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Hydrotherapy Pools at Specialist Schools Fund

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Hydrotherapy is a valuable treatment for children and young people with disabilities. Schools with hydrotherapy pools can provide students with extra recreational and therapeutical benefits.

The 2023–24 Victorian State Budget allocated $25 million to the Hydrotherapy Pools at Specialist Schools Fund. This is part of a $235 million investment to support students with disability or additional needs in schools. This program will support more students to access the infrastructure they need.

Interested government specialist schools are encouraged to read the guidelines below. This will allow them to assess their eligibility and capability to install a pool on their premises.

For more information about the Hydrotherapy Pools program at Specialist Schools, contact our team on or 1800 896 950.

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  • Funded as part of the 2023-24 State Budget “Fighting for students with disability and their families” program, this funding will provide a select number of specialist schools with new hydrotherapy pools to enhance schools’ abilities to offer a range of therapies, active recreation and extra-curricular opportunities for students.

    $25 million is available for this program. For students with specialist needs, hydrotherapy can be very beneficial. Water therapy can provide a safe and supportive environment where they can move freely and explore their physical abilities.

    Access to hydrotherapy pools at school will also extend the range of supports available to students, while minimising the need for students to take time away from school to access them. Hydrotherapy can offer a host of benefits for students with disability and complex needs, including improving physical health and wellbeing, which can assist with communication, engagement and learning outcomes.

    It also improves student access to these therapies that reduces the burden on their families and carers in, for example, identifying and locating these services, and managing the travel between multiple appointments allowing them to focus on other important activities.

    Program principles

    This funding is intended to provide a new hydrotherapy facility for students with disabilities or additional needs. Specialist schools will be invited to apply for a new hydrotherapy pool through a grant application process. Successful applicants will be determined through an application process, with the department briefing the Minister on the final list of schools to receive funded projects.

    We will be assessing projects against the following criteria:

    • how the school will use the facility to advance the achievement, engagement and wellbeing of students;
    • the therapeutic need for your students;
    • development of a school swimming and water safety program; and
    • commitment to maintaining your school and new hydrotherapy pool facility.

    Funded schools will go through a design phase prior to construction works. This may involve developing a detailed spatial analysis and masterplan in addition to broader site and project assessments.

    Program timelines

    The program opens on 14 August 2023 and closes on 6 October 2023 with all funded projects expected to be completed by 2026.

    • Program announced - 23 May 2023
    • Applications open - 14 August 2023
    • Applications close - 6 October 2023 (midnight)
    • Assessments and costing - October to December 2023
    • Approval and announcements - from February 2024
    • Planning and design - February 2024 to February 2025
    • Construction - all projects completed by September 2026
  • Funding is for the planning, design and construction of a new hydrotherapy pool and is not intended to:

    • fund an educational program (i.e., is for capital works project only)
    • upgrade existing pools or buildings at a school
    • replace routine and preventative maintenance (schools are expected to undertake this with Student Resource Package [SRP] funding)
    • replace scheduled maintenance or significant capital works projects that require state budget funding
    • replace other key funding programs, such as modifications to make a facility compliant to the relevant disability legislation and standards, which can be made through the Accessible Buildings ProgramExternal Link

    Schools that are successful in their application will also receive an allowance of $8,500 per year for pool maintenance and chemistry testing. This is an additional loading which will be delivered through the school’s SRP Maintenance and Minor Works allocation. Schools will begin to receive the allocation once their pools are complete and have begun operation.

    Determining project scope costs and project viability

    It is the role of the VSBA to assess all applications and determine project costs and scope of works.

    The new facility will be built to Australian Standards AS3979 for hydrotherapy pools. This standard imposes specific requirements such as:

    • minimum water area per occupant
    • minimum and maximum water and air temperatures
    • minimum pool deck widths around perimeter
    • access into pool
    • minimum and maximum water depths (900mm to 1500mm); and
    • pool floor gradient.

    In addition, the facility will include additional spaces and equipment to ensure it is fit for purpose. This additional space is expected to consist of circulation space, amenities for both staff and students, staff work area and other ancillary and plant space. The VSBA will work with successful schools to ensure each facility meets the needs of that school, while ensuring that the works meet required standards.

    You do not need to develop a scope of works or obtain a quote as part of your application.

