- A Message from our President
- It's Not Too Late to Make an Advent Wreath
- School Visits in the Mid-North
- Winner of the Tom Ffrench Award
- Parent - Child Learning Links at the St Joseph's Education Centre
- Building Community and Identity for Young People Who Experience Disdvantage
- Free Parent Workshops in Whyalla - Book Now for February 2020
- Parent Workshops: Successful Learning
- Girls in STEM Toolkit
- Time to Get Rid of Semester Reports?
- Thank you 'The Masked Singer'!
- Religious Freedom Legislation
- E Gift Guide from the Esafety Commissioner
- Christmas Reflection
Thank you to Aurora from Our Lady of La Vang Special School for this lovely drawing which is one of the six designs we chose for our Christmas cards this year. It beautifully reflects the story and spirit of Christmas.
Celebrating milestones with my own children this week - one graduating from Junior School, one from Middle School and one being awarded a Certificate II in Outdoor Recreation - I am reminded yet again what a busy time of year this is for families and just how much we have to be thankful for that our children have the opportunity to be educated in our beautiful Catholic schools.
As the end of the school year fast approaches and we count down the days to Christmas, I am also immensely inspired by, and grateful for, all the good work and positive energy the Federation has achieved this year. We have focused consistently on our strategic directions and I feel these are now coming to fruition.
Since the Catholic Education office lifted its ban on schools affiliating with us, 30% have re-joined and others have advised they intend to do so next year. This is good news for us, for school parent communities and for parents in general.
It is important that parent views on schooling and other matters that affect their children are heard and influence the shaping of policies, practices and future directions. It is also important that parents have the freedom to speak for themselves rather than being required to speak through others or discouraged from speaking at all.
As a parent-led, parent-focused organisation, the Federation provides this freedom while always respecting the roles and responsibilities of other organisations and people.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Term 4 is the way that our new parent engagement officers, Nicole and Lisa, have worked together with good humour and initiative to connect with and visit school communities across the state. I have come to understand that it is a long time since the Federation has made a significant effort to visit country schools and this is not good enough. As a regional parent, I have been especially encouraged by their efforts. Thanks to Lisa and Nicole for all your hard work and to school communities for making them welcome. Also to finance officer Teresa Matkovic who does many other things besides managing our money and our bills.
In Term 4, I had a follow up meeting with Minister Gardner, we met with the Department of Education, attended various other meetings and events including Educator SA's World Teachers Day Awards, made good progress on our new website, rolled out the application process for 2020 PIE grants and the evaluation process for the 2019 ones, held a community engagement forum and managed to squeeze in a small Christmas dinner as well. Vice President Caz Bosch also travelled to Perth to provide nationally accredited training in parent engagement and family-school-community partnerships to staff at Catholic School Parents WA, and our PIE Grant Selection Panel will meet before Christmas to decide the successful recipients for next year.
I would like to thank the Federation Council members and staff for all of their hard work and persistence this year. In Mark 10:27 Jesus reminds us that 'With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.' The lived faith and commitment of this special group of people continues to inspire me. I hope you all have a lovely Christmas break with your families and loved ones, and that your sadnessess are balanced with joys.
Mrs Kylie Ind (President)
Right now, we're in the season of Advent - the four weeks leading up to Christmas when we prepare - or are meant to prepare - spiritually for the coming of Christ. Advent is a time for both repentance and celebration.
It is also a time of ordinary world busyness as the school year comes to an end, we juggle kids at home with the need to be at work, we shop for presents, worry about money, squeeze in overdue catch-ups with friends, plan holidays and clean up the house for visitors.
Amongst this busyness, an Advent wreath can encourage us to slow down and spend some time as a family focusing on the real meaning of Christmas. It doesn't have to be fancy, it doesn't have to be perfect and it doesn't really matter that the first Sunday of Advent has come and gone.
An Advent wreath is something that children of all ages can be encouraged to contribute to. And even if older ones won't help with the making, they can usually be convinced to light a candle and share some thoughts about Christmas, kindness, joy and peace.
You can make a wreath out of any sort of evergreen leaves, wrapping them around a bit of wire or just placing them on a plate, and then adding four or five tall candles: three purple ones, one rose of pink one and, if you like, one white one.
If coloured candles are hard to find, you can just use white ones and tie coloured ribbons around them.
This Sunday 8th December, light two purple candles, say a prayer before dinner and leave the candles burning while you eat together as a family. The first candle (from the first week of Advent) represents hope for the coming of Christ. The second candle represents love.
On Sunday 15th December, light the two purple candles again, plus the rose/pink candle which marks the transition in the Advent season from repentance to joy.
On Sunday 22nd December, light these three candles again, plus the remaining purple candle which represents peace.
Finally, the white candle - called the 'Christ Candle' - is is lit on Christmas eve or Christmas day. It represents the life of Jesus Christ that has come to light up the world.
