactly I’m not sure but the reality is it would probably be somewhere between Phoenix and Ballarat High School,” he said.
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A Department of Education spokesperson said they were aware of the impact of population growth in areas around Ballarat.
“We consistently monitor current enrolments and population projections and work with local authorities and other organisations to ensure there are enough school places for the future. There is currently capacity for increased enrolments at secondary schools in Ballarat,” the spokesperson said.
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