St Bede’s Catholic College in the burgeoning Maitland suburb of Chisholm has 108 students across six homeroom classes enrolled to start year seven next February 2, but principal John Murphy said this could grow to 120 over the next month. The school is being built over four stages to cater for a maximum of 1100 to 1200 students by 2023.
“A lot of new schools don’t get anywhere near the figure of 120,” Mr Murphy said. “I have actually not heard of another new school starting year seven with these kinds of numbers – and the trends normally show the first year is much slower than other years. Judging by the demographics in this area we will more likely have 180 students per year group soon. There’s a real sense in this community that people want a school to call their own, they don’t want to catch buses to another area.”
Mr Murphy said he expected the school’s first building, which can accommodate 420, to be complete by the start of term two. In the meantime, ten teachers will educate students in a “flexible learning village” of six demountables, which can accommodate 120.
The second building is due to be completed by the start of 2020, the third building by the end of 2021 and the fourth with a hall by the start of 2023. The modern buildings will be interconnected “like different terminals in an airport”, have a flexible design and be reorganised as each new building opens.
Mr Murphy said about 50 per cent of enrolments had come from the feeder schools: St Aloysius next door and Our Lady of Lourdes at Tarro. But he said the other 50 per cent were “equally valued and welcomed” state school students from nearby and as far away as Medowie, Clarence Town and Dungog. “If we’re going to be truly inclusive we need to be open for all,” he said.
“But we would expect that everyone who comes is supportive of the Catholic ethos. There’s a lot of emphasis placed on values and being a good person, not just a good student.”
The school’s motto is ‘Shine with Christ’s glory’, its four core values are love, justice, truth and compassion and its four foundation pillars are courage, faith, community and knowledge. “Rather than the culture being entrenched and having difficulty changing that, this is something we’re growing together,” he said.
“Each year will be different. Our 2023 vision is that students will leave as confident, resilient, and reflective young adults embracing learning, searching for truth and living their faith in a contemporary world.”