As for Advent wreath prayers, here are some that focus on families:
O Lord, thank you for the gift of life which you have given to all of us in this family. You shaped each of us as unique individuals. Help us to prepare our hearts for Christmas by being patient with each other. Open our eyes of faith that we might recognise you in us. All: We wait for you Lord.
Lord, thank you for the promise of your Son who is our salvation. Help us to prepare out hearts for Christmas by opening our ears so that we might truly listen to each other in our family. May the words that we speak to each other become the gentle music of our unique family. All: We wait for you Lord.
Lord, we thank you for our gift of faith. We are confident that you can heal us as a family of all our sorrows and disappointments. What gift can we give you in return? Help us to prepare our hearts for Christmas by making time to laugh as a family and remember all the crazy and fun times we have shared across the years. All: We wait for you Lord.
Lord, you are the Way, the Truth and the Life. Teach our family to follow your example of prayer, compassion and service. All: We hope for you Lord.
Lord, your greatness abounds in nature and in your people. Thank you for the countless blessings you give to our family. May we who have been so loved now love others in return. All: We love you Lord.
You have shown your kindness throughout this Advent season. By our thoughts, words and actions, may we be a blessing to others this day. All: We rejoice in your coming Lord.
Thanks to some great organising skills and some very obliging principals, we managed to visit three mid-north primary schools in a single day last month. And absolutely everything went to plan: no peak hour traffic, great coffee at Tarlee, only one B-double truck to pass on the way up, plenty of time to listen and learn at each school, and safely back to Adelaide before sunset.
As well as learning about the strengths of these school communities, we talked about some of the challenges which include enrolments, access to school bus services, access to allied health services (e.g. psychologists, occupational therapists), fundraising and encouraging parent involvement in school activities.
During my short time as a parent engagement officer, I have had the absolute pleasure of meeting some wonderful principals and equally wonderful parent leaders. These visits have been short but very informative and it is evident to me how dedicated and awesome the principals are and that, not only do they look after the educational needs of their students, they have a genuine care for their local community as a whole. I am excited to meet with more schools and parents to gather as much knowledge as possible so that the Federation can make a positive impact and be a fantastic resource and voice for families in the years to come (Nicole Kovacevic).
Sincere thanks to principal Bec Fahey and parent leader Katrina Duncan at St Joseph's School (Peterborough), principal Michelle Miller and parent leaders Narelle richmond and Jodie Thompson at St James School (Jamestown) and principal Martin Hayes at St Joseph's Parish School (Gladstone) for your warm welcomes and insights.
Bec Fahey (Principal) and Katrina Duncan (P&F President).
It is with much pleasure that we announce the winner of the 2018 Tom Ffrench Award is the St Joseph's Education Centre (Our Lady of the Sacred Heart) which provides young women who are pregnant or have children with the opportunity to complete their SACE certificate through personalised learning programs.
In 2018, the centre embarked on an innovative engagement initiative which aimed to connect the students' classroom learning with their children's learning and development in the onsite creche, at home and in the community.
The creation of 'real time' journals documenting each child's cognitive, physical and spiritual development was a key part of the project, the idea being to create evidence of activities that showed the children's character strengths and integrate this into the students' SACE subjects. The journals also provided opportunities for stimulus discussions, and positive relationship building and shared action between students and their extended families.
Careful planning and collaboration between the teachers and early childhood educators was required to integrate the classroom and creche learning, and to organise parent-child excursions to highlight the opportunities for families to support children's learning through community resources and activities.
The initiative resulted in the students:
- Connecting up the dots between class-based, creche-based and home-based learning
- Having a deeper understanding of how they can support their children's development
- Feeling more confident with their parenting
- Making positive changes that benefitted themselves and their children, including starting to read to their children
- Building better relationships within their extended families
- Connecting with the community.
Previously, the Tom Ffrench Awards have been presented at the Federation's annual general meeting. In a break from tradition, we timed this year's announcement with a visit to OLSH and the St Joseph's Education Centre to meet the staff, students and bubs. Everyone was surprised and delighted to receive the award and appreciative of the recognition and monetary gift.
Dr Sue Knight (Deputy Principal, OLSH), Carol Thomas (SJEC Co-ordinator) and Lisa Kelly (Federation Parent Engagement Officer).
Carol Thomas and Jennifer Hoare (Early Childhood Educator).
The Federation's annual Tom French Award showcases and celebrates innovative and excellent practice in supporting parents, families and local communities to engage in children's learning and schooling. The award celebrates the contributions of Tom Ffrench, a founding member of our organisation, who worked hard with other determined parents to gain state government funding for our school students and pressure the federal government to increase its funding. Tom worked tirelessly for the good of the Federation, Catholic Education and the Church for 50 years.
With the school year coming to a close, it is the perfect time for me to reflect on the Catholic schools which have been so welcoming of the Federation during our Term 4 school visits.
