It seems more and more Illawarra parents are choosing to send their children to Catholic schools.
Over the last decade Catholic schools in the Diocese of Wollongong experienced a 17 per cent increase in students.
Student enrolments in 2021 increased by 1.8 per cent over last year's figures.
Academic opportunities, individual learning support and the high quality of teaching and pastoral care are among the top reasons families are choosing Catholic schools, according to a recent survey of parents and students conducted by Catholic Education Diocese of Wollongong.
Diocese of Wollongong Director of Schools, Peter Hill, said the growth in enrolments is in part because Catholic schools understand parents expect more than just academic results.
"We hear time and again from parents and carers that they value so much more than what is recorded on a report card," he said. "While the academic growth of students is always the focus of our schools, as Catholic educators we know for students to thrive their mental, emotional, physical and spiritual wellbeing must be prioritised."
For Shellharbour parents, Matthew and Shayni Smith, it was the emphasis on respect and pastoral care offered by Catholic schools that made the choice of where to enrol their children easy.
"My husband is Catholic, but I'm not," Mrs Smith said. "We just wanted a positive family-friendly school where our kids would be happy and well supported."
For the Smiths - who have children at Stella Maris Catholic Primary School, Shellharbour and Corpus Christi Catholic High School, Oak Flats - the benefits of Catholic schools became most apparent after one of their children spent a year at a school outside the Catholic system.
"All five of our children attended Stella Maris and had a great experience," Mrs Smith said. "Our eldest child went on to Corpus Christi, but it wasn't until one of our children attended a non-Catholic high school that we realised there was a really big difference in the quality of the school experience.
"We've since moved him to Corpus Christi and he is thriving."
Corpus Christi Catholic High School principal Robert Muscat said enrolment applications for Year 7 2022 have significantly exceeded the 210 places on offer.
"Parents hear that Catholic schools will offer a place where their children will learn how to be compassionate, empathetic, and develop the necessary mindset to be good citizens. They want their children to be part of a bigger community where they are loved and valued," Mr Muscat said.
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