The Archdiocese of Sydney is considering opening its own preschools in order to tend to the spiritual development of preschoolers and to help bolster the Catholic school population.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the bishops’ Catholic Education Office commissioned a report on the provision of early childhood education. The report recommended a trial of three preschools on parish or school land.
At the same time, Australia’s bishops released a statement on education, warning that the Catholic school system was at a "crossroads". The identity of the Catholic school system is threatened by falling enrolments of Catholic students and growing numbers of students from different religious backgrounds, they said.
As many as one-in-four students at Catholic schools are not Catholic and up to half of Catholic students attend public high schools, they noted.
The bishops have dismissed suggestions to downsize the Catholic school system and open it only to students and staff who "embrace the mission of the Catholic school".
Instead, they are calling on school leaders to maximize enrollment of Catholic students, particularly those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, to ensure a "critical mass" of Catholic students.
The bishops have also suggested numerous ways to reinforce a school’s Catholic identity: regular participation in Mass and Confession, prayers at assemblies and in class, and displaying student religious artwork. They also suggested promoting the priesthood, religious life and Christian marriage in schools.