CATHOLIC school enrolments in the Maitland-Newcastle diocese are predicted to exceed 18,000 this year for the first time, as families choose Catholic schools over state schools.
There are no kindergarten vacancies in at least nine primary schools across the region, and very limited vacancies at many others.
The director of Catholic schools for the Maitland-Newcastle diocese, Ray Collins, said growth for the past four to five years was steady, with the greatest demand in the Maitland area.
‘‘That’s because of the growth there, particularly the All Saints region west of Maitland, and the fact we probably need some new schools or the capacity to put in new classrooms in existing schools,’’ he said.
‘‘But we are land-locked there and that’s why we are having to turn away applications for enrolments.
‘‘There are schools in the Newcastle area too that have similar difficulties but there are vacancies as well.’’
There are between 30 and 40 families on waiting lists for primary school places in the Maitland region alone, Mr Collins said, and up to 60 families waiting on high school placements.
‘‘In some schools we have gone to three streams so there is an extra stream going through, another 30 students per year,’’ he said.
That is the case at St Therese’s Primary School at New Lambton, which has doubled in size from 300 students to 600 since the principal, Duilio Rufo, started there in the year 2000.
Over the years the school has had to knock back up to 20 enrolment applications, Mr Rufo said yesterday.
‘‘We have a huge number of people expressing an interest in coming to the school,’’ Mr Rufo said.
‘‘We have a huge amount of pressure on us all the time.
‘‘That’s been going on for about seven years so we have had to go from a double stream school to three.
‘‘We do offer a different approach to the state schools. We run some fabulous programs, we have forged ahead with technology, we have social justice initiatives.
‘‘Academically, we are an outstanding school, there is no question about that, but many families are looking for a little bit more than just academia.’’
Other Catholic schools with at-capacity kindergarten classes in 2013 include St Columba’s Primary School at Adamstown, St James’ at Kotara South, Corpus Christi at Waratah, St Paul’s at Rutherford, St Joseph’s at East Maitland, and St John’s at Maitland.
Enrolment numbers also continue to rise at the region’s Anglican schools, according to the chief executive officer of the Newcastle Anglican Schools Corporation, Margaret Gibbs.
‘‘Parents do look around at what schools have to offer ... and make their choices,’’ she said.
‘‘We do have waiting lists, at two schools in particular, across specific age groups, with big waiting lists at Lakes Grammar and also Scone Grammar, and at Bishop Tyrrell College in specific years ... and those waiting lists have been growing year on year.’’
Global causes, faith, drive family’s devotion
LOUISE and Andrew Standing are two of the hundreds of parents whose children attend St Therese’s Primary School in New Lambton.
The school has doubled in size since 2000, with 600 students enrolled, and it is still growing.
The Standings’ two youngest children, Laura, 11, and Ben, 9, attend the school, while their eldest boys Nick, 15, and Dan, 14, were pupils during their primary school years.
‘‘We have been involved with
St Therese’s since 2004,’’ Mrs Standing said. ‘‘We moved here from Tamworth in 1996 and we had been part of St Therese’s parish so when we had our children, we always hoped they would go to St Therese’s.
‘‘The thing for us is the faith development that’s there, the fact that we are Catholics and it’s a Catholic school and we wanted our children to grow up in that faith community.’’
The school had other good things going for it, Mrs Standing said, academically and through programs that helped disadvantaged children overseas receive an education.
‘‘It gets kids to realise that it’s not just about themselves; they are looking outside their own world and to me that’s really important.
‘‘It’s a great community. It’s got great staff and it’s got great families, so it’s just a really lovely place to be.’’