A sod-turning ceremony, marking the beginning of works to build the new Forest High School, took place on Wednesday 6 December at the dedicated construction site on the corner of Aquatic Drive and Allambie Rd, Allambie Heights.
In attendance were Wakehurst MP Michael Regan; Greg Warren (NSW Parliamentary Secretary for Education and Early Learning); Dean Israel (Construction Manager, ADCO); Nathan Lawler (Forest High School Principal); Patrick Wright (Client Director, Johnstaff); Lisa Cassidy (Community Engagement, School Infrastructure NSW); and Kerrie Beeby (Director, Educational Leadership).
Forest High (motto Spectemur Agendo, Latin for “Let us be Judged by our Actions”), is moving from its current location at 135 Forest Rd, Frenchs Forest (adjacent to Northern Beaches Hospital), to the cleared zone on Allambie Road.
The vacant 4.5 hectare site formerly housed the Spastic Centre Country Children’s Hostel, known as McLeod House. In 2011 the organisation changed its name to Cerebral Palsy Alliance, and they’re now based alongside in a new administrative and support services centre.
During the speeches, the NSW Parliamentary Secretary for Education, Mr Warren, praised Mr Regan’s long-term commitment to the project (planning began almost ten years ago and more formally in 2018 when Michael Regan was Mayor of Northern Beaches Council), adding, “this is a great opportunity to start something that has been in the pipeline for a long time. It’s a $160 million investment. It’s a reconstruction, but a new building for an existing school .. and an increase to about 1500 students. I think there’s around 800 students at the existing school, so that’s doubling the students’ capacity with a modern complex…”
The works will likely be completed by about mid 2025.
“But most of all,” he continued, “what you can’t put a price on, is that it’s providing our students and our system with the resources they need – our staff, our principals, our teachers – to give them everything that they require to give our students every opportunity to get the best education they can.”
The school’s relocation was approved by the NSW Department of Planning on 23 November 2023, which, with a $160 million investment, will enable an expansion in facilities and, as aforementioned, an increase in enrolments up to 1500 students. There will also be a 50% increase in campus administration employing 120 staff.
The co-educational public school, which currently consists of around 800 students from years 7-12, including a specialist autism unit, originally opened its gates to 318 students and 14 teachers in January 1961.
Initially called French’s Forest High School, in August 1961 the Education Department renamed it The Forest High School. Mr Warren confirmed the name will remain going forward, despite it relocating from Forest district to neighbouring Allambie Heights.
Part of a new Frenchs Forest
Once the previous school site has been vacated and demolished, a new Frenchs Forest town centre, known as the Frenchs Forest 2041 Place Strategy, will be constructed in its place. It will include civic administration buildings, a piazza and adjoining retail areas, plus 2,000 mixed residential dwellings with apartments up to 12 storeys high.
Additional developments will be undertaken around the current Frenchs Forest town centre, as detailed here.
Mr Regan revealed that in coming years there will be an expected 30% increase in the number of people living in the Sydney Metropolitan area, including the Northern Beaches, so the new larger school and upgraded Frenchs Forest town centre will be able to cope with the population boost.
“What’s exciting too, is this is the start to the delivery of the town centre in a very physical sense,” he enthused. “We’ve had the hospital there for a few years, and now the school. As soon as this one opens, we’ll see what happens on that site [which the school will vacate] very soon. And that’s exciting in itself… I can’t wait to see this open, in about 18 months apparently!”
Nathan Lawler, Forest High Principal, declared, “This is such a unique site, but it has such a beautiful outlook as well. We’ve got a very excited school community – that’s current parents, but also prospective parents as well…
“I’d also like to mention School Infrastructure that we’ve worked really closely with as well as Johnstaff, in terms of working through the schematic and the details of the designs… We’re really looking forward to new state-of-the-art facilities, whether they be general learning spaces, science labs or woodwork rooms.”
Patrick Wright of Johnstaff management and delivery practice, which is overseeing the project, added, “It’s not just going to be a new school. There’s going to be a lot of joint-use facilities for the community here. We’ll be here until the end and we’ll make sure we do a good job!”
Michael Regan confirmed the community access.
“Council is investing in the site in relation to the sports field to make sure that the community has full access to that, and at nights. And I think that’s a really important partnership and I thank Council, and the Education Department for working with them, to be able to make that happen. Because it benefits our community and that’s what it’s all about…”
Forest High Relocation: https://www.schoolinfrastructure.nsw.gov.au/projects/f/the-forest-high-school-relocation.html
Frenchs Forest town centre changes: https://yoursay.northernbeaches.nsw.gov.au/french-forest-precinct