More non-Catholics than ever in Catholic schools
By Chris Lindsay
The percentage of non-Catholic students in Catholic school in NSW has doubled over the last decade, and numbers are continuing to grow at an ever faster rate. NSW Catholic Education Commission figures revealed exclusively to The Catholic Weekly show the ratio of non-Catholic students to Catholic students for 2003 is 18.1 per cent.
In 1990 it was 9.7 per cent; in 1984 8.6 per cent.
The enrolment of non-Catholic students has risen from 11 per cent to 18.1 per cent in the past 10 years.
Last year there were 42,898 non-Catholic students attending Catholic schools in NSW.
The numbers are rising faster in secondary schools than primary schools.
In 2003 there were 18,964 non-Catholics in Catholic primary schools in NSW, a percentage of 15.2.
In secondary schools there were 23,934 non-Catholics, or 21.4 per cent.
One reason given for the higher ratio in secondary schools is that parents tend to be satisfied with government primary schools but look for an alternative for secondary education.
The enrolment rates of non-Catholic students vary from diocese to diocese.
Armidale has the highest rate of 31.8 per cent, with Broken Bay the lowest at 14.4 per cent.
Schools in the Sydney archdiocese have a non-Catholic enrolment of 15.4 per cent.
Enrolment rates in the other dioceses are: Bathurst 21.3 per cent, Canberra and Goulburn 29.5, Lismore 30.2, Maitland-Newcastle 16.1, Wagga Wagga 19.7, Wilcannia-Forbes 22.6 and Wollongong 15.3.
Bill Walsh, director of school resources for the Catholic Education Commission,
says: “The issue needs to be addressed – it is a big change.
Mr Walsh said some country schools have a non-Catholic ratio of 40 per
cent or higher.
Mr Walsh says the decline of populations is also affecting enrolments
in Catholic schools in rural areas.
Catholic Education Office spokesman Ted Myers says there is continuing debate on the admission of non-Catholic students. “However, the facts are that there are plenty of Catholic students in Catholic schools and we are doing very well,” he says. “But there are pockets and areas of problems and the dioceses and individual schools have to adapt.”