Growing area on learning curve

The Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle is one step closer to delivering high school education in Port Stephens, with its development application for Catherine McAuley Catholic College now approved.

The development application includes a high school, early education centre, chapel and primary school all co-located on the one Medowie Road site.

Diocese chief executive Sean Scanlon said community consultation had shaped the planned development, which will commence with the construction of the chapel and provision of Years 7 and 8 at the college from 2021, with the opening of a St Nicholas Early Education centre to follow soon after.

“A few years ago the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle undertook a major study into the future provision of secondary schooling across the region, which encouraged engagement from every family, student and staff member in the Diocese,” Mr Scanlon said.

“The results showed an abundance of support for a Catholic secondary school in the Port Stephens area, and so it is exciting that we are now one step closer to achieving this goal.” 

To date, the Catholic Schools Office has received 126 enquiries from both Catholic and non-Catholic families, wishing to enrol their children at the high school.

“Medowie has experienced steady growth for years, and we expect there may be as many as an additional 7000 residents living in the area within the next decade,” Mr Scanlon said.

“When complete, the high school will be able to accommodate 1200 students from Years 7 to 12. The increased capacity for high school education locally will benefit students currently attending Catholic primary schools in the Port Stephens region including Nelson Bay, Raymond Terrace and Bulahdelah as well as the community at large, particularly those living in Medowie who may now choose to enrol their child in the Catholic education system.” 

The Catholic Bishop of Maitland-Newcastle, Bishop Bill Wright, is particularly buoyed by the difference this will make to the lives of students, particularly those who may have otherwise travelled to Newcastle to access a Catholic secondary education.

“The reduced travel time will be a great outcome for students and their families,” Bishop Bill said. “Rather than spending up to two hours a day on a bus, students will have increased opportunities to be involved in after-school activities, study and spend time with nearby friends and family.”

Acting director of Catholic Schools, Gerard Mowbray, said the college had been designed to engage students and staff in the ecology surrounding the site, providing an ideal setting to incorporate the natural environment into learning and play.

“The design developed for Catherine McAuley Catholic College allows for the effective delivery of curriculum in a flexible range of learning spaces, both indoor and outdoor,” Mr Mowbray said. “The spaces will reflect the site, geography and local context, sustainability and future needs.”

Funding for the Catherine McAuley College development will come from a variety of sources including the Catholic Development Fund and contributions made by parents and carers through the Diocesan School Building Levy, as well as the NSW Government and the Australian Government.

“The Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle is investing record funding in school design and infrastructure, with the primary purpose of transcending students’ learning experience,” Mr Mowbray said.

Catherine McAuley College principal Scott Donohoe agreed, saying the college will deliver contemporary and engaging learning opportunities for students.

“The curriculum and learning will be aligned with essential competencies such as creativity, collaboration, critical thinking and communication,” Mr Donohoe said. “Rather than a sole focus on knowledge retention, learning experiences will be inquiry-based, personalised and relevant to the real world. A key focus will be developing strong partnerships with local industry to support young people in post-school pathways.

“Spaces will support a shift from the traditional teacher-centred approach to student-centred learning in which voice, choice and agency are evident. Additionally, a key feature of the college’s design will incorporate a learning/research centre that animates the key focus on STEM.”

Major works are anticipated for completion in December 2020.

Families seeking to enrol students at Catherine McAuley College for Years 7 or 8, from 2021, can register their interest by emailing, which will keep them up to date on matters relating to the school. If families have any questions about the college they can contact the foundation principal Scott Donohoe on (02) 4979 1155 or email

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Lizzie Watkin Image
Lizzie Watkin

Lizzie is Team Leader Content for the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.

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