Catholic Primary Schools Navigate Increasing Enrolment Pressure as High Schools Expand to Lower Years

Catholic Primary Schools Navigate Increasing Enrolment Pressure as High Schools Expand to Lower Years

Catholic primary schools are facing a significant challenge as the competition for enrolment spots at prestigious high schools prompts more Queensland high schools to incorporate Year 5 and 6 classes into their offerings. Consequently, primary school cohorts beyond Year 4 are experiencing a notable decline, including St Agatha’s Primary School in Clayfield.

Recently, prominent independent secondary schools, including Brisbane Girls Grammar School, have expanded their enrolment options to include Year 5 and 6 classes. It caused many parents unwilling to take the risk of their children losing a spot at their high school of choice to pull their kids out of primary school early, despite having to pay thousands of dollars more in fees.

Looking at these Catholic primary schools’ annual report, the growing trend has led to a significant decline in the number of enrolments beyond Year 4, including St Agatha’s Primary School in Clayfield. The school observed a sharp decline in enrolments, dropping from 53 students in Year 4 in 2021 to just one student in Year 5 the following year. Notably, this decline coincided with neighbouring schools like St Rita’s College introducing Year 5 classes and other schools embracing a coeducational model.

Founded in 1925, St Agatha’s School is a co-ed Catholic Primary School located 6 km from Brisbane GPO, serving 345 students aged 4-12. With 13 class groups, it offers inclusive mixed-ability education. Drawing students mainly from nearby suburbs which are mostly residential, including Clayfield, Hamilton, Nundah and Ascot.

Brisbane Catholic Education, however, is pointing out that despite the trend, more students are still joining their schools overall. This is because more primary schools are now taking in prep students, particularly in the inner-city area where prep class enrollment has experienced a marked increase.
One expert’s analysis noted that when secondary schools expand their offerings, smaller schools are confronted with mounting pressure and challenging choices about their sustainability beyond Year 4.

Also, the notion of an early transition to high school is becoming more and more common among parents who seek reassurance that their children will secure spots in their preferred schools without any uncertainty or missing out. And this is supported by the idea that starting in Year 5 can be beneficial to the child as they go in a more gradual adjustment instead of sudden immersion.

Published 21-August-2023