There is a prayer often said to reflect the ministry of Saint Oscar Romero and the deep commitment he had to Christ and the people he was called to serve. It is titled Prophets of a Future Not Our Own, and it opens with the line: “It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.”
In that spirit, and as the end of the year draws near, I wanted to take this opportunity to do two things: to look back at all we have accomplished this year, and to look forward to what’s next.
The year that was
In the last 12 months:
- We received by decree the foundational document, Bearers of Christ’s Love: Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Wollongong—the first articulation of the purpose of Catholic schools by a bishop in this diocese in approximately 50 years.
- This strategic plan, Lighting The Way, has been opened more than 92,000 times by more than 4,000 different people. Its focus areas, outcomes, and improvement indicators have gradually become part of our language and conversations around planning and improvement.
- We launched our official Continuous Catholic School Improvement Framework, and every school has engaged in high quality strategic planning, aligned to the School Improvement Tool and focused on realising faith, learning and wellbeing outcomes for our students.
- We have started the process of recording school improvement plans and Catholic Education Office (CEO) projects in ClickUp—a shared digital platform that will provide us with unprecedented levels of visibility and the opportunity to be more connected and coordinated than ever before.
- Every member of our refocused CEO leadership team has been appointed, enabling us to continue to improve and deliver our services to schools in a more responsive, tailored and strategically aligned way.
- We have made progress on a range of other important matters—from implementing the new K-2 curriculum, introducing online enrolment, delivering $40 million on capital improvements for schools, and seeing our system grow by more than 420 students.
Most importantly, we continued to keep the main thing the main thing: working every day to help the more than 20,000 children and young people in our 38 Catholic schools achieve their academic best, grow in their faith and encounter Christ, and develop their whole selves as responsible citizens and lifelong learners.
Looking ahead to 2024 and beyond
Given the challenges we have confronted this year we should be proud of what we have achieved—but just as we believe in the potential of every student to continually improve and grow, we must believe the same for ourselves.
This brings me to next year. After a comprehensive planning process that drew on our available data and input from staff through the Employee Engagement Survey, the Principals Reference Group and other forums, we have identified three major strategic objectives that will focus our attention in the CEO for at least the next 12 months.
These objectives and key results are focused on one thing: creating the conditions for everyone working in schools to drive improvement, with enough time, resources and support to achieve lasting results for our students and school communities.
We know the best way to realise the outcomes linked to our five strategic focus areas is for schools to have the space and support to focus on the core work of running schools, and improving student faith, learning and wellbeing growth through Continuous Catholic School Improvement (CCSI). It’s the role of the CEO to support school improvement agendas, to ensure system risks and compliance matters are addressed, and to continuously improve the services we provide.
Improving student outcomes through 'connected autonomy'
This strategic approach we have decided on is summed up in the phrase ‘Connected Autonomy’. Essentially, it’s about respecting the autonomy and individuality of every school—and recognising the inherent strength in that—while enhancing and enabling connection between each of our schools, as well as between schools and the Catholic Education Office.
When connected autonomy is achieved, we can truly say “we” are Catholic Education Diocese of Wollongong. Not this school or that school. Not the CEO. We. All of us. Together. And we’re here to see every student grow in faith and improve in their learning—wherever they happen to go to school each day.
I am truly grateful to each and every teacher and school leader, all of our dedicated support staff in schools and the CEO, and all of our many partners—from parish priests to parents, pastoral works of the diocese, and our fellow Catholic educators across NSW and Australia. The collective passion and belief we have in the liberating power of Catholic education means our students have the opportunity to achieve their absolute best, whatever their story and circumstances. I feel very fortunate to be a part of this community and I look forward to continuing to light the way together in 2024.
Director of Schools
1 Fullan, M., Spillane, B., & Fullan, B. (2022). Editorial: Commentary: connected autonomy. Journal of Professional Capital and Community, 7(4), 329–333.