New schools to build community

Two new Sydney Catholic schools will open in 2017. Meet the people who will be at the heart of each as they grow.

Lea De Angelis Lea De Angelis – St Anthony of Padua Catholic School Austral

Families are invited to help create the St Anthony’s school community from the ground up, a nod to Austral’s rich agricultural history and newness. It will start with Kindergarten and grow to include students in Preschool to Year 12.

Foundation principal Lea De Angelis said the post had been her dream since talk first began of building a new Catholic school in Sydney’s burgeoning south west. She leaves the principal’s role at St Luke’s Catholic Primary Revesby to take up the post.

“In a new school, building the community is the most important thing because nothing exists,” Mrs De Angelis said. “At St Anthony’s at Austral we don’t have a story yet. The opportunity to create that story from the beginning as a community is such a gift.”

The vision for the school includes a market garden to connect students to their environment and area history, and flexible learning spaces that nurture students’ curiosity.

“We want our students to be connected to their community and to their parish, but also globally connected,” Mrs De Angelis said. “We want these children to be creative and to be critical thinkers – to have the foundational elements of education, literacy and numeracy, down very firmly but also give them a voice in their learning.  We want to nurture that spark and natural curiosity that you see in a three-year-old, and for them to be life-long learners.

“As a Catholic school faith development is important, and provides us with our basic values and ideals.” Mrs De Angelis said it was hoped produce from the market garden would be used in the school canteen and café planned for a gathering hub.

“I’d like us to be a school where people can see and sense what we have as a community and think ‘I want to be part of that’. That requires a bit of work on our part, but that is what is exciting. As a principal at an established school you don’t often get the chance to do that. That whole sense of doing something that is different and really new is very energising.”

Mandy WestgateMandy Westgate – St Patrick’s Catholic Primary Mortlake

The original St Patrick’s Primary School in Mortlake opened in 1895 to educate the children of the nearby gasworks’ many Irish Catholic employees, and closed in 1959.  A ‘Lamington Land’ bakery was most recently on the school site, which will become a place of learning once more when Kindergarten students start in January 2017.

Foundation principal Mandy Westgate grew up in the suburb and credits the St Patrick’s parish with forming her faith. She comes to the community from St Kevin’s Catholic Primary Eastwood, where she has been principal for the past six years.

“The whole idea of creating a new school is naturally enough an exciting challenge, and the thought of giving back to a community that helped to shape me was the most motivating part,” she said.

“It is a beautiful area and I can see a community school that has the opportunity to be so vibrant and special.”

Mrs Westgate became familiar with the remerging school’s namesake, St Patrick, and his strong sense of justice and reflection on a pilgrimage to Ireland in September. She said the parent community would have the opportunity to share their views and help shape how the school grows.

“They will come into the school with hopes and dreams and I’m sure between us all that we will be able to create a vibrant future for these children and grow them into discerning young adults,” Mrs Westgate said.  “A lot of our vision is about how we are going to empower these children to be hope-filled, faith-filled students moving into what is very much an evolving future. It will be a village school in a global world, and we need to make sure that we have that balance so that these children can be happy and safe and thrive.

“Innovative learning spaces will be a key feature of the school, and relevant teaching that is going to spark their curiosity and help them to be independent.

“The little ones have so much enthusiasm and a sense of wonder. It will be very exciting to have a group of children who will be young leaders of the school at the age of five.”


Schools embracing change in 2016:

LaSalle Catholic College Bankstown

Girls will join Year 7 at LaSalle Catholic College Bankstown for the first time next year. Principal Michael Egan said parents, staff and students welcomed the change at what is now a school for boys in Years 7 to 12. He said the existing facilities and larger school population would allow the school to offer electives including dance, drama, technology and more programs for gifted and talented students. “We’re looking very closely at expanding the program we have,” Mr Egan said.  “Students are looking forward to their siblings and family members joining them at the school.”

Marist Catholic College Penshurst

The College morphed from Years 7 to 10 boys’ school to co-educational college when it enrolled boys in Year 11 and 51 girls in Year 7 for the first time. It will welcome an equal number of boys and girls to the grade in 2016 and a new principal, Ray Martin. The College saw the highest enrolment demand for boys in 15 years after the decision to become a Year 7 to 12 school. The enrolment changes were supported by development. A $6 million middle school section for Year 7 students opened in February, with a new multi-purpose centre for science and design and technology subjects including textiles.


All Saints Catholic College Liverpool

All Saints’ newly merged girls and boys colleges will maintain single-sex classes for core subjects including Mathematics, English, Science, and History, and make all elective subjects coeducational in 2016. The colleges previously shared a canteen and library. Music, Art and Technology electives already run successfully in co-educational form. Principal Stephen Gough said the unique lesson plan will allow students in Years 7 to 10 the best of both worlds. “This new approach is all about opportunities for students to deepen their learning,” he said.


Eileen O’Connor Catholic College Lewisham

The Sydney Archdiocese’s first Catholic secondary school for students with moderate intellectual disabilities and complex learning needs will open in January with about 20 students in Years 7 and 8. It will grow to take students up to Year 12. Future plans include a primary school for students from Kindergarten to Year 6 and an early intervention centre on site. Principal Dr Ian Jackson said students will follow the Board of Studies Teaching and Educational Standards (BOSTES) Stage 4 Life Skills curriculum, and have access to speech and occupational therapies, targeted transition and vocational education to grow their skills, confidence and social capacity. “We’re here to provide holistic support for our students,” he said.

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