More than a dozen new schools scheduled for development along Melbourne’s rapidly expanding periphery will be amongst the first educational facilities in the state to adopt new mandatory inclusive building designs.

A new public-private initiative aims to produce more inclusive designs for the creation of educational environments that satisfy the Victorian government’s new requirement that all state schools cater to the needs of students with disabilities.

The Victorian government recently announced that all new state schools as well as new facilities built at state schools must be designed to accommodate students with disabilities or additional needs.

The New Schools Public Private Partnership Project hopes to rise to the challenge of the Victorian government’s new requirements for public education facilities, with the creation of inclusive designs for more than a dozen schools throughout the state.

The partnership will oversee the design, construction and financing of 15 new schools situated primarily in Melbourne’s peripheral suburbs over the next two years, in order to cater to rapid population expansion along the city’s fringes.

According to figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistic for 2013 and 2013, the fringe suburbs of the Greater Melbourne area account for seven of the top 10 growth areas in the country.

Suburbs set to host the new schools will include Armstrong Creek, Bannockburn, Casey Central East, Cranbourne South West, Epping North, Heather Grove, Mernda South, North Geelong, Pakenham South west, Point Cook South and Torquay North.

The 15 new schools are estimated to be worth $291 million, with the public-private partnership program also responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the facilities over the next 25 years.

Wayne Stephens, partner at ClarkeHopkinsClarke Architects, one of the firms chosen by the Victorian government to participate in the project, said the new initiative provides an outstanding opportunity to make mainstream schools more inclusive via the application of Universal Design Principles.

“These designs work with the Universal Design Principles really so they become a facility where all kids of all age and abilities can actually use these facilities,” he said.

“Some of the key factors of the Universal Design Principles are actually having easy access for different facilities and making it so that we’ve minimised the distances between the learning communities and the specialist spaces so they’ve got easy access to those places.”

Flexibility and adaptability will also be core attributes of school developed under the public-private partnership.

“We talk about the learning spaces having a lot of flexibility, but it’s really important that are also adaptable so they can change over time,” Stephens said. “Even the external walls, we use those. By activating those walls with little niches and recesses and spaces to sit and reflect and that sort of thing, creates another learning setting again that they can use.”