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  • Beyond “Journeying Together” 

    Towards a new plan for Catholic education in the Diocese of Sale 

    2011 – 2013

    August 2010

    Catholic Education in the Diocese of Sale has developed well in recent years, following the direction set out in the visionary five year strategic plan Catholic Schools Journeying Together, 2004-2008.   It is pleasing to acknowledge the significant role played by the previous Director of Catholic Education in the diocese,  Dr Therese D’Orsa and the Bishop of the day,  Most Reverend Jeremiah Coffey.  Under the leadership of these two fine educators, the plan was developed and implemented, providing us with a very sound footing on which to base our future.  That plan actually expired in 2008, but we have waited until our new Bishop had taken office and established his directions before we began to develop its successor. That time is with us now to develop a new plan for Catholic education in the Diocese of Sale.

    Bishop Christopher Prowse’s pastoral letter, “Finding Home in Jesus” establishes a platform on which Catholic education in the diocese can build its own new strategic directions, directions that will be rooted in the forthcoming Diocesan Pastoral Plan, yet addressing the specific issues facing Catholic education in coming years.

    The Catholic school is “a place of ecclesial experience” called to “take its stand within the organic pastoral work of the Christian community” (The Catholic Church at the Threshold of the Third Millennium, #12)   Thus schools resonate with  Bishop Prowse’s desire that the Catholic Church in Sale rise to its fundamental role of evangelisation.  Our Catholic schools provide a perfect opportunity to respond to the Bishop’s reminder that we are called to evangelise not only our active Catholic community, but also those who are no longer Christian and those who have never been Christian.  Our schools, situated in the market-place of education, are uniquely placed to speak to all people. We need to respond in our planning and in our practice to the needs of all three. The new plan we develop will need to recognise and acknowledge all these factors and many more. 

    Our context

    We are in a challenging time for education and for Catholic education in particular.  Highly interventionist government policies are changing the landscape frequently and significantly, meaning that we will need to be strong in our identity and clear in our planning and purpose. At the same time, it is incumbent on us to acknowledge the role we play in society as well as our accountability to government for funding received.  Such a multi-faceted approach sits comfortably with Church teaching which reminds us that “the school cannot be considered separately from other educational institutions and administered as an entity apart, but must be related to the world of politics, economy, culture and society as a whole.”  (The Catholic School on the Threshold of the Third Millennium, #16).

    It goes without saying that funding pressures on schools remain a reality.  Just as significantly, however, our schools are dealing with the challenge of defining their position in an increasingly securlarised society.  Any future planning will need to acknowledge all these issues.   

    Students will be the focus

    The focus of that plan will be on the reason that schools exist, namely the students. It will be a constant reminder that school improvement, while critically important, is not an end in itself. A school seeks to improve so that it can better fulfil its core mission to educate young people.  Our plan will be built on three pillars that identify the three core purposes of the Catholic school along with two underpinning foundations without which no school or system can be effective. 

    Those three pillars, the core purposes we have as Catholic schools, are: 

    1. To bring every student to a knowledge and love of God as revealed in Jesus Christ and mediated to us through the Catholic Church.  For simplicity sake we label this our faith purpose
    2. To enable every student to learn to their full potential so that they can lead fulfilling lives and contribute positively to the development of a healthy and just society.  We label this our learning purpose
    3. To enable every student to thrive in an environment that enhances their social and emotional growth. We label this our growth purpose.

    These three, faith, learning and growth are our core purposes. They focus, not on the school, but on the student, reflecting the Church’s teaching that the goal of the Catholic school is the development of the human person.  At the same time, they provide a solid foundation for us to integrate faith and culture and faith and life as we are called by the Church to do. 

    Underpinning these core purposes are two foundations, which are critical, though not ends in themselves.  Rather they support and serve our three defined pillars.  Thus, consideration of them, while important, will give rise to a set of goals and strategies that are really secondary to those centred on our students.

    Those secondary elements, supporting our three pillars, are: 

    1. Developing sound stewardship, ensuring that schools and resources are well managed and
    2. Building the capacity for visionary leadership throughout the entire organisation of system and school 

    These three pillars and the two underpinning foundations are the framework around which our new plan will be developed.  It is, essentially, a model, and no model can fully express complex reality. The three pillars do not stand separate.  There are many elements of the work of Catholic schools that see them touching, intersecting. There must always be a healthy interplay between them. 

    Over coming weeks, we will be seeking to identify and articulate the principal issues to be addressed within and between those pillars and their foundations.  Identification of those issues will lead, in turn, to the development of aspirational, but, at the same time, realistic goals towards which we can move. 

    We are in dynamic times.  Our plan needs to be flexible enough to accommodate the unexpected and yet sufficiently structured to provide a sense of coherence and strategic direction.  It is very clear that the unexpected, mainly deriving from very active and unpredicted government policy developments, became the norm in the implementation of our previous plan!  At the same time, however, we cannot afford simply to dissipate our efforts in unplanned ways. It calls for a delicate balancing act. 

    This is an exciting opportunity for us as Catholic educators, as people committed to Catholic Education to make a difference to our society and to the lives of the young for whom we have responsibility.