Broken Bay launches new inclusive education model at Bishop’s Breakfast

Bishop Anthony Randazzo has launched plans to build a Diocesan-wide Eileen O’Connor Catholic School, creating new options for families who are seeking an education for their children with a disability, at the Bishop’s Breakfast on Friday morning.

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The school will comprise a new campus base school in Tuggerah, as well as a network of support classes strategically located on the Central Coast, Northern Beaches and the North Shore within Catholic Schools Broken Bay (CSBB) sites.

The Bishop’s Breakfast has been held each year since 2022, inviting members of the community, civic leaders and politicians to dialogue about key issues facing the Diocese and wider community. The focus of this year’s event was the launch of the Eileen O’Connor Catholic School.

Fiona Dignan, Senior Executive - Eileen O'Connor School, was the main speaker at the Bishop’s Breakfast and touted the importance of providing a more inclusive model of education, saying students not only needed to be invited to the party, but also “need to be asked to dance”.

She spoke on the importance of integrating students with disabilities into a mainstream environment, through specialised support and educational pathways.

Already, forty-six students with disability are enrolled in Eileen O’Connor Support Classes at St Martin’s Catholic School at Davidson, St Brendan’s Catholic School at Munmorah and Prouille Catholic Primary School at Wahroonga.

Fiona spoke of the success of these pilot programs, inviting Bill Clark, the grandfather of Leo, a student from St Martin’s Catholic School, Davidson, to speak about the impact the program had already had on Leo.

Bill said the stress of trying to find an appropriate educational option for the family had been difficult but that finding the Eileen O’Connor Catholic School program at Davidson had been “an answer to all our prayers”.

In an emotional conclusion to the Bishop’s Breakfast, Bishop Anthony was brought to tears as he spoke passionately about the need for the Diocese to include and educate students with disabilities. He read out a latter from a parent in the Central Coast who had lamented the lack of education options for her son who was living with a disability.

He said he hoped the new Eileen O’Connor Catholic School would ensure every child felt included within both the school community and the Diocese.

“The education and wellbeing of all students at all schools within the Diocese of Broken Bay is a key priority and it is our obligation to respond to the needs of these families,” Bishop Anthony said.

Planning for the state-of-the-art Eileen O’Connor base school, located on the Central Coast, is already in progress.

The Eileen O’Conor Catholic base school will provide extensive specialist facilities accommodating 200 students with a disability. Situated within the St Peter’s Catholic College precinct at Tuggerah, the School is expected to be completed by 2027.

The project, estimated to cost approximately $65 million, will be funded through a combination of CSBB funding, government grants available for education and contributions from generous benefactors.

Application has been made to the NSW Department of Planning and Environment late last year for this project as a State Significant Development with assessments currently underway and further submissions to be made in July.