The 17-floor Arthur Phillip High School, which opened last year, staggers start and finish times to manage the movements of up to 2000 students throughout its tower. The 14-storey Inner Sydney High, on the site of the former Cleveland Street High in Surry Hills, also opened last year.
In Melbourne, several vertical schools have recently opened or are planned on small sites, and Brisbane’s first vertical high school opened in Fortitude Valley last year.
NSW Teachers Federation deputy president Henry Rajendra said he had concerns about a lack of playground space and the logistics involved in students traversing vertical schools by lifts.
“There are real concerns about space, which is so critical to the development of students,” he said. “And moving kids around schools from lesson to lesson is a significant logistical matter that cannot be treated lightly. Vertical schools would make that more difficult.”
Mr Rajendra said the prospect of more vertical schools highlighted inadequate government planning for land for new schools in areas where high-density residential development had been allowed. “They should have been factored in many, many years ago,” he said.
NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said individual circumstances would guide any decision to construct a vertical school. “In some circumstances it is the right design for that school community – in others it won’t be,” she said.
Ms Mitchell said the new Arthur Phillip and Inner Sydney high schools were examples of vertical schools that were built in high-density areas and had been well received.
“All NSW public schools are designed and built to accommodate a full curriculum including appropriate teaching spaces, administration areas and access recreational spaces,” she said.
Sydney University urban planning professor Nicole Gurran said vertical schools were common in cities such as Hong Kong, and more were likely to be built in inner parts of Sydney because of a lack of land reserved for education. “In the inner city, we would expect school expansion to be up and not out,” she said.
The Education Department’s infrastructure arm also sees opportunities for schools to be integrated into mixed-use developments. Mr Manning said it would be a way to “get schools exactly where the communities need them rather than necessarily out on the fringes”.
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