The personnel from the Catholic Schools Office, comprising Teaching and Learning, Religious Education and Spirituality, the Secretariat and the Office of Director have maintained exceptional leadership and service to its schools in a time of substantial change.
The need for commitment and support for Catholic education was certainly necessary as the impact of the findings of the Royal Commission into sexual abuse became evident in the community. As well, the ongoing debate over state and national government policy for funding for low-fee-paying Catholic schools also required engagement, lobbying and attention to ensure Catholic schools remained open and available to the community.
The year began with the celebration of Catholic Schools Week, the annual Catholic Schools Week Mass and distribution of the Bishops Awards. The Called To Serve Mass saw the Cathedral filled with principals, teachers, support staff and students representing all the Diocesan schools. The Mass was a prayer-filled recommitment to serve and celebrate education delivered by Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.
School calendars reflected very busy and vibrant activities in liturgy, prayer, social justice, classroom teaching, sporting and cultural events. Much of the work goes unrecognised but the effect on the students and their parents is considerable.
In spite of the growing secular influence in our society, our schools continue to offer a counter-cultural education where Jesus is at the heart of everything, where charity and mercy is prized, where young people gain a sense of spirituality and raise social justice consciousness and where they experience a comprehensive education of worth.
We are also making a major investment in gifted education, having introduced a program for high aimed at identifying high-achieving students. This program is much like university tuition and we have appointed 20 specialist mentors.
We have also established online virtual academy for these students as part of this program. The academy has 35 chosen students from years five, six and seven enrolled in the virtual academy at the end of term two. The program will include year eight students in 2019.
Despite a decline in NSW Catholic school enrolments, our schools in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle have seen a 1.8% increase in enrolments with the opening of St Bede’s Chisholm, the expansion of St Joseph’s Lochinvar and St Mary’s Gateshead to accommodate senior students.
School principals and their dedicated staff have ensured that school improvement remains a strategic intent, with overall improvement in NAPLAN and HSC results. To complement this the system has invested heavily in works to improve the fabric of the classrooms and learning spaces.
The dedication of principals and staff and the investment in the system is evident in the results below.
Students from our schools in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle have achieved some outstanding results in the HSC in 2018 with one of our students in the First in Course list, seven in the All Rounders list and 146 in the Distinguished Achievers list.
Clayton Carlon from All Saints’ College, St Mary’s Campus, Maitland achieved First in Course in New South Wales for Industrial Technology.
Other students in the Top Course Mark in the state were:
- Bradley Montroy of All Saints College, Maitland – second in Engineering Studies
- Alex Vaughan of St Catherine’s, Singleton – fifth in Industrial Technology
- Sophie Derkenne of All Saints College, Maitland – fifth in English (Extension Two)
- Sydney Slade of All Saints College, Maitland – eighth in Geography
- Matthew Parvin of St Clare’s in Taree – ninth in Industrial Technology
On the All Rounders list there were five students from All Saints’ College, Maitland and two students from St Francis Xavier’s College, Hamilton. They were:
- Lily Cains - All Saints' College, Maitland
- Clayton Carlon - All Saints' College, Maitland
- Sophia Derkenne - All Saints' College, Maitland
- Bradley Montroy - All Saints' College, Maitland
- Sydney Slade -All Saints' College, Maitland
- Jasmine Sullivan - St Francis Xavier’s College, Hamilton
- Hannah Hickey - St Francis Xavier’s College, Hamilton
On the list of students who achieved Band 6 results there were 29 students from St Catherine's Catholic College, Singleton, 34 students from All Saints’ College, 37 from St Francis Xavier’s College, 21 from St Joseph’s High School, Aberdeen, 21 from St Clare's High School, Taree and 17 students from St Paul’s Catholic College, Booragul.
Diocesan Dux, for achieving the highest ATAR in all our schools, was Jasmine Sullivan of St Francis Xavier’s, Hamilton.
Several other highlights of the year come to mind.
Both ASPIRE and DioSounds were examples of the array of talent in our schools and provided the opportunity for students and their teachers to display their capabilities in the creative and performing arts.
The generosity of the Teachers Helping Teachers Fund assisted Tonga through the creation of a central Tongan Schools Office and two containers of equipment to refurbish classrooms after cyclones ravaged the islands.
Schools generously supported Caritas and Catholic Mission. Parallel to this was a focus on formation - evident in Adult Faith Formation Retreats, the Holy Land Pilgrimage, the McAuley pilgrimage to Ireland, the immersion to Kenya and CSO spirituality days.
We need to celebrate the gift of education delivered by our schools in the Diocese. We also need to celebrate the ordinary, the fundamental day-to-day classroom teaching and the effect it has on young lives.
The ordinariness of school life where one sees the extraordinariness of the Holy Spirit at work with those who continue to serve the Church in such a meaningful way every day when they serve in the ministry of Catholic education.
Within this context and despite the challenges that beset education, 2018 has been a vibrant year in Catholic schools with the CSO, staff, parents, students, clergy and supporters maintaining a strong future for the education delivered by our schools.