    Instead, the application and assessment process is designed to help the VSBA understand what your school is looking to achieve from your project proposal. The VSBA will arrange for the proposed project to be professionally costed by a quantity surveyor.

    Our application asks key questions to help you fully articulate intent.

    It is the role of the VSBA to assess all applications and determine project costs.

    • The VSBA will engage professional quantity surveyors to assist in costing applications.
    • Schools may receive a phone call during the assessment process to clarify scope. This call may be from the VSBA or a professional quantity surveyor assisting us cost projects.
    • Schools may be contacted by the VSBA to allow a building professional to enter your school site and consider:
      • the cost of the project
      • the latent conditions at your school site
      • the viability of the project.
    • Where on-site professional costing is undertaken, schools will be involved in this process and have project scope confirmed with them.
    • Attendance of a building professional at your school is not a guarantee that a project will be funded.
    • The announced funding covers all costs associated with the building project, including all project management and professional fees with the VSBA responsible for making all required payments to consultants and builders.

    Where unforeseen circumstances or latent conditions arise causing the project to incur additional costs beyond the available budget, unfortunately no additional funding is available.In these circumstances, the VSBA will work with schools to ensure the best outcome is achieved from the announced funding.

  • All schools with a pool must comply with all relevant pool safety, water quality and OHS requirements. There will be ongoing time and cost implications associated with the safe management of the pool.

  • Eligible Projects

    Your school is eligible to apply if you are a:

    1. Victorian government specialist school (as listed on the Victorian Registrations and Qualifications Authority's public registerExternal Link ):
    2. Have space available for a pool. The size and dimension of the pool may vary for each project depending on your school’s requirements, space available, and unforeseen circumstances or latent conditions. The pool size can range from 200m2 to 300m2.
    3. Ready to commence once funding is announced and able to complete works by 2026.
    4. Willing to adhere to all pool safety and OHS requirements as per the policies highlighted in section 4.
  • Lodging applications


    • are made online through the SmartyGrants systemExternal Link
    • are to be completed by the school principal
    • can be changed any time until you submit your application
    • must have all sections of the application form completed for applications to be considered.

    No more than one application per school can be lodged (although schools with multiple campuses can apply for a separate project for each campus).

    To ensure that you supply all relevant information, see the ‘Required Information’ section below in these guidelines before submitting your application.

    We also recommended that you discuss your application with your regional office before submitting. Contact details of Regional support officers are available in Section 14: Contacts.

    Applications close at midnight on Friday 6 October 2023. Late applications may not be considered.

    Submission of an application does not necessarily mean your school will receive funding.

    We will contact all applicants on the outcome of their applications. Successful projects will be published on the Victorian School Building Authority website.

  • Assessment criteria

    Applications will be assessed against the following assessment criteria.

    Assessment Criteria
    1. How the school will use the facility to advance the achievement, engagement and wellbeing of students
    1. The therapeutic need for your students
    1. Development of a school swimming and water safety program in accordance with the Swimming Instruction and Water Safety Education policy (that is, an operation plan)
    1. Commitment to maintaining your school and new pool

    Assessment process

    The Victorian School Building Authority will:

    • assess all applications for eligibility as per the Eligibility Criteria
    • assess all eligible applications for merit against the Assessment Criteria
    • refer highly rated applications to other teams and business units for further review to:
      • assess potential risks and issues with proposed works
      • review the proposed works to ensure compliance with relevant legislation and standards
      • review how the proposed works align with the program intent.

    As part of the assessment process, other areas of the Department will be consulted to further inform the suitability of projects against the criteria.

    Schools with greater numbers of students with higher physical functional needs may be prioritised for funding.

    Suitable projects that are highly ranked may require on-site costing. This is not a guarantee that funding will be provided.

  • You must supply the following to address the assessment criteria as part of the application process and to complete all sections in the application form. Schools can use this page as a checklist.

    Criterion 1: Achievement, engagement and wellbeing of students
    • A written statement up to 500 words that demonstrates how the facility will be used to advance achievement, engagement and wellbeing of students.
    Criterion 2: Therapeutic need
    • A written statement up to 500 words that demonstrates the need for hydrotherapy. This is to include the type of disabilities within your school (include the age range and number of students within different types of therapy programs).
    • Recommended supporting documentation includes physiotherapist, occupational therapist and/or equivalent expert recommendations (i.e., an exercise physiologist) – but is not required.

