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Thursday, 2 December 1976

On the 1st October, 1976, 1 was advised by Miss Catherine Duncan, Co-ordinator, Catholic Child Migrant Education, Catholic Education Office, Sydney, that for 1977 our "English as a Second Language" (E.S.L.) teachers were to be reduced in number from three to two. This reduction was caused by a shortage in Government Funding. A copy of Miss Duncan 's letter is attached.

This advice caused me grave concern and I made immediate representations to the Catholic Education Office for a reconsideration of the decision. My request was rejected. A copy of the reply is enclosed.

You will note from the letter that Catholic Schools in N.S.W. are funded for 174 E.S.L. Teachers with a class ratio of 66 students per teacher. It could not be held that this is a satisfactory position.

So great became my concern that, in co-operation with our Parents and Friends' Association and Mothers' Auxiliary, I organised the circulation of a Petition calling on the Federal Government to offer immediate interim financial assistance to Catholic Schools in N.S.W.

Some of these completed petitions have been forwarded to you and I trust you will take the necessary action to present them to the House of Representatives.

Whilst I appreciate that financial resources of the Commonwealth do not come from a "bottomless pit", I firmly believe that value for money can be better achieved by a more careful ordering of priorities for the allocation of funds. Teacher Inservice, innovations, experimentations etc. are far less important than the essential staffing of schools.

The provision of funds to pay the salaries of essential teaching staff should take priority over all educational funding.

Despite Government funding, and for this all at St John's are extremely grateful, our annual deficits for the last three years are as follows:-

1973- $33,863

1974- 564,346

1975- 552,416

I shudder to think of our impending deficit for 1 976.

St John's College is understaffed and ill-equipped in comparison with the average Government School. We function without an Administration Block, operating from two inconveniently placed offices in separate buildings.

The Schools Commission is well aware of our problems.

There are in the school 622 pupils. On a count taken last week, these included 405 students representing 34 different national cultures, 65 per cent of the total school population. They are listed as follows:-

 

The parents of these children, mainly, are non or semiskilled workers and are socially and economically deprived.

I enclose two tables indicating the comparison of reading ages of our pupils compared with their chronological ages. The testing was carried out in mid-year 197S.

With reference to the table, one-third ofthe pupils in the school had reading ages more than two (2) years below their chronological ages. The lower years in the school have a higher percentage of migrants and are in greater need of the help available from ESL teachers handling smaller groups. Unfortunately, I have no figures available on years S and 6, 1975.

My concern is increased by the knowledge that thousands of migrant families live in this area. Our feeder schools, extending from Campsie to Punchbowl, are in areas of high migrant settlement. Indications are that the migrant population in these areas will increase in the year ahead.

At the present time, I am receiving one application per week for enrolment at St John 's for migrant children arriving in Australia.

Our external examination results over the years and this year's gradings on the State-wide Reference Tests have been better than average, due in no small measure to the work of our dedicated staff, to our ESL program and reading schemes, to our organised seminars, to the spirit of study in the school, its good morale etc

A wonderful community spirit exists in the school. There is not the slightest hint of racial problems and all are very proud of what is being achieved.

I am attaching several reports summarising the work done this year, by our ESL teachers.

It is a great pity that a school like ours cannot provide an Industrial Arts Block where slow pupils could get some personal satisfaction and be given a better preparation for life. They cannot enjoy satisfying manual skills such as metalwork, woodwork etc We have not the money to provide these types of rooms and this type of equipment.

I am enclosing a School Information Booklet and last year's Annual Report for your information.

As you well know, Frank, St John's, despite its many disadvantages is highly regarded in the community. Our pupils are often commended on their fine behaviour and manner of dress. We concentrate on the teaching of the three 'R's'- as we must, given the heterogeneous nature of our school population- but we also insist that our pupils learn of the finer things of life. We try to inculcate into every boy good manners, respectfulness and a regard for discipline. We offer them opportunities to engage in healthy outdoor exercise and excursions, and encourage them to participate in many cultural, social, academic and sporting activities.

Our aim at St John's is to allow every boy to make the utmost use of his intellectual and physical attributes.

However, our efforts must continue to be hindered unless we can employ qualified teachers in essential areas and ESL teachers are by far the most important, at this stage, if every boy at St John's is to be given anywhere near equality of educational opportunity. Without ESL groups, our English classes average out at thirty-five (35) pupils per class throughout the school. The provision of three (3) ESL teachers reduces the average number in English classes from year 5 to year 8 to twenty (20) pupils per class.

You can see that I am alarmed at the loss of one ESL teacher from St John's for 1977 and earnestly request you to bring this matter to the attention of the Minister for Education, Senator the Hon. J. L. Carrick. My concern is increased by the fear that 1977 will bring a further reduction in ESL staffing.

Do you think it would be possible for the Deputy Principal and myself to meet with the Minister or one of his senior officers to discuss-

(   1 ) the provision of ESL teachers,

(2)   the granting of special assistance for the provision of an Industrial Arts Block,

(3)   the introduction ofthe teaching of the Arabic language as an elective subject, and

(4)   our need for special assistance as a disadvantaged school.

I shall be pleased to hear from you on this matter.

Yours sincerely, Brother G.LUKE, FSC, ARMIT, MACE, Headmaster







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