Spotlight on Schools, 1
This is the first in a series of profiles of schools started in the educational tradition of Edmund Rice and his Brothers.
St James College is a small but proud school which has stood unobtrusively on the edge of the inner city area of Brisbane since 1868. Being centrally located, the school attracts students from across Brisbane’s city and suburbs and, traditionally, from those areas which are low on the socio-economic scale. It is a school that has remained both dear to the hearts of the Christian Brothers and faithful to its calling as a Catholic school very much in the Edmund Rice tradition.
A visitor to St James, on walking through the school yard, would be struck by the extraordinary diversity among the students. With a student population of only 435 boys and girls, there are some 40 different countries of origin represented among the student body.
Inclusivity is the benchmark that characterises the unique culture of the school. Students of all abilities find that their needs are catered for regardless of their background or personal circumstances.
Some seventy of our young people are children of refugee families, recent arrivals in the country and hailing from troubled regions in Africa, South America, and South East Asia. These families live on society’s fringes both socially and economically and see in this school a place of welcome and inclusion. As well, over sixty students with verified learning differences attend the College. These students’ families are seeking an environment where their sons and daughters can grow towards independence and personal achievement. Indigenous students also find a place of welcome here, a place where their traditional culture is both valued and acknowledged.
In addition to this, the College works closely with the local Salvation Army Youth Outreach Centre, conducting classes in a small but safe educational environment not far from the main campus for at-risk young people whose troubled lives are lived mainly on the streets. These young people have opted to re-engage with education but for many reasons are unable to attend mainstream school. St James is fortunate to be able to supply teachers to tutor these students in vocational pathways which create a sense of hope and direction in their lives.
International students on study visas also attend the College to complete their secondary education before moving on to university in Australia or overseas.
As a result of the eclectic nature of our student body, educational pathways at the College have been carefully designed to meet the needs of all students including those who are University-bound as well as those who are aiming at moving out into the workforce on completing their studies. Students are able to engage in a broad range of courses, both academic and vocational, as well as having access to school-based traineeships and apprenticeships.
A new initiative at the school has been the establishment of a program to support and encourage some of our more disadvantaged students, many of whom are talented at sport. Known as St James Lighthouse for Athletes and operated in association with the Australian Sports Foundation, it is designed to assist up-and-coming young athletes through the provision of sporting development opportunities, resources, and equipment, to participate competitively at local, state, and national levels.
The College is challenged with a very demanding but extremely rewarding agenda. While we struggle each day to make financial ends meet, the spirit among students and staff and within the College community as a whole is inspirational. Students and their families know that here at St James College they can engage with a community that very much embodies the spirit of Edmund who “opened his whole heart to Christ present and appealing to him in the poor”.
The College’s website is www.stjamescollege.qld.edu.au
Gerry Crooks, Principal
with thanks to Naomi Ritchie, Assistant to the Principal, for supplying photographs
published May 2011