Procedures for the Establishment of New Schools

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


Catholic Education Melbourne, in partnership with Catholic parishes located in the growth corridors of Melbourne, identifies opportunities to open new schools to meet demand for Catholic education in growing parish communities. Provision for new schools in growth corridors is strategically identified and planned well in advance to provide sufficient lead time to acquire suitable sites in new estates. This initial stage of planning involves the development of the Melbourne Archdiocese Strategic Plan (ASP), which identifies existing and new schools within the Archdiocese of Melbourne. The ASP is updated every five years, after the Australian Bureau of Statistics makes new Census data available.

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 within the Archdiocese is based on a number of key indicators and procedures outlined below, in accordance with guidelines contained in Planning for Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of Melbourne.

Consultation and notification

Community engagement and consultation are an essential part of the process of planning a new school. A series of consultations take place with the local and broader community, and existing schools, at different points in the planning process.

Process for planning a new school

Strategic planning: This is the key level of consultation to establish when and where a new school should be located. With the ASP as the main reference document, Catholic Education Melbourne Planning staff implement an ongoing strategic planning process to monitor and assess the need and timing of future educational provision in parishes. This process includes a discussion of the timing of proposed new schools with parishes and schools in a specified location. The new schools timing process document forms the basis of these consultations.

Site purchase: Site purchase is undertaken by the Property Office of the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne on the advice of Catholic Education Melbourne and the local parishes, in accordance with the ASP. 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 is prepared by Catholic Education Melbourne and discussed with surrounding parishes and schools before planning for the school is initiated. This may cause some alteration to timing and the size of the school, but not to delivery of the school or where it is located. The approval of the Archbishop is required prior to any announcement to open a new school.

Establishment of a local steering committee: Once approval for a new school is obtained from the Archbishop, a local steering group is established which includes the parish priest, parents, Catholic Education Melbourne representatives, the principal-elect and the architect. This group meets on a regular basis to oversee planning for the school, survey parents and consult with the local community about curriculum, policies, operational issues and school design.

Notification: The Catholic Education Commission of Victorian Ltd (CECV) notifies the relevant Victorian and Australian government authorities about the planned new schools. Workforce projections are made available so that joint planning can occur with relevant institutions.

Compliance: Catholic schools must comply with all relevant state and Commonwealth legislation. This includes complying with the minimum standards that schools must satisfy in order to be registered under the Education and Training Reform Act 2006. In Victoria, schools are regulated by the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority (VRQA).

Indicators of viability for a new school

Catholic Education Melbourne adopts a set of indicators to assess the need for a new school in a parish. These indicators include:

  • long-term enrolment
  • site location
  • timing of school opening
  • ongoing financial viability.

These indicators include key benchmarks that form the criteria to be evaluated to determine whether or not a new school is viable in an emerging community. The criteria, indicators and benchmarks are summarised below.

Long-term enrolment and 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 from 400 to 500 students, and regional or rural areas are planned with a minimum of 200 students. Catholic secondary schools (Years 7–12) are planned to achieve an LTE of at least 700, with optimal growth from 1,200 to 1,500 students. In some locations, new Catholic secondary colleges may exceed the 1,500 LTE benchmark. 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 an appendix to the ASP. The ASP includes a detailed report for each region (Northern, Eastern, Southern and Western) that includes catchment boundaries for new and existing schools with an estimate of the LTE for each new school catchment.

Site: A site must be purchased or under negotiation to purchase before the decision to open a new school in the area is confirmed. The site must meet site selection guidelines, including the area, as set out in Catholic Education Melbourne’s School Site Selection Criteria. 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 standard benchmark that must be met to begin the process of planning for the opening of a new primary school is 1,500 occupied dwellings within a catchment. Planning a new secondary college is more complex and includes an assessment of the demand for Catholic secondary education at existing colleges, and analysis of projected population and dwelling growth in a broad location.

Enrolments: The enrolment benchmark for opening a new primary school is 120 students. Secondary schools require a Year 7 enrolment of three streams or 80 students. The financial model will ultimately determine the minimum number to ensure feasibility. The Year 7 enrolment ceiling for the school is directly related to the predicted enrolment yield of the defined school catchment.

Finance: Prior to the decision to open the school, a financial model is prepared that clearly demonstrates the projected enrolment of the new school will allow for ongoing viability. The financial model identifies the sources and quantum of funds required to achieve this outcome. Normal sources of capital funds include the Australian Government Capital Grants Program, the Supplementary Capital Fund (primary schools only) and school borrowings. The financial model cannot guarantee those funds which are applied for independently on the advice of Catholic Education Melbourne.

Any assessment of the ongoing viability of a school will be in accordance with the requirements of a not-for-profit school under the ETR Regulations. The criteria include, but are not limited to:

  • all money and property received by the school or the proprietor will be used solely for the purpose of the conduct of the school
  • any agreements/arrangements will be made in good faith at reasonable market value and not considered a prohibited agreement.
Refer to the VRQA Guidelines to the minimum standards for further information.
Catholic Education Melbourne 2019, School Site Selection Criteria, Catholic Education Melbourne, East Melbourne.
External References
VRQA Guidelines to the Minimum Standards and Requirements for School Registration – January 2019

Catholic Education Melbourne 28 January 2019 (Revised)