Primary school for children with autism to be located at Loftus with plans for future high school and college

Murray Trembath

A new education campus at Loftus for children with autism will start with a primary school, with the aim to add a high school and college in the future.

Autism Spectrum Australia is planning the complex to meet “a critical lack of affordable specialist autism-specific education” in Sydney’s south.

The campus is to be located on the Loftus site, which at present houses a TAFE college, University of Wollongong campus and the Cook School for pupils with behavioural problems.

The Southern Expansion group, which is seeking an A-League franchise, wants to create a 30,000 stadium on the Loftus site, but the state government minister responsible for TAFE has poured cold water on the plans.

Autism Spectrum Australia has lodged a development application for the first stage of its plans – a primary school for 36 children, which is expected to cost $3 million to establish.

National director of Aspect Education Elizabeth Gadek said Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect) had been leasing premises from Sylvanvale at Kirrawee since 2004.

“Due to a growth in Sylvanvale’s services, they requested that we look for new premises,” she said.

“There is a critical lack of affordable specialist autism-specific education services for children on the autism spectrum in Sydney.”

Ms Gadek said there was an average wait of two years to attend an Aspect School in Sydney.

“There are more than 400 children on our school waitlist, 154 of whom live in southern Sydney, and no high school base in the region. 

“Aspect’s aim for the Loftus site is an autism-specific campus that, as well as housing a primary school, will eventually house a high school and a social enterprise college.”

Ms Gadek said the NSW Dept of Education offered Aspect land at Loftus in 2017.

“We were hoping to open in early 2019 to provide a smooth transition for our students,” she said.

“Unfortunately, due to additional building and DA requirements needed for the new site, it is now looking unlikely that we will be able to open the new site by 2019. 

“As such, we are now preparing for a temporary relocation of 30 students from the Kirrawee campus to our premises at Peakhurst South for Term 1 of 2019.

“The cost of relocation and building is expected to be in excess of $3 million.”

Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect), a not-for-profit organisation, is Australia’s largest service provider for people on the autism spectrum.

The DA said the proposed new school would have four buildings, arranged around a playground space. 

“Three of these buildings will contain two classrooms each, with a total of six classrooms to be provided on site,” the DA said.

“The fourth building will contain staff and administration amenities and offices.

“Car parking is provided on site accessible via a widened access road, and also allowing for a mini bus and other servicing vehicles to access and service the site.”

The DA said a three-phase development for up to 180 children was discussed in pre-DA discussions, but the initial application was just for a primary school.