Diocese Announces Major Developments in Education

This July, I had the privilege of being able to share with our valued staff, clergy, students and caregivers, news regarding one of the single biggest developments to Catholic education in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle’s history. The diocese will build a new high school at Chisholm and another at Medowie, scheduled to open in 2018 and 2020 respectively. St Mary’s High School at Gateshead and St Joseph’s High School at Lochinvar will also grow from offering Years 7-10 to Years 7-12 from 2018. 

The new schools will become the first secondary schools to be built in the diocese in over 30 years.

These announcements were warmly welcomed by the community, in particular, families and Members of Parliament from the Port Stephens, Medowie and Thornton areas. Many of our staff were also excited about the news and the creation of even more teaching jobs in the region, professional development opportunities and the prospect of teaching more year groups and the HSC. It was truly encouraging to see how enthusiastic and motivated our teaching staff were about these announcements.

This is an exciting time for the education sector in the Hunter, Manning, Newcastle and Lake Macquarie regions. After more than 180 years of providing Catholic education in this region, the system currently employs more than 2,000 staff, educating over 18,600 students across 45 Catholic primary and 11 Catholic secondary schools. Soon, these numbers will grow even more, and we are pleased to be able to accommodate further the demand for more Catholic education in the diocese.

What’s more exciting is that these announcements are only four of a total of 12 recommendations to come out of a study, commissioned by Bishop Bill Wright, into the Provision of Secondary Education in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle (see attachment). The aim of the study, which began in 2013, was to ensure the diocese would be able to meet the future needs of students in Catholic secondary schools.

All 12 recommendations are significant and present new, positive opportunities for Catholic education in the diocese. The future of Catholic education is indeed bright and, with a constantly changing educational landscape, we are always looking at ways to embrace contemporary approaches to teaching and learning to ensure that our students are well placed to make an active, life-giving contribution to a changing world.

One of the recommendations that came out of the study which reflects this aim is to develop greater equity of access to curriculum for secondary students. Through the utilisation of contemporary technologies and learning options, our hope is that all students, regardless of geographical location, will have the opportunity to engage in courses that provide breadth and depth. This is particularly important for our regional schools and we are already having huge success implementing such strategies. For example, we are already using technology provided to schools, such as video conferencing facilities, to enable Music 2 to be taught from St Francis Xavier’s College Hamilton, to students in Aberdeen and Taree studying for their HSC. The review recommends more of that and this is just one example of how we are utilising technology to better the educational outcomes and interests of students.

Our Catholic schools are committed to providing a secondary education for students that is marked by academic rigour and success. We are committed to providing students with every opportunity to improve their learning such that they can maximise their post-school choices. It is our hope that the recommendations will help to ensure this.

The recommendations reflect the confidence that our community has in our system of schools. I think it’s a positive step that the diocese is embracing the opportunity to respond to change and significant enrolment pressure with innovation and creativity. Bishop Bill, who has a strong passion for education, has endorsed the recommendations. I encourage you to become familiar with the recommendations and remind all those in the community that Catholic schools are an inclusive, affordable option, open to all. We are looking forward to growing the future of Catholic education in our region and I invite you to be part of our exciting future.

What the community thinks

Natalie Easey, mother of St Aloysius Catholic Primary School Year 4 student, Charlotte Easey. Charlotte hopes to be enrolled in the new Catholic High School at Chisholm for 2018. 
"We are very excited to hear that the high school will be opening in 2018. Our eldest child, Charlotte, will be commencing Year 7 and it's wonderful that we are able to follow on from a brand new primary school to a brand new high school. Exciting times are ahead!"
Larry Keating, Principal of St Mary's High School, Gateshead. St Mary’s will transition to Years 7-12 from 2018.
"The decision to transition St Mary's to Years 11 and 12 in 2018-19 is wonderful news because it represents the realisation of a much longed-for continuum of Catholic education from K–12 by Catholic families in the region of East Lake Macquarie. It also honours the legacy of the Sisters of St Joseph and all who laboured tirelessly with them to lay the foundations for the
splendid Catholic school we have today."
Rachael Connor, mother of St Michael's Nelson Bay Year 2 student, Reagan Connor. Reagan hopes to be enrolled in the first Year 7 class at Medowie Catholic School in 2020.
"We were thrilled and relieved with the announcement of the new secondary school at Medowie. It meant the decision of what high school Reagan would attend was made. We now know that the transition into high school will be smooth, and he is much closer to home."
Andrew Klasen, Year 8 student at St Joseph's Lochinvar. Andrew plans to study Year 11 and his HSC at St Joseph's from 2018.
“I am excited about not having to move schools as I already have a good group of friends and I know the school well. I also like the teachers I have and enjoy the atmosphere of learning at St Joseph’s. #belongingtocommunity.”

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Ray Collins

Ray Collins is the Director of Schools within the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle. He is an authority on education issues.

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