Catholic family learning connection

02 August 2021

Many of our earliest social learning experiences and memories serve as a formative introduction and foundation to our ongoing education into adulthood. As we learn by play, imitation and storytelling, supportive partnerships with school networks, including teachers and families, as well as parishes and networks outside school, are important to a well-rounded education.

Partnering with families, as the first educators of their children, is a foundational principle in Catholic education, and in recognition of the invaluable role of the family in the life and education of young people, Catholic schools are celebrating Family Week from 8-14 August. The week coincides with the Feast Day of Australia’s first Catholic Saint, Mary MacKillop, who was a passionate educator and advocate for children and families.

For one-in-five school students in Western Australia, attending a Catholic school affirms the value their families place on an education founded in faith and the principles of Catholic Social Teaching. As the second largest education provider in the State, Catholic schools partner with families to support the learning, wellbeing and development of over 78,000 students.

A heritage of partnership

The rich stories that underpin the heritage of Catholic education in the state resoundingly reflect the value placed on partnerships between families and schools. From the early days when communities worked together to establish Catholic schools right across WA, generations of students have been supported in their education, faith formation and development in thriving Catholic learning communities.

At Mercedes College, Western Australia’s oldest Catholic school, the traditions and values of a Catholic faith-based education have been passed down through four generations.

Second generation Mercedes College student, Moya Hextall, happily recalls her early learning years at the College, “I started school when I was 6, and that would have been in 1949. The sisters taught us all the basic subjects we needed, and they taught us to be respectful of others and to be tolerant. I can see those values in my mother,” she said.

Moya’s daughter, Sonya Roberts, agreed that Mercedes College had been instrumental in their family’s strong sense of integrity, “So much has changed at the college, but the values that would have been here when Grandma and Mum were students are still very much here today,” she said.

“Strong Catholic family values support learning and development of the whole child, instilling a confidence and sense of connection to our schools and parish communities.”

Dr Debra Sayce, Executive Director, CEWA

Vision for Learning

Underpinned by research, recommendations, and the experience of nationally and internationally acclaimed educators, CEWA’s Vision for Learning recognises the vital role parents play as partners in their children’s learning and education, with grandparents and the extended family contributing to this holistic development.

Parents are supported to articulate the Christian values they believe are important to their child’s intellectual, spiritual, physical and social development. A strong home-school partnership founded on shared beliefs and values supports students to find meaning, purpose and compassion within their world as well as being supported to discover their own potential in a supportive and inclusive learning environment.

Also instrumental in supporting students’ development of responsibility, respect, leadership and collaboration is each school’s code of conduct. Codes of conduct at CEWA schools are for the whole school community, and outline how students, staff, parents and visitors are responsible for learning, safety, and respectful relationships between all. In some cases students have been involved in setting out their school’s code, while at other schools students have been able to develop a student-specific code.

The crucial partnership that parents and carers play as first educators in their children’s learning journey will be recognised and celebrated during Family Week.

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