End of year message from Acting Executive Director Dr Debra Sayce

07 December 2017

This is always an exciting time in our Catholic schools with so many activities and events marking the end of a school year.  As our schools right across Western Australia celebrate the achievements and accomplishments of students, it is with a sense of gratitude that I acknowledge the dedication and commitment of staff in Catholic schools who make a visible difference in the lives of our students, families and communities.  I also recognise the leadership of staff in the Perth and regional offices who provide support to each of our 163 schools across Western Australia.

Over the past year, we have witnessed many successes in our schools and across our system.

Catholic Education Western Australia (CEWA) students demonstrated outstanding learning outcomes in this year’s NAPLAN testing, with improvements shown in a majority of domains, across all year levels. Of particular note, CEWA Year Nines demonstrated improved performance across all assessments from 2016 to 2017, a very promising result for this cohort of students! 2017 was the second year that CEWA’s online Bishops’ Religious Literacy Assessment was implemented in Years Three, Five and Nine, and was expanded to schools in remote areas of the Broome Diocese for the first time as a trial. Online marking was also introduced for staff for the first time. Like NAPLAN, students in Year Nine did particularly well, with significant improvement demonstrated compared to 2016.

We have seen our schools, students and graduates recognised for their achievement in areas including young women’s leadership, reconciliation, environmental stewardship, the arts, and academic and sporting excellence. CEWA principals and educators have also been recognised with awards for their contribution to their students’ learning, and education more broadly.

Our LEADing Lights digital transformation, which began in 2016, continued to change the way we think about and deliver education through 2017. Schools began to transition to the cloud based CEWA 365 platform, making use of collaborative tools and connectivity that have not been available before. This initiative could not have happened without the vision and tenacity of Dr Tim McDonald.

There was extensive debate and discussion around changes to funding arrangements announced earlier in the year by the commonwealth government, including many questions around how Catholic education systems around Australia would fare in relation to state and independent schools, and what the implications for affordability would be.  Throughout the year, we worked to build stronger communications with legislators, key educational leaders, community leaders and others to advocate for legislation in support of sustainable funding for schools.  As the implications of the government’s funding model became evident, there has been increased focus on school fees and the ability for families to afford a Catholic education.

Affordability has long been, and continues to be, a priority for CEWA – the Bishop’s Mandate requires Catholic schools to be open to all parents who seek a Catholic education for their children, as far as resources allow. To this end, since 2005, the Catholic Education Commission of Western Australia (CECWA) has provided fee assistance to the families of more than 10,000 students through the Health Care Card Discount Scheme.  As financial burdens continue to impact on families seeking a Catholic education, CECWA this year approved changes to the scheme to further extend support for families in need.  As a system, access to Catholic education will continue to be a priority and we will continue to focus on minimising fees wherever possible.

Affordability is not the only way in which Catholic schools serve those who are marginalised in our communities. Through Curriculum and ReEngagement (CARE) schools, CEWA is seeking to provide a welcoming, inclusive and excellent education to children and young people whose learning and development needs have not been met through mainstream education. We have also continued to work on increasing engagement of families and students in our identified priority area of early years education and care. The Aboriginal Families as First Educators (AFAFE) program is growing with 14 playgroups across the state, and Kindergarten is now provided at 134 locations, with many of our schools offering 3-year-old programs and outside school hours care (OSHC). CEWA operates three day care centres, while the Holy Name early years centre provides a range of OHSC services, early year education, and full-day and school holiday care.

Our schools continue to play an important role in involving students and families in parish life. There are countless opportunities and examples where schools and parish have worked closely in the faith formation of our young people and staff. We thank our parish priests and chaplains who provide wonderful sacramental support to our schools. In particular their support enables our school to be Eucharistic communities, centred on Jesus.

Ours is an exceptional education system operating in exceptional times. Throughout a period of profound economic and social change, Catholic education has been steadfast in our dedication to the students, staff and communities we serve.  We have worked hard, and we have worked hard together, to ensure that our students are improving in their learning, that we are tending to their wellbeing, that student achievement improves and that the faith of our communities grows richer and stronger.

As we consider the many challenges facing our communities across Western Australia, we will continue to build upon our commitment to providing learning communities that are safe, caring, inclusive and respectful.   We can point to numerous examples of how our students and staff have focused on building school cultures where our purpose as Catholic schools comes alive – from school liturgies to our social justice initiatives, pilgrimages and mission experiences, and our effort to engage with and positively impact our local communities.  All of these are evidence of our daily commitment to reflect and deepen our purpose as a Catholic school system.

In these final weeks of the 2017 school year, I extend to each member of the Catholic Education Western Australia community my gratitude for the contribution you make to the faith formation and education of all our students. May the blessings and joy of Christ’s birth be with you all this Christmas.

I close with the scriptural verse from Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”.

Yours sincerely

Dr Debra Sayce

 

 

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