2017 the year of transformation

25/1/2017

Executive Director of Schools, Greg Whitby welcomed more than 470 system and school staff to the beginning of the school year at the annual system leadership day held at Rosehill on Wednesday, 25 January. 

Mr Whitby told staff that schools need to model educational transformation on Jesus Christ who was himself a disruptive innovator.  

“We’ve talked about improving the work of Catholic schooling for many years and we’ve done that well but now is the time to move away from improving to transforming. Jesus did everything to change the existing model and so must we.”

System and school staff at the System Leadership Day
System and school staff at the System Leadership Day

Mr Whitby shared the principles he believed are at the heart of transforming Catholic schools into world-class educational communities: 

  • Living the Gospel
  • Closing the equity gap
  • Improving attendance and retention rates
  • Ensuring our decisions are based on evidence, not just opinion
  • Learning from each other and with each other
  • Consolidating an innovative mindset

“The work of all our schools is to focus on making connections with our learners, our families and our communities. We need to embrace the opportunity of transforming schooling for each child today not tomorrow or next year. It as Martin Luther King Jr says the urgency of now.” 

The speech is provided below.

A journey of TRANSFORMATION 

Executive Director Greg Whitby’s address and the Big Day Out school leadership conference

“AT OUR SYSTEM LEADERSHIP DAY LAST YEAR, I TOUCHED BRIEFLY ON THE CATHOLIC IMAGINATION AND HOW WE (AS A CATHOLIC SYSTEM OF SCHOOLS) SING THE LORD’S SONG IN A STRANGE LAND (TODAY’S WORLD). THROUGHOUT HISTORY, THE CATHOLIC IMAGINATION HAS LED PEOPLE FROM THE KNOWN INTO THE UNKNOWN IN SEARCH OF NEW AND FERTILE GROUND. FOR US, THE CATHOLIC IMAGINATION IS THE PRECURSOR TO TRANSFORMING SCHOOLING. IT EXISTS IN A CYCLE OF CONTINUAL INQUIRY AND INNOVATION. 

The whole purpose of Catholic schooling is centred on Jesus who was both teacher and transformational change agent. When the paralysed man was lowered through the roof (Luke 5:17-39), Jesus didn’t provide him with a better bed to lay on. He told the man to take his bed and walk home. 

There were no half measures or any ambiguity; he invited people to learn from and with him. This should be our blueprint for how we go about our work on a daily basis - to question, challenge and transform and in doing so ensure the Kingdom is in the here and now. With another school year before us we have two paths ahead. 

The first is to remain wedded to what has always been. The second to focus on what could be. Transformation is about root-and-branch change. It means transforming everything we do otherwise we end up changing nothing. It is challenging work but we are in a good place as a system to continue moving further out into the deep. Indeed, our new Bishop’s motto Duc In Altum translates to ‘put out into the deep’. 

We have been engaged collectively over the past several years going deeper into our practice, reflecting and inquiring and challenging the norms. The Theory of Action continues to underpin our thinking and influence our planning and you will see it in the next iteration of our system frameworks (see overleaf). The first is our framework for transforming Catholic schools, which identifies our system priorities. 

The second is the way in which we support the delivery of quality Catholic schooling across the system. These frameworks identify the responsibilities of schools and the system but importantly reflect the capabilities of teachers and leaders to deliver on our strategic intent to strengthen the professional lives of staff and improve the learning for each student. Our world is rapidly changing - faster than at any other time in history. 

The young women and men in our schools will live in and lead a different world from today’s. Our story will not be their story. Despite this, we continue to prepare them for a world that is familiar to us. We owe them something better. In our schools right now are the people who may find cures to cancer or dementia, who will create the means to travel to faraway places in a fraction of the time it currently takes or who will mitigate the impact of climate change. 

Some will be instrumental in bridging the gap between rich and poor. Some will do more than just live in a different world to the one we know - they will help to create a better one. John Hattie argues that the answer to creating better schools is to make them more inviting places. He is right. We need a new model for schools that better reflects the kind of world we are preparing young people for and the kind of people we wish to see leading change. 

For me, the principles at the heart of transforming our schools are: 

  • Living the Gospel
  • Closing the equity gap
  • Improving attendance and retention rates
  • Ensuring our decisions are based on evidence, not just opinion
  • Learning from each other and with each other
  • Consolidating an innovative mindset

The words of Martin Luther King Jr spoken more than 50 years ago, albeit in a different context, ring hauntingly true: 

“We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there ‘is’ such a thing as being too late. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.”

As educators we too are confronted with what Luther King Jr calls the ‘fierce urgency of now’. 

For the sake of those entrusted to our care, we cannot remain committed to improvement. Transformation needs to begin now. This year our newest CEDP learning community opens. 

St Luke’s at Marsden Park is not a standardised blueprint for future schools. Rather it represents our current understanding of learning and teaching: adaptive, flexible and personalised. 

We should all feel a sense of achievement in St Luke’s because it represents the journey we’ve been on as a system of Catholic schools in Western Sydney. 

As always, the year is full of hope and we can thank the Israelites for showing us that it is possible to sing the Lord’s song in a strange land. I thank each one of our leaders, teachers and staff for their continued commitment to making our schools, as Pope Francis says ‘oases of peace, beacons of hope and places of high-quality teaching and learning. 
Posted By Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta at 25/01/2017 2:26:58 PM
 
   
  
 

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