Catholic education doesn’t have to be beyond the reach of families
No parent should fear financial difficulties when it comes to enrolling or keeping their children in Catholic schools, say education leaders.
With latest research revealing one in four Australians are struggling with the rising cost of living, scores of school families are eligible for fee relief due to financial hardship.
Lessons learnt throughout COVID combined with the current stresses on family budgets has led school communities to take a new approach to fees and offer generous support to parents to stop them making the heartbreaking decision of removing or not sending their children to Catholic schools.
Vowing to “stand by our kids in time of crisis”, school communities are pleading with cash-strapped parents to put faith before finances when deciding on their children’s education.
Acknowledging inflation, interest rate hikes, spiralling grocery prices and soaring energy costs are taking their toll, schools don’t want to be the reason for pushing already cash-strapped parents to the brink.
Broken Bay Catholic Schools, which includes schools from Sydney’s northern beaches up to the Central Coast, said no family would be forced to make the choice because of a lack of financial means.
“VOWING TO ‘STAND BY OUR KIDS IN TIMES OF CRISIS’, SCHOOL COMMUNITIES ARE PLEADING WITH CASH-STRAPPED PARENTS TO PUT FAITH BEFORE FINANCES WHEN DECIDING ON THEIR CHILDREN’S EDUCATION”.
Director Danny Casey said it had clear and compassionate channels for parents to explore before making the difficult decision to pull a child out of one of their schools.
“We stand with our communities in challenging times, we did it twice during COVID and we continue to do it today,” he said.
“We have always had a long standing agreement to make sure no one is forced to make the choice of attending one of our schools because of a lack of financial means.
“Adding to that the lessons we learnt in COVID, we have been able to streamline our approaches to people who have enough worries paying for things like electricity.
“It’s taught us to look through parent’s eyes and how we can respond better when there is a need for help which we find works because it is simple, personalised, tailored and fair and equitable across our communities.
“Obviously we need the fees to help finance our operation but we also want to make sure that people who, for whatever reason, are in difficult circumstances don’t feel that they have to make a choice between their Catholic education for their child.”
Executive Director of Sydney Catholic Schools Tony Farley said it also recognised the financial pressure being felt by families and offered fee relief for families with students enrolled from Kindergarten through to Year 12 who are experiencing financial hardship.
“From their very beginning, our Catholic schools have been open to all Catholics and fee relief is one of the many ways our schools remain faithful to that Christ centred tradition,” he said.
“For 200 years in Australia the Catholic Church has provided a faith based education that is distinctly and unequivocally grounded in the person of Jesus Christ.
“The support we offer includes partial and full bursaries for low-income families as well as short term support for families who find themselves with a sudden or unexpected change in financial circumstances.
“In 2021 we provided 6297 bursaries worth $12.3million. In addition, we provided $15.6 million dollars worth of funding for COVID related fee relief. Sydney Catholic Schools Principals also have the discretion to provide short term fee relief for families who require financial support.”
Adding to the assistance currently on offer is the shift in focus of school Parents and Friends groups, refocusing from a fundraising model to helping those on the margins in the community.
“The support we offer includes partial and full bursaries for low-income families as well as short term support for families who find themselves with a sudden or unexpected change in fnancial circumstances”
President of Our Lady of Good Counsel Primary School Forestville’s P&F Justine Playle said the help for struggling families was at the heart of Catholic social teaching.
“As a parent community, we are extremely grateful for the position the Church has taken supporting families through this difficult time … It really makes us proud to be Catholic,” she said.
“Our Catholic School P&F’s have moved away from fundraising activities that put cost of living stresses on families and now focus on initiatives that support the local community.
“We have moved to support local community charities, such as the women’s shelter at Mother’s Day and Men’s Mental Health at Father’s Day.
“This is part of our Catholic Mission to help one another through difficult times.”