    This information should be provided in aggregated form and not individual student health/personal information.

    Criterion 3: Swimming and water safety program
    Criterion 4: Commitment to maintaining your school and pool
    • Currently have an endorsed School Maintenance Plan (SMP) in place and are completing condition and routine maintenance works. If you are in doubt as to if you have an endorsed SMP, please contact the SMP team on 7022 2212 or email

      Or, if this does not apply:

      A written statement up to 300 words, demonstrating how you maintain your school site.


  • Projects will be recommended for funding primarily based on their rating against the Assessment Criteria, however, the VSBA will consider other factors including:

    • the availability of funding, noting that the number and value of eligible, highly rated projects may exceed the total available funding
    • whether schools have received major capital upgrades or other grants funding recently; and
    • an assessment of school cohorts and their needs/requirements.

    All applicants will be contacted on the outcome of their applications. Successful projects are subject to a signed funding acceptance and will be published on the Victorian School Building Authority website.

  • The VSBA will deliver all funded projects. All funded projects must be completed by September 2026, however depending on unforeseen circumstances this could be extended.

    Delivery of hydropools

    The VSBA is committed to supporting schools in the delivery of this project.

    For all VSBA-led projects, we will assign a dedicated project officer to work with you and be your point of contact throughout the delivery process.

    The announced funding covers all costs associated with the building project, including all project management and professional fees, with the VSBA responsible for making all required payments to consultants and builders.

    Where unforeseen circumstances or latent conditions arise causing the project to incur additional costs beyond the available budget, the VSBA will work with schools to ensure the best outcome is achieved from the announced funding.

  • Information you provide will be dealt with in accordance with the Public Records Act 1973 and the Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014.

  • At the bottom of the online application form in SmartyGrants, by submitting your application, you’ll agree to the following terms and conditions.

    The school accepts the terms and conditions described in the Program Guidelines.

    I confirm that:

    • I am either the principal of the school where the proposed project would take place, or I have received the authority of the principal to submit this application on their behalf.
    • the school council (and school council president) is aware of and supportive of this application.
    • that this project would be undertaken on land owned by the Department of Education (DE, Victorian Government).

    I state:

    • that the information in this application and attachments is to the best of my knowledge true and correct.
    • I will notify the VSBA of any changes to this information and any circumstances that may affect this application, including any changes to the project name, scope of works and contact details for the project.

    I warrant that:

    • I have obtained or will obtain (where necessary) all permits (including building permits), approvals and authorities necessary and required by law to undertake the works proposed.

    I consent to the VSBA:

    • referring this application to other areas within the DE for advice on alignment with program principles, compliance with regulatory requirements, and potential risks and issues.
    • referring this application to external experts or other government departments for assessment, reporting, advice, comment or for discussions regarding alternative or collaborative grant funding opportunities.

    I understand:

    • that personal information collected through this application will be managed in accordance with DE privacy policiesExternal Link .
    • the VSBA is subject to the Freedom of Information Act 1982 and that if a Freedom of Information request is made, the VSBA will consult with the applicant before any decision is made to release the application or supporting documentation.
    • this is an application only and may not necessarily result in funding approval.
    • submitting this application, I am agreeing to all terms and conditions set out in the Guidelines and in particular:
      • hold milestone events on request from the Department of Education
      • that no additional state funding will be allocated to the proposed project and if additional costs rise, they must be met by the applicant.
      • that my school has not entered into and will not enter into a construction contract for any works proposed in this application prior to being informed of the application outcome.

    I understand and agree with the Terms and Conditions as outlined above.

  • If you are in any doubt about the program, eligible projects or streams you should be applying for, please don’t hesitate to seek support. Schools can contact the VSBA Grants Unit for further information or support.

    Program enquiries

    Victorian School Building Authority – School Grants Unit

    General enquiries

    Victorian School Building Authority

    IT/website enquiries (SmartyGrants)

    SmartyGrants Service Team

    Customer feedback

    We are giving our customers a simple method to give us feedback or share their concerns.

    Visit the new customer service page. You’ll find everything you need to know about our customer service focus, including links to the charter, policy, FAQs, one-pager explainers and more.

    Provision and planning support

    In preparing your application, particularly for larger projects, we encourage schools to contact their nearest DET regional officer to discuss the proposal before lodging applications.

Reviewed 14 August 2023