Emotional reactions as Catholic school closures hit parents hard

Emotional reactions as Catholic school closures hit parents hard

Parents gathered at St John's Primary School in Clifton Hill to express their grief and anger as they grappled with the announcement of school closures by Melbourne Archdiocese Catholic Schools (MACS). The closure of four primary schools, including St John's, has left families emotional and questioning the process.

"It’s a family to me,” Lisa Gau, a mother-of-four, told The Age. “It’s a community, it’s the best thing for me and my kids. It’s the best thing that happened to me. And I don’t want to lose it. If I lose it, I lose my family."

Parents came together at the more than a century-old St John's Primary School to support each other in the face of closure.

The schools facing closure are St Bridget’s Catholic Primary School, St John’s Primary School, St Joseph’s Primary School, and St Mary Magdalen’s Parish School.

MACS executive director Dr Edward Simons assured that the organization was committed to assisting students, staff, and families during the transition.

The decision to close these schools followed a review process that began in May. Schools with fewer than 150 students underwent assessments based on enrolment prospects, financial and educational performance, and willingness of enrolled families to consider alternatives.

However, parents of St John's are disputing the MACS process, believing that consultation was insincere. They contend that the school met four out of five criteria, including financial viability.

One parent, Emma Pullen, highlighted the school's strong projections for prospective students, based on upcoming apartment developments and a community-led marketing campaign.

“The plan was strong – solid with urban planning, demographics and marketing,” she said. “We are financially viable; we are a self-sufficient school – they closed us anyway. They closed all the schools in the viability review.”

“MACS have left their Catholic values at the door,” Pullen said, as quoted in The Age.

David Brear, general secretary of the Independent Education Union, assured that their representatives were present in all four schools to provide support to their staff.

“We want to make sure that every effort is made by employers to accommodate those who wish to be redeployed in other local Catholic schools, and that the preferences and circumstances of every individual are properly considered,” Brear said.

Despite the closures, Dr Simons said that the demand for Catholic education is growing in Melbourne's northern and western regions. He assured that MACS would aid families and staff during the transition. MACS plans to open seven new schools in identified growth areas over the next three years.

Dr Simons noted the presence of five Catholic schools near St John's Primary, offering around 300 available spots. These schools are prepared to welcome new students into their communities. He assured that there would be no layoffs and that options for staff redeployment were available.

“All alternative options were explored before making the difficult decision that it is no longer sustainable to operate these four schools beyond this year,” the MACS director said.