How will Queensland schools cope with enrolment surges?

Claire Halliday
Claire Halliday

Enrolment surges in some Queensland (QLD) schools could see one of the state’s largest school top 4800 students within a few years.

By analysing official QLD Department of Education trends, it’s estimated that the number of students currently enrolled in Queensland state schools (574,000) will grow by an extra 12,000 by 2027.

But as a lack of available real estate limits opportunities for new schools to be built, expanding existing sites and going vertical may be the most sustainable ways to accommodate the rising student population.

Based on the trends, the numbers of students at three of Queensland’s largest schools (Mansfield State High School, Marsden State High School and Stretton State College) will likely swell by 500+ enrolments each. In 2027, it’s expected that Marsden may have more than 4800 students, while the issue of enrolment surges means both Mansfield and Stretton look set to have almost 4000 enrolled students each.

With some experts saying that larger student populations can lead to greater behavioural issues within school communities, a Department of Education spokesman said ongoing monitoring of individual school growth, as well as practical support, can help ensure the best educational outcomes for all students.

Despite the predicted boom that will see some high schools pushed beyond capacity, other big public schools are predicted to experience shrinking student populations.

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These include Chancellor State College, Helensvale State High School, and Meridan State College.

Ten years ago, a report in Brisbane’s The Courier Mail revealed that teachers warned “Queensland schools are becoming too big and risk becoming less effective under the weight of booming student populations”.

At that time, there were 12 schools in Queensland, including 11 in the state sector, with more than 2000 students enrolled.

Today, a search for schools in Queensland with more than 2000 enrolled students shows 24.

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Within the next decade, Greater Brisbane’s population is tipped to reach 3.1 million people.

Although catchment maps are clearly promoted and schools are supposed to have a strict School Enrolment Management Plan (School EMP) introduced in any state school which is nearing its student enrolment capacity, some education sector specialists question whether these enrolment management plans are as rigorously checked as they should be. And with some less populated schools nowhere near capacity, two new schools opening in 2024, and another six new schools opening in 2025, many will be watching with interest to see how the enrolment numbers spread themselves out.

Mansfield State High School
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Claire Halliday has an extensive career as a full-time writer - across book publishing, copywriting, podcasting and feature journalism - for more than 25 years. She lives in Melbourne with children, two border collies and a grumpy Burmese cat. Contact: claire.halliday[at]