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'Non-Catholic cap' threatening Catholic school viability

Enrolments at Catholic schools could fall by 10% and the viability of some could be threatened if a cap on non-Catholic students is enforced, according to a Catholic education chief.

The Age reports that a 7% limit is placed on non-Catholic students, but on average more than double that number attended Catholic schools last year.

The non-Catholic ceiling is being examined under a Melbourne Catholic Education Office review of its enrolment policy, prompted in part by concerns over the decreasing percentage of enrolments by Catholics.

In a consultation paper, the office says Catholic schools are publicly accountable for the funding they receive from state and federal governments, which comprises 73% of their income.

"A commitment to the Catholic identity of the school is assumed," the paper says. "If the level of non-Catholic enrolments threatens that Catholic identity, there may well be implications for levels of government funding."

Catholic Education Office director Susan Pascoe (pictured) said enforcement of the cap could lead to a 10% drop in student numbers, or a loss of about 13,500 students in the Melbourne archdiocese.

But rather than enforcement, she said it was more likely that schools would be asked to demonstrate how they were increasing their percentage of Catholic students.

The review will consider whether the Catholic Church has a responsibility to provide a Catholic secondary education for non-Catholic students if it accepts them into Catholic primary schools. A section specifying parents' responsibilities has also been proposed.

There are 135,000 students at about 330 Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Melbourne, which covers most Catholic schools in the state. The deadline for submissions to the review is 2 May.

Catholic school policy warning (The Age 8/4/05)

8 Apr 2005