Deputy Principal - Mission & Faith

Our Catholic School identity

A number of things have caused me of late to reflect on the identity of Catholic Schools.  We are in the middle of doing the “Catholic Identity Surveys” for the Catholic Education Commission of Victoria, we have just had our annual Staff Retreat and in the media recently has been the reports that once student and family background are taken into account, private education makes no significant difference to student outcomes (Labour Economics Journal).  I have been reflecting on what are we about, do we make a difference, what are we working for?

We can look up much research, read many articles and books, go to hear many speakers but what do you and I think is a Catholic School’s identity and purpose?  Indeed, what is our purpose here at Salesian College “Rupertswood”?  Do we make a difference to student outcomes and how?  We would all agree, bottom line, that we are about student learning.  All we do here at Salesian College is for the purpose of students learning, for students to acquiring new skills and knowledge, but more than this, new behaviours, new values, new beliefs and new attitudes.  And, all this to the highest possible standards.  These new behaviours, values, attitudes and beliefs are not necessarily the same as other non-Catholic schools.  This is where we are different and do make a difference in students outcomes.  As the National Catholic Education Commission said in its April 25 media release, “The goal of Catholic schools is to educate the whole child to the highest standards possible – academically, socially, spiritually and pastorally.”

Here at Salesian College we can see this reflected in our key documents such as our Strategic Plan, our Annual Action Plans and our CLEF statements.  As we say, we are, “A Faith Community committed to Excellence in Learning”.  I would suggest that most if not all educational institutions would say they are committed to excellence in learning and we all do this, some better than others.  However, where we really do make a difference in Catholic education is in the “Faith” aspect which is the values, attitudes and beliefs of students.  We must work hard at all times to be academically excellent in all we do with students but it’s the Catholic beliefs that make us different – we believe in God, in Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit, we believe in Eternal Life.

We wish to make these Catholic beliefs very clear to all here at the College: we have an extensive RE Curriculum, a liturgical program of sacraments and prayer with both staff and students, we have wonderful visual symbols, we consider restorative justice to be the optimal way to deal with relationships and student issues, we have Feast days, we have the Staff Retreat, we have Accreditation to Teach in a Catholic School certification requirements for teaching staff, and we have our own commitment to the beliefs of the Catholic Church.

For me, this is where we make a difference to student outcomes.  There is a God who loves and saves us, a God who is present in our daily lives journeying with us, our students are made in the image of God and given to us for a short few years.  They are given to us to make a difference in their lives – to help them acquire and develop their belief systems, and their attitudes and values based on this belief system.

So, we do make a difference!  We should therefore always be asking ourselves, “As a ‘Faith Community’ do we communicate to our students our belief in God, in Jesus Christ and model this with our attitudes and values?”