|NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley MP and Shadow Education Minister, Ryan Park MP tour the learning spaces at Cerdon College, Merrylands|
In the lead up to the NSW election on 28 March, the Diocese of Parramatta continues to meet with both Labor and Coalition MPs and candidates to ensure that funding of Catholic schooling, particularly in Western Sydney, is a key commitment for the next State Government.
On 20 February in two separate meetings, Diocesan Administrator, Very Rev Peter Williams, Priest Responsible for Education, Rev Chris de Souza, Executive Director of Schools, Greg Whitby and Parent Representative Council (PRC) President, Selina Calleia, met with MPs and candidates to ensure those contesting the next election were aware of the issues affecting Catholic schools and families.
The key issues for Catholic education are:
- the importance of religious freedom for Catholic schools
- the need for an increase in capital works funding to respond to the increasing demand for Catholic
- schools in high growth areas of western Sydney
- concerns over the substantial charges local councils impose on Catholic school developments
Greg Whitby said education is an investment in the social fabric of the community and Catholic schools have a proud tradition of providing quality education to the children of western Sydney.
‘We rely on the continued support of the government to support the provision of Catholic schooling,’ said Greg. ‘This requires certainty in funding, and it also requires us to think differently about how we can invest taxpayer dollars and parent contributions to ensure our money is best spent.’
In 2014, Catholic schools educated 21% of NSW students but received only 2% of NSW Government capital funding for schools. The State Government provided only $7.6 million in capital grants to Catholic Schools last year – or $30 per student. This was only enough to part fund only seven of the 39 Catholic school building projects which sought funding.
NSW Catholic schools educate almost 254,000 students and will need to accommodate a further 58,000 students by 2031 – the equivalent of more than 2,300 additional classrooms.
NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley MP, Shadow Education Minister, Ryan Park MP, and the Labor candidate for Granville, Julia Finn, recently visited Cerdon College, Merrylands to pledge $1.3 billion for schools and TAFE.
Accompanied by Greg Whitby and Cerdon Principal, Trish Baker, the Labor representatives visited a science class to observe the quality learning happening in Catholic schools.
‘I am pleased that Opposition Leader Foley has reaffirmed a cross-sectoral approach would be taken to capital funding, based on needs based principles,’ said Greg. ‘It is hoped that some of the additional capital funding pledged will be intended for our Catholic schools in western Sydney.
Minister for Education, Adrian Piccoli, announced that a re-elected Baird Government would provide $148 million to upgrade 60 secondary government schools, and will invest $1 billion to provide 1,600 new or refurbished classrooms and learning spaces in government schools in NSW.
In an open letter to Catholic school families, PRC President, Selina Calleia, said Catholic school parents need to have an effective voice in the next election.
‘At present, neither the NSW Coalition or Labor parties has made a long term commitment to fund capital works programs for new or expanding Catholic schools in western Sydney. This issue goes beyond party lines - this is about equality and fairness and our rights as parents to be supported in our choice of Catholic schooling. Don’t let your voice go unheard.’
Download PRC President Open Letter