Two sleepy towns to the west of Ballarat could soon become hubs for devout Catholic education in western Victoria after a planning application was lodged with the Golden Plains Shire.
A small group of self-described conservative Catholics are proposing to build a primary school at the existing St Peter’s Presbytery in Linton, with a long-term goal of establishing a secondary campus in nearby Smythesdale.
While the Our Lady of Fatima School would follow the Catholic tradition, it would be independent of the Catholic Education Commission of Victoria.
School steering committee member Damian Meade said “we want the school to stay true to the focus of its constitution without suffering any potential deviations over the course of time” and said “there will be a sense of non-contradiction in our teaching”.
“The school is still in the early stages of planning and so many details still need ironing out.”
He emphasised the school was not breaking away from the Catholic Church.
The group hopes to open the primary campus with about 20 students for the start of the 2020 school year, subject to approvals from council and the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority.
The planning application submitted to council states the campus’ capacity would be no more than 55 students. The school’s focus at both potential campus would be to remain considerably smaller than mainstream Catholic schools.
Mr Meade said families from across Western Victoria had expressed interest in the proposal, many of whom who currently conduct home schooling.
The school’s website states anyone would be able to enroll, however “parents are expected to be trying to live a visibly Catholic life so that the students are given a harmonious message”.
“There is no benefit to students, parents or school if one message is taught at school and another at home,” the website reads.
“There are no new doctrines at our school.”
Catholic Education Ballarat spokesperson Peter Kerwan confirmed the proposed school would receive no funding from the statewide body.