Greater Shepparton Secondary College is one of the largest new public school infrastructure projects undertaken by the Victorian School Building Authority, providing a unique prototype in campus design at a scale rarely seen in a regional Australian setting. Arising from the consolidation of four existing secondary schools within the Victorian agricultural region of Shepparton, the new college was master planned, designed and delivered over three years at a cost of AU$119m. The four existing secondary schools varied in size and condition, and were limited in their ability to individually offer the full breadth of study options aligned to community and industry expectations. There were diverse programmes operating within each school, complemented with limited cross-school curriculum and relationships with nearby vocational colleges. The schools also exhibited a wide range of cultural and social attributes, academic achievements and in some cases, attendance and challenging behavioral issues.
Gray Puksand architects worked collaboratively with a wide range of project participants and stakeholders drawn from the Department of Education, staff and students from each of the colleges, along with participants from the regional community. As such, the process to develop the brief, the campus masterplan and the new learning environments was of a calibre and complexity rarely undertaken in the process to plan and deliver a new school. This was a challenging and complex project, requiring an astute and considered framework for planning and delivery. From the outset, a comprehensive engagement strategy was deployed, acknowledging the breadth of inputs and expertise required through the process. The strategy was undertaken on multiple levels to efficiently respond to the project programme, to optimise stakeholder inputs, manage community expectations, and streamline information flow to and from the brief development team, onto the master planning and design team. This process included a range of forums and interactive workshops across principals and cohort leaders from each school, curriculum domain leaders, educators and students. These sessions aimed to initially understand and capture the spirit of each existing school, their programs, culture and characteristics, identifying synergies and opportunities that could inform the DNA of the new campus. Large numbers of educators drawn from all schools were brought together frequently to participate in large format workshops, exploring benchmark learning environments, optimal learning settings and spaces, in addition to understanding the unique operational aspects the scale of the college may give rise to. Visits to existing schools and facilities were embedded in the briefing and planning process, with educators attending facilities across Victoria and critically evaluating spaces utilising feedback from each location.
For the design team, the structure of the process was critical, with multiple teams assembled to focus on specific areas of project planning, design and development, optimising the limited time available to balance production of deliverables with ongoing stakeholder engagement and collaboration. Inherent to the process was the integration of educational research expertise embedded in the design team, with Dr Ben Cleveland from the University of Melbourne providing valuable knowledge and insights. Educational research was therefore embedded in the process, with multiple themes explored in the workshops, focusing on understanding the breadth of learning opportunities and programmes the new campus could provide. This was balanced with review of options for the college structure and various operational scenarios arising from a campus of this size. All the while the team was focused on ensuring the design response to the scale of the college enhanced student engagement and promoted a sense of wellbeing, community and belonging.
At an educational level, the campus planning process analysed the likely range of student pathways across secondary education, related to curriculum breadth and choice, academic progression and mapped this against physical movement and student agency. This was synthesised with exploration of the student’s home and place in a campus of this scale. Through exploring a range of horizontal and vertical school models, the school’s collective educational leadership derived a vertical model across Years 7 – 12 that would form a basic framework to establish learning communities accommodating 2,700 students. Analysis was undertaken of optimal cohort populations, to establish communities of an appropriate scale that fostered a sense of belonging and place. As such, a House structure was established, comprising 300 students, with three houses assembled and co-located to create a shared campus Neighbourhood, supporting 900 students. These concepts were explored across school leadership, domain leaders and educators to ensure alignment with the characteristics of the Victorian curriculum and the unique attributes of each subject domain across the spectrum of secondary education. Student wellbeing and pastoral care models were also at the forefront of these discussions, ensuring the campus planning and calibre of learning environments were agile and responsive to a range of pedagogical and operational scenarios. Three formal Neighborhood’s of 900 students were then assembled on site to accommodate a range of generalist and selected specialist learning environments. These Neighbourhoods provide an engaging activated community for students across all year levels, with specialist areas across arts, science, food and drama and an integrated learning resources centre. Complementing the suite of Houses and Neighbourhoods, a separate shared specialist Enterprise and Innovation Hub was developed to provide an integrated multidisciplinary centre for excellence across Sciences, Arts, Music, Drama, Technologies and Food. Across three levels, this centre is a destination academy designed to complement the three Neighbourhoods, providing high quality specialist activity spaces and access to technologies and resources for focused specialised studies.
Our presentation will take delegates through the process to develop the engagement framework, the brief development and master planning process. It will highlight the challenges and complexities arising through the amalgamation of four unique school communities in terms of program and operational structure, cultural and social characteristics. It will also highlight unique design responses arising from accommodating and managing large numbers of students and staff on a single site. As the masterplan developed, the presentation will explore establishment of the House and Neighborhood concept as organizational models and how these concepts support the broader educational approach. The presentation will outline the challenges of equitable access to specialist domain areas, and integration of spaces for student wellbeing and staff workspace. It will also highlight spatial and operational innovations unique to the campus arising from its scale and organizational structure. Since opening in early 2022, the project has been successful in receiving several awards and commendations including the Best School Design over $10m in the 2022 Victorian School Design Awards and a commendation at the 2022 Learning Environments Australasia (Victorian Chapter) Awards.
Gray Puksand is a national Australian Architecture practice, specialising in the planning and design of modern learning environments. Mark is a Partner of the design practice and sector leader of their national education team, across four east coast design studios. Mark has nearly 25 years’ experience in the planning and design of innovative learning settings, spaces and campuses – establishing the practice at the forefront of creating agile, responsive and enduring learning communities. With numerous projects widely acknowledged through architecture and educational planning awards, Mark collaborates with school leaders, educators, students and diverse project participants to co-design unique learning spaces, informed through a passion for continuing the evolution of contemporary learning environment design.
This track focuses on Resiliency and addresses how learning environments support the development of students and communities that have the strength and flexibility to withstand adversity and adapt to change. The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the essential role that schools have in stabilizing communities during a time of crisis. How do schools support the development of strong community culture among teachers and students? How do schools foster physical and mental health and wellness to ensure all are ready and supported to learn? How do we create learning environments that are strong in intent yet adaptable to change? How do we learn from what does not work and further, learn to take risks daily to expand our comfort zone? What can we learn from research and our responses to past events to inform how to build toward a resilient future where we can withstand what crises and challenges the future brings? Topic areas, seen through the lenses of both Art and Science, include sustainability, physical and mental health, community, school climate and culture, safety, and security.
Primary Core Competency
Educational Facility Pre-Design Planning: Manages a master planning process that combines educational planning, facilities assessment and utilization, demographic research, capital planning and educational specifications with a community-based vision to establish a plan for learning environments. This includes the ability to translate existing or aspirational instructional models to specific programming and spatial relationships.