Page 1738 - Week 05 - Wednesday, 4 May 2011

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The history of Catholic school education across Australia and here in the ACT is one of strong growth and proud achievement that includes the opening of over 1,700 schools Australia-wide during the last 180 years. As the Catholic Education Commission so eloquently outlines on its website:

Catholic schools seek to contribute to the creation of an Australian community that is highly educated, skilled and cultured with an ability to promote and embrace a critical analysis of social issues, the expansion of knowledge and the pursuit of truth. Such a community will be marked by a vigorous intellectual and cultural life, accessible to all. Education has individual and private benefits, but it is also very much a public good whose benefits enhance the whole community. Catholic schools emphasise the contribution of education to the common good of the Australian community … Those who choose a Catholic school for their children do so on the understanding that they respect and agree to support the Catholic identity of the school and acknowledge the importance of religious education for their children.

The Catholic school is open to all who are willing to commit to support the philosophy, values and aims of Catholic schooling. No student will be refused enrolment because of an inability, as distinct from an unwillingness, of a parent/guardian to meet financial requirements.

Here in the ACT there are 32 schools in the Catholic school system and they range from preschool to year 12 and educate over 17,000 students each year. In 2013, another Catholic school will open in Gungahlin, caring for students from preschool to year 12.

I understand that the Catholic Education Office is proposing to open a new year 7 to 12 campus of the existing Good Shepherd Catholic primary school, Amaroo, from the first day of term 1 in 2013. The new campus will be located in Gungahlin. Enrolments will be offered to year 7 in 2012 to start in 2013.

Based on the February 2011 ACT schools census, over 26 per cent of all students in the ACT attend a Catholic school. Catholic Schools Week is held annually throughout New South Wales and the ACT by Catholic schools to celebrate, and to raise awareness of, the strength and values of the Catholic school system.

It provides an opportunity for Catholic schools to showcase what is done every day in their schools and invites the community in to experience teaching and learning at its best. This week is about strengthening relationships between all those that have a stake in our schools—students, teachers, families, parishioners and members of the wider community.

Parents who choose a Catholic education for their sons and daughters do so because they value the Catholic school system for a range of reasons. They want their children educated in the Catholic faith and traditions, including religious instructions and sacramental programs, and pastoral care within the school and at the community level.

Let us not forget that it is not just children of Catholic parents who attend Catholic schools. It is not just parents who can afford to pay school fees who send their

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