Procedures for the Establishment of New Schools in the Archdiocese of Melbourne

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Procedures for the Establishment of New Schools in the Archdiocese of Melbourne


Catholic parishes in growth regions will as a matter of course want to open new schools to serve their growing communities. As they are located in outer growth corridors, new schools will need to be identified and planned well in advance in order that sufficient lead time is available to acquire sites in new estates. This initial stage of planning involves the development of a Strategic Plan for Future Educational Provision, which normally covers an entire growth area.

Strategic planning for schools would ordinarily take place at least five years in advance of opening to ensure that future school sites can be included in the appropriate level of regional and municipal planning documentation, and allow time to negotiate with individual landowners and developers.

The planning of new schools around the Archdiocese will be based on a number of key indicators outlined below, and will follow the procedures set out below, in accordance with guidelines contained in Planning for Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of Melbourne (CEOM 2004).1 

Consultation and notification

Community engagement and consultation are an essential part of the process of planning a new school. A series of consultations will take place with the local community and surrounding communities and schools at varying points in the planning process.

Process for planning a new school

Strategic Planning. This is the key level of consultation about whether and where a new school should be located. Planning staff of the Catholic Education Office Melbourne (CEOM) will develop a strategic plan for future educational provision in new areas, which will include discussion of proposed new schools. This document will form the basis of consultations with parishes and schools in a specified region.

Site Purchase. Site purchase will be undertaken by the Property Office of the Archdiocese on the advice of the CEOM and the local parish(es), in accordance with the strategic plan. Site purchase will not normally involve consultation with surrounding parishes or schools beyond the strategic planning phase.

Evaluation of Impact on Other Schools. An impact statement will be prepared by the CEOM and discussed with surrounding parishes and schools once planning for the school is initiated. This may cause some alteration to timing and the size of the school, but not to whether it proceeds or where. The approval of the Archbishop is required prior to any announcement to open a new school.

Establishment of a Steering Group. Once a school has the Archbishop’s approval to open, a steering group comprising the parish priest, parents, CEOM representatives, the principal-elect and the architect meets to oversee planning for the school. This group would normally survey parents and consult with the local community about curriculum, policies, operational issues and school design.

Notification. Notifications to the relevant Victorian and Australian Government authorities will be made by the Catholic Education Commission of Victoria Ltd (CECV). Workforce projections will be made available so that planning with the relevant institutions can occur.

Compliance. Catholic schools must comply with relevant State and Commonwealth legislation, in particular, those relevant regulations associated with the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority under the Education and Training Reform Act, 2006.

Indicators of viability for a new school

The following criteria operate as indicators of the need for a new school: its size, location and timing and its ongoing viability. Several criteria have key benchmarks that will assist in evaluating whether they have been adequately met.

School Catchment. A new school catchment requires sufficient Catholic households to support a primary school with a Long Term Enrolment (LTE) of between 200 and 500 students. New schools in metropolitan areas are planned for an LTE as close to 400 as possible, and regional or rural areas are planned with a minimum of 200 students. Catholic secondary schools (Years 7–12) normally have an LTE of at least 700, and not larger than 1250. New secondary schools in metropolitan areas are planned for an LTE as close to 900 as possible. The number of households in a school catchment sufficient to maintain these enrolments is directly related to the proportion of the community that is Catholic. These are listed in Planning for Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of Melbourne1, section 2.3.1. The relevant Strategic Plan would usually identify the catchment boundaries and estimate the LTE for each new catchment.

Site. A site must be purchased or being purchased when the decision to open is taken. The site must meet site selection guidelines, including the area, as set out in Planning for Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of Melbourne, section 2.3.2. A site is usually given a notional location in the relevant Strategic Plan of the area, which is completed prior to the site purchase.

Initiation of Planning. The usual benchmark for the start of planning for the opening of a primary school is 1500 households within the catchment. To begin planning a secondary school, the catchment must contain three feeder primary schools.

Enrolments. The enrolment benchmark for opening a new primary school is usually around 100 students. Secondary schools normally require a Year 7 enrolment of three streams or 80 students to open. The financial model will determine ultimately what the minimum number is that ensures feasibility. The Year 7 enrolment ceiling of the school will be related to the predicted enrolment yield of the defined catchment of the school.

Finance. A financial model that demonstrates that the new school with its projected enrolment is feasible must be prepared prior to the decision to open. The financial model will identify what sources of funds must be included to achieve this outcome. Normal sources of capital funds include the Australian Government Capital Grants Programme, the Supplementary Capital Fund (primary schools only), and school borrowings. The financial model cannot guarantee those funds, which must be applied for independently on the advice of the CEOM.

1 Planning for Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of Melbourne (2004) contains guidelines and benchmarks for the various planning processes, including opening and closing schools, amalgamations and changes in school operations. It is available in a print version from the CEOM.

CEOM May 2008