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Catholic schools facing crisis of popularity

Sydney's Catholic Education Office is facing increasing numbers of non-Catholics in its schools, with more than 21% in Catholic secondary schools.

Two decades ago, the proportion was just 8%.

Several years ago, the Office identified a preferred ''reasonable proportion" limit as 10% of non-Catholics but even the extensive primary school system now has more than 14%.

Orthodox and other Christian denominations form the majority, but there are now significant numbers of non-Christians in the schools.

More than a quarter of all secondary teachers in the Catholic system are non-Catholic, although a far smaller proportion (6.5% in 2001) of primary teachers said they were not Catholic.

Brian Croke, executive director of the NSW Catholic education commission, said the rising numbers of students from a non-Catholic background ''obviously reflects a growing religious pluralism in Australian society".

''Even if people are not Catholic, they tend to be looking for a school with religious values and are not necessarily other Christians," Mr Croke said.

''They might be religious with a small r, or are simply wanting something more for their kids."

Apart from low fees - typically a senior student in a Catholic systemic school pays annual tuition fees of under $2000 compared with up to $15,000 at one of Sydney's elite private schools - the attraction appears to be the teaching of religious values.

Catholic Education Office Sydney


9 May 2002