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Vic Catholic schools looking into students' pastoral needs

A report commissioned by Victoria's Catholic Education Commission has found that students and their parents bring a wide range of problems to school, including marriage break up, mental illness and disruptive class behaviour.

The report, The Welfare Needs of Victorian Catholic Schools, reveals that teachers have never been under more pressure. It suggests that increasing demands imposed by a changing society have forced teachers to go beyond the traditional role, acting not only as educational mentors, but dealing with a growing number of welfare issues both in and out of the classroom.

The Australian newspaper today outlines a number of findings from the report, which is the first Australian study to document the problems associated with family breakdown, poverty and mental illness on principals and teachers.

It found that students and their parents brought a wide range of problems to school, including marriage break up, mental illness and disruptive class behaviour.

"The reason we commissioned the research was that anecdotally the principals were saying that things were getting much worse," said Susan Pascoe, executive director of the Catholic Education Commission of Victoria.

"Two key issues kept coming to the fore. One was that the poorer families couldn't afford Catholic schools and the other was that there was a rising tide of welfare issues that schools were dealing with that were really causing undue strain."

Ms Pascoe said previous research commissioned by Monash University into the affordability of Catholic schools had confirmed the view of principals that poorer families were struggling to afford Catholic school fees.

She said the changing nature of society, as well as those who identified as Catholic, had changed the nature of Catholic schools.

"Twenty years ago, most Catholics went to Mass on a regular basis, but it's down to 15 per cent now," Ms Pascoe said. "So, whereas in the past they might have taken an issue to the parish priest - for example marriage breakdown - they're now more likely to take it to the principal."

Principals who play pastor (The Australian 31/5/04)

Catholic Education Commission of Victoria | Text of Report | Media Briefing

New private schools funding deal (The Age 31/5/04)
Newcastle Catholic schools open despite strike (ABC 28/5/04)

31 May 2004