Listen to a parent with a child at St Bede’s Red Hill and you’ll quickly understand why they rallied together to secure the school’s future.
Early last year they feared the school would close. A Catholic Education Office audit had deemed it financially unviable past 2025/26, so it wasn’t worth keeping its doors open.
What followed was an incredible rallying of school spirit.
Parents Aaron Torline, Jen Maher, Megan Edwards and Sarah Crewdson remembered those frantic months following the school announcement.
“We just told our kids it wasn’t closing, I told them not to worry,” Aaron said.
“We weren’t going to let it happen … and I don’t think they realised what they were in for,” Jen chimed in.
“Oh, we weren’t going down without a fight,” Sarah said.
Jen used her connections as the school’s P&F president, while a call to arms went out on social media and through WhatsApp groups.
They also reached out to the media to stress to Catholic Education that the school was more than a place of education.
“As a smaller school, you could see your child’s whole journey ahead of them, and to think that wouldn’t be your kids’ experience was tough for everyone,” Megan said.
Sarah had made so many friends, she couldn’t imagine going through it all again at another school.
“We all have such an attachment to coming here each morning, dropping off our kids, seeing friends … it’s like my home.”
Aaron said news of the closure created an urgency to promote it. “And I don’t see that leaving,” he said.
Thanks to their fierce campaigning, the school’s enrolments have been steadily growing and Catholic Education has shelved plans to close it.
The parents have now become more confident in tooting their school’s horn.
And Catholic Education has responded by making improvements and helping them grow.
All classrooms have been refurbished with heaters fitted in the corridors, offices given a facelift, and works on external facades and other features in the pipeline.
The school has grown from 161 students at the start of this year to 172 in August. The school has also added a second kindergarten and Year 2 class in 2022. It’s projected to increase to 200 students for 2023.
The parents also credited new principal Andrew Casey for the school’s bright direction.
“The parents are such a driven bunch of people,” Mr Casey said. “I don’t know where they got the energy and motivation from, but they rallied really, really hard.
“Thank goodness it’s staying open.”
He now looks forward to the challenge of growing and improving the school.
“We want to offer something for everyone, we want kids to feel like they belong here and be on a path of continuous improvement.”
That vision appears to be rubbing off on students.
“Our school is unique,” school captain Liz said. “It’s small but it’s a second family you can always rely on.”
House captain Josie loves the support of teachers. “They always make sure everyone is happy and get to play together.”
Fellow house captain Mila said she was glad she didn’t have to change schools because it meant she could still experience leadership opportunities.
Catholic Education acting director Dr Tony Bracken described St Bede’s as a “much-loved school” which would remain open indefinitely.
He said physical improvements at the school were matched by changes to teaching practices.
Dr Bracken credited Mr Casey and St Bede’s “passionate and dedicated” parents for keeping the school heading in the right direction.
“The parents have been outstanding champions by spreading the word about the unique qualities at St Bede’s and how special it is for their families,” he said.
“I’m delighted the school will next year celebrate 60 years of wonderful service in our community.”
Former principal and now relief teacher, Julia Douglas, described the school as a “hidden gem”.
“It just shows the power of a strong school community can overcome big decisions made about its future,” Ms Douglas said.
“It’s hard to explain but it doesn’t matter who comes here, the place embraces everybody.”