Design fast-tracks new northwest Sydney primary school

Words by Rajat Khanna

GroupGSA has delivered stage two of the fast-tracked $54 million Galungara Public School upgrade three years ahead of schedule to meet rapid population growth in Sydney’s northwest.

The new primary school, located at Schofields, is designed to support a 1012-student capacity in the burgeoning community of Schofields, which is earmarked as Priority Growth Area for up to 6,300 new homes in the Blacktown City Council LGA.

Stage two of the project was completed in January (2023), accelerated from its original 2026 open date to accommodate a population surge associated with the Schofields land release. Council forecasts the local population to double to 19,174 people by 2036.

GroupGSA led the architecture and landscape architecture for Galungara Public School, which was built as part of a design and construct contract by Richard Crookes Constructions with SINSW (School Infrastructure NSW) as the client.

The new school features 39 flexible learning spaces, including a library, a multipurpose hall with shared community use, homebases, withdrawal rooms, learning commons rooms, Covered Outdoor Learning Areas (COLAs), sports facilities, vegetable gardens and outdoor reflective spaces.

A new era of construction for NSW school infrastructure

Stage one of Galungara Public School was designed and built in 2020 using the volumetric Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DfMA) approach – making it one of the first public schools in New South Wales to be completed via this method.

GroupGSA Associate Director Rajat Khanna said fully finished building modules were manufactured in a workshop in Victoria by Modscape and transported to the site in New South Wales. Once on-site, they were assembled into fully functioning buildings.

“This increased the speed of project delivery, shortened the onsite construction time, reduced site waste and enabled greater built quality control,” he said.

Meanwhile, the revised project brief saw stage two designed and delivered under a rapid nine-month program for a day one, term one, 2023 opening. Pertinent to this was enabling the existing school to function without hindrance or impact to the cohort learning experience.

The second stage was devised using a ‘kit of parts’ strategy by GroupGSA to deliver on time and in-budget during the midst of the pandemic.

Khanna said the design was rapidly developed to enable earlier start times on site and progressed through fast paced delivery of the main works.

“This resulted in stage two tying in seamlessly with stage one to deliver future focused learning spaces for the benefit of the growing student population in the community,” he said.

Contemporary learning with strong outdoor emphasis

Learning spaces are designed to support contemporary pedagogy, teacher and student collaboration, self-direction, and team teaching with a range of sizes, furniture settings, and functions to enhance the educational experience and improve engagement.

Classroom furniture is adaptable, flexible, and considers the needs of students of different abilities and age groups.

Operable walls and large sliding doors promote connection between indoor and outdoor spaces, while covered open spaces provide opportunities for student interaction.

Outdoor zones range from quiet play spaces to large, active kick-around areas. Opportunities also exist for creative play, focusing on children’s ability to interpret and imagine.

“The outdoor environment plays a significant role in the life of the school,” said Felicity Ratcliffe, lead Landscape Architect on the project.  “It provides the organisational framework for wayfinding and circulation, highlighting entries, connections and making distinguishable use zones.

“Most importantly, good connections to the outdoors allow students to develop a positive relationship with nature and begin to understand their role as environmental stewards, reinforcing a sense of responsibility towards the local, natural environment. It also plays an important part as an educational tool” she said.

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Rajat Khanna Author

As an Associate Director and architect, Rajat has led the successful delivery of numerous complex projects, focusing on education and social infrastructure for public clients. Rajat has extensive experience on small to large projects in Australia and overseas, including the USA and India.

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