More than 600 staff, leaders, parents and others involved in Catholic education from across the nation and beyond joined in the 2023 Australian Catholic Education Symposium hosted today by the National Catholic Education Commission (NCEC).
The keynote address was given by Prof Anne Graham AO, Professor of Childhood Studies and Founding Director of the Centre for Children and Young People at Southern Cross University, followed by a panel discussion moderated by Catholic Education Western Australia executive director Dr Debra Sayce.
NCEC executive director Jacinta Collins said the symposium recognised the importance of our teachers knowing each and every student and guiding them in their learning and formation so they can flourish and live life to the full.
“In the encyclical, Identity of the Catholic School for a culture of dialogue, the Congregation of Catholic Education reminds us that students are active participants in the educational process, and as they mature they become the protagonists of their own education,” Jacinta said.
“So, it is incumbent on us to listen to young people within the context they live and learn, and to support them to achieve an ‘integration of faith and culture’. This starts with the recognition that each child is made in the image and likeness of God.”
Anne’s keynote address entitled: Are we listening? How can Catholic schools respond to student views for wellbeing, faith formation and learning, detailed her research which emphasised the critical importance of hearing children’s views and ensuring our students are truly recognised and known to their teachers.
This was followed by a thoughtful panel discussion moderated by Catholic Education Western Australia executive director Dr Debra Sayce, with McCarthy Catholic College Tamworth principal, Rod Whelan and Diocese of Lismore Catholic Schools assistant director Mission, Gary Reen. The panel discussed how we can apply this research in the school and diocesan context with an invitation to us to focus on the significance of not only on what we do, but also why we do it.
Rod discussed the Living Well, Learning Well student support framework that has been established at McCarthy Catholic College which builds student connection and has resulted in more of their young people feeling safe, cared for, valued and highly regarded as leaners.
Gary outlined how the Diocese of Lismore has been integrating wellbeing and pastoral care as part of its formation and mission program, and how the Diocese had integrated Anne’s research and practices into ensuring the student voice was listened to and expressed.
Anne stressed the importance of engaging the views of young people in order to know their personal concerns, and what that means for their wellbeing while also looking at the role faith plays.
Anne outlined the four key elements of student participation: Voice, Influence, Choice and Working Together. Her research shows that students who experience more opportunities for meaningful participation also receive more recognition from others and gave more recognition to others, providing the optimum environment for both recognition and student wellbeing to improve.
Her research showed that relationships are central in giving effect to children’s participation, recognition, wellbeing and safety – inside and outside classroom.
Image: (top row) Catholic Education Western Australia executive director Dr Debra Sayce; Prof Anne Graham AO, Professor of Childhood Studies and Founding Director of the Centre for Children and Young People at Southern Cross University; (bottom row) McCarthy Catholic College Tamworth principal, Rod Whelan and Diocese of Lismore Catholic Schools assistant director Mission, Gary Reen.