MORE than 147,000 students started a new school year in Catholic schools across Queensland this week, with special thoughts and prayers for students at two new Brisbane Catholic Education schools.
Buzzing with the excitement of a new school, teachers at St Clare’s Primary School, Yarrabilba, and McAuley College, Beaudesert, eased students into school life while nervous parents received tea and tissues from supportive staff.
They joined more than 72,000 students who returned or began at BCE’s 137 other schools and colleges across south-east Queensland from the Gold Coast, north to Childers and west to Kingaroy.
St Clare’s principal Chris Thomas said it was exciting to finally welcome the first students and their parents to the school.
“I am very proud of what we’ve achieved as a team here at St Clare’s,” he said.
“The culture we are building will focus on being inclusive, welcoming and supportive of our community.
“What everyone has done to get to this point has been amazing to witness.
“We’ve opened with 116 students from Prep to Year 4 and this has definitely been a highlight of my career so far.”
At McAuley College, 40 students from Beaudesert, Boonah and Canungra started Year 7.
Principal Deidre Young said the new college would provide more choices locally for secondary education and was well supported with staffing and facilities.
“We have a fantastic student-to-teacher ratio which provides a great pastoral care system for the children attending McAuley,” she said.
The initial intake of 40 students was expected to swell to 800 once the college reached full capacity in 2022.
BCE executive director Pam Betts congratulated foundation staff at the two new schools and wished them “every blessing as their story began”.
Ms Betts said her thoughts were also with the Prep students who began their journey with us, and equally with those students in Year 12 who were nearing the end of their Catholic education journey.
“My hope is that every learner is personally enriched by their experiences in our schools,” she said.
She also extended a welcome to the parents of students.
Queensland Catholic Education Commission executive director Dr Lee-Anne Perry said she expected there would be a great deal of excitement and perhaps a few tears as about 11,000 Prep students made their first forays into school life at Catholic schools across the state – from Thursday Island in the north to Currumbin on the Gold Coast and west to Mount Isa and Quilpie.
“It’s always wonderful to see our youngest students setting out on their school journey in the caring, stimulating and supportive environment that Catholic schools offer,” she said.
“There will probably be a bit less trepidation but still a few nerves for more than 10,500 students entering the high school years in Year 7.”
Dr Perry said the 19,000 staff who worked in Queensland Catholic schools were integral to ensuring students were able to ease into the new school year and continue to develop academically and socially in the school environment.
“Our teachers and school staff value every student in our care and they do a fantastic job in making sure young people have challenging and engaging learning experiences, and gain the skills they need to build meaningful lives and contribute to the community,” she said.
“The strong partnerships between parents, school and the community are a hallmark of our schools and we look forward to reconnecting with parents and local communities as the school year gets underway.”
Dr Perry said education would be in the spotlight in 2017 as the funding arrangements continued to be discussed.
“We are fortunate in Queensland to have a very effective education system that gives families a wide choice of education options so they can choose what best suits their needs,” she said.
“QCEC looks forward to continuing to work with all levels of government to ensure that families continue to have that choice.”