Choosing a School

We are just entering the time for Catholic School enrolments. Early May is a busy time at schools with Open Days and school promotion. Each year there seems to be more and more competition between Government, Independent and Catholic Schools and the decision for many families can be difficult.

When I speak to the parents it is obvious that there is something special about them sending their children to a Catholic School: a definite choice has been made. But why choose a Catholic education for your child?

Over the past 10 years as a Catholic Primary School Principal I have interviewed hundreds of prospective parents and children and so have had the privilege of listening to many reasons why the school has been chosen. For some, the reasons are purely practical: it’s on the way to work, my carer can collect easily from here, it’s a feeder school to various Catholic High Schools. For others the reasons are philosophical: we want “values based” education, we like the style of education here, we want structure or discipline for our child. Sometimes the reasons are bizarre: we like the fete or the range of lunch treats available from the tuckshop!

Mostly, however, people speak deeply from their own spirituality. They want their child to belong, to feel safe, to be loved and valued for themselves. They want their child to hear and know the stories of Jesus, to feel that they are part of a wider community – the Church. They want their child to know right from wrong, to be treated with dignity and to be in an environment where they learn to treat others with respect and self-worth. They want their child to be known and loved, to be part of the daily life and the special celebrations of the community, including prayer life and liturgy.

So what makes our Catholic schools unique? Former Head of Education Services at Catholic Education and current Professor of Educational Leadership at the ACU, Dr Mike Gaffney said “Catholic schools are supposed to be different. Good Catholic schools are more than ‘good schools’ in the secular sense. In addition to academic excellence and equitable social support and community spirit, they provide genuine witness to God’s love to students, staff, parents and all who engage in the school.” Pope Paul VI put it this way: “that the proper function of a Catholic School is to create for the school community a special atmosphere animated by the Gospel spirit of freedom and charity.” In difficult situations then that arise in good Catholic schools concerning the purpose and integrity of our actions, it is always worthwhile reflecting on ‘What would Jesus do – in these circumstances?’

Our actions should really demonstrate that we are different.