Executive Director's Report 2020

Executive Officers Report

I have much pleasure in presenting to you my report as Executive Officer of SACCS for 2020.

Through 2020 we experienced significant disruption caused by the coronavirus (COVID19) pandemic that had taken hold in Australia, with the pandemic changing our delivery of schooling dramatically.  While physical access to school was greatly reduced through the pandemic, our schools remained open to support families where parents and carers were frontline and essential workers.  Our staff too were essential workers and I am extremely grateful of their commitment to their work, students and families through the uncertainty brought on by this pandemic.  The critical incident response team of the Catholic Education Office acted as a conduit between the government, health officials and our schools ensuring our communities received accurate and timely advice enabling them to manage the crisis.

Through the pandemic our principals, teachers and staff showed incredible agility in managing the process of moving into and out of online learning at very short notice.  Our priority was to keep our students safe and to keep our students learning.  All of those involved stepped up to challenges presented and demonstrated exactly how robust our school communities are.  Our students and their families are also to be commended for the way they embraced online learning and home schooling facing both its successes and its challenges.

In order to support our families during this time, many of whom had lost their employment or had significantly reduced hours, we reduced the school fees for every diocesan Catholic primary school in South Australia.

While we were blessed in South Australia that we avoided a long term shut down of our schools and offices, our students missed many milestone moments in their education due to COVID restrictions, with masses not celebrated in the usual way, concerts, plays, formals and graduations cancelled, along with many other important moments.  However, everybody worked hard to provide our students with the best experiences possible under these restrictions.

We were blessed to warmly welcome our new Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Adelaide, Archbishop Patrick O’Regan DD and the new Bishop of Port Pirie, Bishop Karol Kulczyck SDS and appreciated their wisdom when working with them both on educational matters within our Church.

You will see upon further reading into the annual report, significant work has progressed throughout the Catholic Education sector in 2020, however I would like to take the opportunity to highlight some major items.

Incredibly, even in a pandemic year, staff of the Catholic Education Office had oversight of over $170M of building projects in our schools.  While there were many projects undertaken, the opening of the McAuley Community School at Hove, along with the co-located Alive Catholic Early Learning Centre is a real highlight, as was the building of the new junior school campus of Xavier College located in Two Wells.

The Commission approved the project to establish St Francis of Assisi College in Renmark providing the region with their first Catholic secondary schooling option.

Significant work was undertaken to further progress the establishment of a special assistance school in the northern suburbs in Davoren Park.  This school will be ready to open for the commencement of the 2022 school year, and has been specifically designed to cater for students and young adults who, for whatever reason, have become disengaged from mainstream education.

The Students with Disability Review was a comprehensive review undertaken in order to ensure that Catholic Education is providing the best support for the students with disability along with their parents and carers.

An important part of the Commission’s work is to advocate on behalf of all of the students in our care, their families and the staff in our Catholic schools.  We therefore continue to be in dialogue with both the state and federal governments about issues that involve education generally, but also seek support for Catholic education and the work it undertakes.  Every child that attends Catholic school provides a significant saving to the state government and the South Australian economy.  We will therefore continue to meet with the Premier, and state and federal ministers to discuss issues that progress our investment in the community.

The Commission values the  bonds it has built with the Governors and Trustees who have Catholic schools located in South Australia. We continue to be regularly involved in dialogue and consultation with these separate governing organisations as issues emerge that impact their schools.

The Leadership Team, senior leadership and staff at the Catholic Education Office have done an extraordinary job in guiding our path through this pandemic year while still progressing the implementation of the strategic plan.  I am grateful for their support and leadership during these turbulent times.

I would also like to convey my thanks to each and every Commissioner who has brought to the table their willingness to share their knowledge, expertise and experience.  You have been generous in your time and commitment to ensure the best possible outcomes for our sector.

The continuing support of Professor Denis Ralph who so competently leads the Commission is very much appreciated.  I would like to personally acknowledge Denis’ wise guidance in leading an open and transparent Commission.  His deep knowledge of education and of the political landscape has been critical in the advancements and achievements the Commission has made.

My thanks go to Rebekah Lyons, Executive Secretary to the Commission, who again supported the Commission in its work.  Rebekah is involved in all aspects of the Commission’s work, ensuring all documentation is appropriately prepared, recorded and post meeting, that all actions are followed through.  She organises our events so that everything operates smoothly. 

2020 was certainly a year like no other.  I could never have anticipated that Catholic education would be operating within the grips of a world pandemic.  I am buoyed by the fact we were able to support our students to achieve their best while still making inroads into our strategic plan.  I look forward to the successes and challenges we will see next year as we proceed to progress Catholic Education SA to a new level of excellence.

Dr Neil McGoran
Executive Officer