Welcome to Bethlehem Catholic College Ashfield, an outstanding secondary Catholic college located in the culturally diverse Inner West suburb of Ashfield. As the first high school for girls in the area, Bethlehem College has been educating young women in the charism of the Sisters of Charity since 1881. The Charity tradition is reflected in everything we do – in our curriculum, co-curricular activities, prayer and liturgical life of the school, and in the ethos of charity and compassion that form the basis of relationships within the school community.
The college caters for girls in Years 7–12 based upon the belief that single sex education offers significant advantages for both girls and boys who learn differently; especially in the years of early adolescence. We proudly offer a differentiated curriculum with our Newman selective stream for those girls who wish to be challenged. At the same time our Learning Support team is committed to meeting the needs of all students.
Our college vision, “Growing Learners: every student, every teacher, every lesson,” is realised through dynamic teaching and personalised learning giving each girl the opportunity for independent thinking and self-discipline. We want our young women to leave Bethlehem empowered to do their best through the experiences of leadership and social justice alongside diverse curriculum opportunities.
I hope that you find our website informative. If there is anything more you would like to know, please contact us at the college.
The story of Bethlehem College begins not with the opening of the college but with the arrival of the first Sisters of Charity to Australia in 1838.
Bishop Polding requested the foundress of the Sisters of Charity Mary Aikenhead, to send Sisters of Charity from Ireland to help women convicts sent to Australia. The Sisters of Charity were the first religious women seen in Australia.
After a journey of over four months on the Francis Spaight, the five Sisters of Charity arrived in Sydney on the last day of 1838. From January 1839 the Sisters lived at Parramatta and ministered to the many women convicts at the Female Factory.
On 26 January 1881 the Sisters of Charity established a high school in Goswell Cottage, located at what is now 125-127 Elizabeth Street, Ashfield. In 1882, they moved the high school to two cottages in Bland Street and also established a convent there. Original enrolments were low, probably less than twenty. The significance, however, was that this was the first Catholic high school for girls in the Inner Western suburbs. Despite the small enrolments, the Sisters were determined to offer a broad curriculum. There was a strong focus on cultural subjects such as music.
As enrolments grew, the school soon outgrew the original buildings and in 1906 these were replaced by a new school building and an assembly hall. When opening the new buildings, Cardinal Moran recommended the name Bethlehem College. From this time until the late 1950s primary students (including some boys) were also enrolled. In 1914, when there were 200 students and 10 teachers, the school became a registered secondary school under the name Bethlehem Ladies’ College.
The education reforms of the 1960s brought significant change to the school. These changes were embraced by the staff because Bethlehem College had always offered a broad and innovative secondary curriculum. Bethlehem was one of the first girl schools in Sydney to build science laboratories. Enrolments grew rapidly to 726 in 1969. This rapid expansion placed enormous strain on the limited resources and required more classrooms and specialist buildings. Fortunately, the beginnings of government funding helped in the provision of a succession of new buildings and extensions from the 1960s through to the ‘Eora’ technology block of 1992, named after the Aboriginal people of the Ashfield area. Funding also allowed for the employment of many more lay teachers, who gradually assumed more responsibility in the school.
At the end of 1991 the Sisters of Charity ended their 110 years of leadership of the school and, what was then the Catholic Education System Sydney, appointed Mrs Joy Short as the first lay Principal.
137 years on from its foundation, Bethlehem College continues to flourish as an outstanding All Girls Catholic school forming strong K-12 pathways with 16 feeder Catholic schools. It continues to cater for all learners, including the provision of the Newman Selective Stream and a range of HSC pathways. It offers a broad, innovative curriculum and outstanding 21st century learning spaces and recreational areas.
The charism of the Sisters of Charity is to share the love, tenderness and concern of Christ with all whom we meet, seeing Christ in everyone. Both the fourth vow and the charism played a central role in the life of Mary Aikenhead.
The legacy of her spirit and commitment to the poor has inspired generations of Sisters of Charity as well as many lay people. It has also inspired generations of staff and students from the college as they strive to live out the motto of the college “Este Fideles”, which means “Be Faithful”.
Our college motto is “ESTE FIDELES” – “Be Faithful” – and it is an ideal for all of us as we strive to be faithful to God, to ourselves and to each other.
At Bethlehem College we foster confident and independent young women of faith, who are creative and collaborative thinkers, sharing a love of learning and striving for excellence. They are courageous in mind and deed and are global citizens with a genuine concern for others.