Phillips Smith Conwell



Case Study // Securing the funding – Southern Cross Catholic College

For Catholic and Independent schools, an effective master planning document is the key when accessing and securing annual government funding allocations for capital works projects.

This case study speaks with Phillips Smith Conwell architect, Renae Paulsen, who discusses how we worked with Southern Cross Catholic College (SCCC) to provide a school master plan that identifies the college’s forward planning needs in support of the school’s vision and strategic purpose. She also describes how the master planning process contributes to the successful delivery of funding needed to improve the schools technical learning facilities.

Why was a master plan important for SCCC?

Renae: One of the critical prerequisites for any school applying for building funding grants is for them to be able to show the grant application bodies that there is a clear and long term vision. This vision should encompass their philosophy, pedagogies, an understanding of their unique place in the education market, projected enrolments, as well as how the existing facilities support, or fall short of assisting that school in delivering its vision.

In the case of SCCC, the new leadership team initially focused on consolidating their vision, pedagogy and sense of community, but soon realised that the state of the existing facilities was impeding the full delivery of their plans. Our master planning process involved collaborating with the school leadership team to understand their vision and to assess the existing campus facilities.

Can you give an example of that process?

Renae: Essentially a SWOT analysis was undertaken, identifying the strengths and weaknesses of the existing facilities as well as the threats, the constraints and the opportunities present on the site. We then developed a staged approach to deliver the upgrades and improvements based on both this analysis and the prioritised needs as identified by the College. Undertaking a master planning process has also helped the school plan for service infrastructure upgrades in a more coordinated and cost-effective manner.

What was a specific aspect of the master plan that succeeded in providing funding for works Renae?

Renae: As an example, in the SCCC master plan, we allowed for reconfigured science and prep facilities that would be more flexible, allow for an array of teaching techniques and bring in first class technology. The College already has strong academic achievement in science and a passionate teaching team. The school chose to upgrade the science facilities as the first stage in the master plan delivery, in order to maintain and build on enrolment demand. We prepared a successful funding application to completely reconfigure the science facilities. The application involved listing every room in the campus, preparing existing and proposed plans for every storey in every building on the campus, as well as preparing schematic drawings for the science component. The funding was critical to enable the school to carry out the first step in the master plan.

Do the school grant authorities make any site visits to the school through the funding application process?

Renae: Yes, there is a process involved for the funding body to review and prioritise every application received across the State. One of the steps in the process is to visit the school campus and receive a presentation from the School’s Principal, leadership team and architect. In the case of Southern Cross, there are a series of level changes and building issues which were made clearer to the funding committee representatives at the school visit. As the architects representing the school, we were able to present the master plan ideas and drawings to the committee representatives directly. This gave us the opportunity to engage with the committee on a number of ideas expressed in the master plan and to highlight to them why and how the application was an important part in delivering positive outcomes for the students and teaching staff and the whole school community.

Have SCCC’s funding applications been successful to date?

Renae: Yes. Funding for several projects has been granted over the years, including for their Primary campus. The block grant for the science facility upgrade on the senior campus was also successful. As is laid out in the master plan, we will be assisting the school in seeking funding assistance for another stage of the master plan this year. We will continue to develop and refine the master plan in consultation with SCCC as the projects progress.

Can you describe some factors in terms of the services PSC provides which lead to successful grant application outcomes?

Renae: We have a strong understanding of the school facility requirements and Block Grant Authority (BGA) processes for independent, State and Catholic schools. It’s about listening to the school to understand its values and what makes it unique. We partner with our schools to be strategic, visionary and realistic about what they are hoping to achieve. We also understand what is required through the process in terms of drawings and presentations and how to communicate to funding bodies the direction in which a school’s leadership team wishes to take its school. Also, many times it’s not about demolishing buildings and starting again. Sometimes that is necessary, but there are also ways to adapt and reuse existing facilities in a way that uses them to the best advantage of the school.