Victoria’s newest independent classical school, Our Lady of Fatima Classical School, has moved one step closer to becoming a reality as the Golden Plains Shire Council has issued a Notice of Decision on 25 June to grant a planning permit.
The school is currently awaiting approval from the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority for registration.
An initiative of the Ballarat Frassati Group, a community of Catholic families and educators, the school will be based at Linton, a gold mining town 35km west of Ballarat. It will be housed in the historic Linton Catholic Presbytery, which is being repurposed for the school. And it already has 14 pre-enrolled students.
“We have the capacity to teach up to 50 students on the existing premises and expect to fill these positions by 2024”, said the School’s Chair of the Board, Vincent Sully.
Subject to approval, the school will open in 2020 and teach pre-primary to Year 6, with plans to offer up to Year 12 by 2030. The school’s curriculum will be based on the current Australian Curriculum, but taught through the framework of the Trivium, as inspired by Dorothy Sayers in her influential essay The Lost Tools of Learning.
“The Trivium model provides a holistic approach that invites the students to lead a virtuous life in truth, goodness and beauty”, said Mr Sully.
The Trivium is a style of learning which stretches back to classical antiquity and named after three (trivia) basic ways to approach a subject — grammar, logic and rhetoric.
The three disciplines roughly match child developmental psychology with grammar (asking the ‘what’ of a subject) in early primary, logic (which focusses on the ‘why’) in late and early secondary and rhetoric (which looks at the ‘how’) in later secondary.
Although an independent school, Our Lady of Fatima Classical School will operate with a Catholic ethos and teaching, and has made plans to integrate the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd into its framework.
While the school does not fall under the jurisdiction of the Catholic Education Office, OLFCS Secretary, Damian Meade, says “a strong spirit of co-operation exists between our school, Bishop Paul Bird CSsR and the Ballarat CEO, for which we are very grateful”.
Parents of three, Andy and Angela Devereux, are moving from Melbourne to Ballarat to send their children to the school.
“While we have enjoyed our time living in Melbourne, a provincial move with more affordable housing and a new independent school reflecting our values is something to really consider”, Mr Devereux said.
Simone Casanova, whose children will commence with the school in 2020, says that the school “has much to offer a family like us.”
“Programs such as the Catechesis of The Good Shepherd will reinforce what we teach at home, which respects our role as the first educators of our children.”
The opportunity for the children to learn skills in sacred music is really attractive as well,” she said. The school has choral scholarships for children interested in learning the art of sacred music.
To date, the Ballarat Frassati Group has raised $20,000 to cover the costs of repurposing the presbytery. They hope to raise a further $95,000 by November to complete the repairs, including installation of ramps for special needs access, interior painting, carpeting and flooring.
“We have made a very promising start towards our fundraising needs”, said Damian. A small but distinct movement towards classical independent Catholic schools is developing in Victoria.
In June, a group of teachers based near St Monica’s, Epping, announced their plans to establish their own classical school focussing on the ‘great books’ and the ‘trivium’, with plans to start in 2021.
The Pared Foundation school, Harkaway Hills, in Victoria’s east, continues to grow a year level each year. And a fourth Catholic classical school is being planned in Melbourne’s inner south east, and is awaiting approval.