Chairperson's Report 2020

Chairperson’s Report

I am pleased to present the 2020 Annual Report of the South Australian Commission for Catholic Schools (SACCS).

This report illustrates the complexity and richness of Catholic education and demonstrates, despite the many challenges confronted as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, that 2020 has been yet another successful year for Catholic education in South Australia. The Commission was especially delighted to welcome Archbishop Patrick O’Regan DD, Archbishop of Adelaide and Bishop Karol Kulczycki SDS, Bishop of Port Pirie.

During a year of unprecedented change, the Commission extends its thanks and gratitude to the talented staff across all our schools, colleges and centres for their unwavering dedication and commitment. Staff and students alike responded to the challenges with remarkable agility; moving seamlessly to the never before experienced online learning environment, before transitioning back to full school activities just as quickly. The events of Term 1 and Term 2, particularly, marked significant points of achievement at a time when all were experiencing incredible tiredness, apprehension and anxiety.

Yet despite the overwhelming challenges, many outstanding accomplishments were realised by the Commission in 2020, both in terms of its ongoing commitment to the care, wellbeing, faith formation and academic development of over 46,000 children and young people, as well as its support of the Catholic education community in response to the new circumstances that presented during the year.

For families impacted financially by the pandemic, our schools, supported by the Commission, responded swiftly by offering fee remissions and where required, these remissions will continue into 2021. In looking ahead at how it can support families at all times, at its August 2020 meeting, SACCS resolved to lower the school fees of every Catholic primary school in 2021 under its Making Catholic Education More Affordable Initiative. In making this decision, the Commission affirmed the necessity of continuing to support families whose circumstances have been affected by COVID-19 and sought to demonstrate its commitment to making Catholic education more accessible and affordable for all families enrolled in a Catholic primary school across South Australia. In the coming year, financial modelling will be undertaken to extend the initiative to include diocesan secondary and R-12 schools. SACCS will work in partnership with the governing authorities of separately governed schools and colleges to explore fee reductions in those schools.

The Commission continued its strong partnership with the governing authorities to ensure a quality and accessible Catholic education for all students and families across South Australia. Additional meetings and engagements were held throughout the year in order that SACCS could share its strategy to support the Catholic education community through the ever-changing landscape of the pandemic. In April, SACCS presented its Corporate Plan 2020-2024 to the governing authorities. It was during this meeting that a range of proposals put forward by the Commission were accepted in relation to reductions in co-responsibility levies, capital grants allocations and interest subsidies, as well as a support package for system funded schools to help them manage the COVID-19 situation.

In addition to the Making Catholic Education More Affordable Initiative and new funding arrangements for separately governed schools and colleges, during 2020 the Commission focussed on a broad range of major initiatives and strategic projects.

In February, Deputy Director, John Mula was appointed to drive a significant improvement agenda and to take responsibility for ensuring school quality, performance, improvement and accountability across the system. Moving forward, John’s team will work proactively and responsively with principals, school staff and central office staff to develop a strong culture of excellence throughout Catholic education.

In March, the Commission established the Students with Disability Review to identify and recommend improvements to policies, programs and operational arrangements of Catholic Education in South Australia that will strengthen the learning, wellbeing and inclusion of students with disability. The Final Report of the Students with Disability Review was presented to SACCS at its last meeting of 2020 and highlighted the strong commitment of Catholic education to meet the needs of students with disability in partnership with parents and carers. The Report highlighted areas where there is much to affirm and celebrate and pointed to important areas where the nature and quality of this service can be strengthened further. In 2021 steps will be taken to implement the immediate priorities identified in the review.

Throughout the year the Regional Schools Pathways Project presented several recommendations to SACCS as part of the Commission’s ongoing objective to identify, support and strengthen the provision of Catholic education across rural and regional South Australia. In May, the Commission was delighted to approve the development of St Francis of Assisi College, Renmark, which will cater for students from Years 7 to 12 and will be the region’s first Catholic secondary schooling offering. The College will open in time for the 2022 school year.

In addition to the new secondary college, and several school expansion announcements pertaining to the Regional Schools Pathways Project, the Commission capitalised on other opportunities to further increase the presence and provision of Catholic education:

  • In partnership with the Archdiocese of Adelaide, SACCS was pleased to announce the establishment of a new education and community services village for disadvantaged young people at Davoren Park, in the northern suburbs of Adelaide.
  • Following a generous gift of 12.46 hectares of land from the Hickinbotham Group in 2019, the building project for Xavier Catholic College, Two Wells commenced, ready for a January 2021 opening.
  • The State Government announced its partnership with SACCS to deliver an almost $5M expansion of the Rosewater Trade Training Centre through the establishment of the Western Technical College, to be co-located at Mount Carmel College, Rosewater.
  • Approval was obtained to unify Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish School with Mount Carmel College to establish the first Reception to Year 12 Catholic co-educational college in the north-west of Adelaide.
  • In the southern suburbs of Adelaide, SACCS announced that it will expand Galilee Catholic School in Aldinga to become a Reception to Year 9 campus of Cardijn College.
  • $13.5M worth of land was purchased to facilitate school expansion projects and to create provision for early learning centres where applicable.
  • By the conclusion of 2020, diocesan schools had spent approximately $108M on capital developments and major projects.

During 2020 the Commission continued to make representations to all levels of government in our efforts to achieve fairness and equity in the level of funding provided to Catholic education in South Australia. Despite the fact that many of our regular face-to-face engagements with government leaders and ministers were not possible due to the pandemic, SACCS continued to advocate regarding matters of significance to Catholic education and to examine the strategies by which the State Government will meet its election commitments. The Commission was appreciative of the fact that the State Government increased their capital works funding allocation to Catholic Education from $5.5M to $11.6M in 2020. In addition, we were pleased to receive confirmation that Catholic education would receive an additional $1M (indexed) per annum for a period of 4 years from the State Government to assist in the provision of bus transport support for regional non-government school students. We were also appreciative of the government’s decision to provide our schools with funding using the Direct Measure of Income rather than Socio Economic Status.  

I extend my sincere thanks to all members of the Commission for their commitment and ongoing dedication to the advancement of Catholic education in this state. Despite the many challenges of 2020, members generously gave of their time and expertise to enable the advancement of the Commission’s strategic priorities. My thanks to Director, Dr Neil McGoran for his outstanding leadership and for successfully navigating Catholic education through a turbulent year with vision and confidence.

The performance of the Commission relies on the effective functioning of its standing committees, advisory committees and a range of working parties. I acknowledge all those who sacrifice their valuable time to participate and engage with the sector broadly, to share ideas and provide advice and directions.

On behalf of the South Australian Commission for Catholic Schools, I am pleased to present this 2020 Annual Report. I look forward with great optimism to our ongoing work and to delivering our strategic objectives in 2021 and beyond to ensure the very best outcomes for all children and young people, and staff in our schools and centres across South Australia.

Professor Denis W. Ralph
Chair, South Australian Commission for Catholic Schools