Schools cater for growth

To keep up with demand in the Hunter, the Catholic Schools Office is already earmarking where it needs to build next. 

Director of Schools, Ray Collins, said the schools office was preparing for a population increase east and west of Maitland, north of Raymond Terrace, from Branxton to Cessnock and on the western side of Lake Macquarie around Morisset and Cooranbong. 

“We’re looking at other areas where we may need land into the next 30 years,” Mr Collins said.

“About 21 to 22 per cent of the population seek a Catholic education and we will be assessing the demographics. A primary school will probably follow our new high school in Medowie and there will probably be a need for a primary school on the western side of Maitland.”

Mr Collins said enrolments were at a record high, with more than 18,400 students attending the diocese’s 45 primary and 11 secondary schools, and its numbers were growing at a rate of about 1.5 per cent each year.

St Bede’s Catholic College at Chisholm and the yet to be named school in Medowie will be the first high schools to be built in the diocese in more than 30 years and will open in 2018 and 2020 respectively.

All Saints College’s St Joseph's campus at  Lochinvar and St Mary's High School in Gateshead will be extended in 2018 beyond years seven to 10, up to year 12.

The recommendations to build and expand came out of a diocesan study that began in 2013, although the diocese had been in “some form of planning” for about 10 years and bought the new land at the end of 2012.

“The case in Maitland was compelling,” Mr Collins said. “At [All Saints College’s] St Peter’s, year seven was knocking back about 60 to 90 students each year.

“In Medowie the major factor was distance, we had families from Fingal Bay, Medowie, Karuah and Tea Gardens travelling in to San Clemente [at Mayfield]. The greatest response was from parents at Nelson Bay.

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