One such experience for myself was the visit to Our Lady of the Sacred Heart College and the St Joseph's Education Centre which I made with Vice President Caz Bosch.
Both Caz and I were uplifted after viewing for ourselves the professional and personal commitment given to the young women and their children within the St Joseph's Education Centre. Jennifer Hoare, an early childhood educator, took us through one of the milestone books made for each child last year and to see this child hitting milestones and thriving was an amazing credit to the staff and centre.
The St Joseph's centre provides its students and their children with a safe, caring and nurturing environment while assisting them to learn knowledge and skills for the future. Education, nutrition, job readiness and the gift of giving are all learnt in this diverse environment.
This year, the young women are making a mosaic which will be put in the outdoor space of the creche when it is finished. Guided by a community mosaic artist, they are contributing through design, artwork and messages to give the mosaic true meaning for themselves, their children and their school. The mosaic is part of a bigger learning program which is again linked to their SACE studies.
Our Lady of the Sacred Heart College has the feeling of true Catholic spirit, especially in the centre but also in the wider school where there is a real sense of inclusion and welcoming for the girls who come from 56 different cultures.
With thanks and warm wishes for the coming Christmas season.
Lisa Kelly (Parent Engagement Officer)
Our final forum for the year focused on supporting young people to develop their sense of identity, personal competence and belonging by connecting them with local community organisations and resources.
'I wanted to do something my Mum and Dad would be proud of'
Louise Nobes, founder of Kik Innovation, spoke about her personal passion to help end youth unemployment by engaging young people in 'entrepreneurial doing'.
Over three years, her organisation has created multiple businesses and provided practical training to 85 disdavantaged youth, with over three quarters of these moving into employment. Louise is now working on her next venture which is to bring an international training program in computer coding to Australia. Louise says the only condition for entry is that applicants will have to demonstrate their talent by getting to a certain level in a video game. With fully funded scholarships available, and excellent job prospects being predicted for graduates, Louise says the course will give many more disadvantaged young people an exciting and more certain future.
'Once you know what a successful transition looks like you want to work really hard to ensure every young person has the same opportunity'
Gus Fowler and Leeanne Marshall spoke about their experiences in making the transition to life after school, and how low expectations and inappropriate support often lead to poor outcomes for young people with disability and mental health conditions.
They described their work as peer leaders in the Aspire workshop program which is designed to equip students with the knowledge and skills they need to plan their careers and effectively advocate for themselves.
Gus and Leeanne stressed that the program gives schools access to a 'ready-made' resource for a reasonable price, and that feedback has confirmed the relationship between the peer leaders and program participants is a huge success factor.
SPELD SA is shorthand for the Specific Learning Difficulties Association of South Australia and, as we noted in an earlier newsletter, it has been funded by the state government to run some parent workshops in rural and regional areas.
SPELd SA is offering free workshops for parents in Whyalla on Friday 14th - Saturday 15th February. Each workshop will run for two hours, with the following topics available to choose from:
- Dyslexia - what it is and how to help at home.
- Hearing sounds in words (phonemic awareness) - a key literacy skill.
- Technology that helps students of all ages who have difficulties with literacy and numeracy.
- Using a six box structure to help students with memory issues.
- Helping pre-schoolers to high schoolers develop stronger vocabulary.
- Helping children to develop confidence and fluency in their reading.
- Explicit teaching techniques for reading.
- Helping children aged 4 - 6 to develop strong foundation skills for reading and writing.
Places are limited so we encourage you to book early by clicking on the workshop titles that interest you on the booking page.
Note that the parent workshops are also suitable for school support staff, and that schools can separately book the speakers to conduct sessions that will suit their individual school community's needs for a reasonable fee.
Successful Learning: The Parent Factor is a set of parent-to-parent workshops that encourage and empower families to effectively engage in children’s learning in the first two years of school.
The workshops are offered in early learning and school settings to support positive and successful student transitions by building parent knoweldge, skills and confidence.
Successful Learning comprises two core workshops focused on supporting children's reading and writing. These run for 2 - 2.5 hours each and draw on parent interest and experience to contextualise and deepen understanding of:
- Home-based learning and practical ways parents and families can facilitate this.
- Reading and writing conventions and how to respond appropriately to children’s early literacy.
- Developmental milestones.
- The importance of positive communication and relationships between parents and teachers
- The importance of becoming partners in children’s education.
A third, optional workshop on supporting children's early mathematical development is also available. This runs for 3 hours.
Successful Learning is a practical response to the evidence that effective parent and family engagement can have a significant, positive effect on children’s motivation to learn, school readiness and adaptation, sense of personal competence and progressive academic success.
Parallel to developing parents' understanding of how they can support children's early learning, literacy and mathematical development, workshop participation encourages:
- Parent recognition of their powerful role as first educators.
- Parent appreciation of their role as co-educators with teachers and what it means to work in partnership, valuing each other's separate but complementary roles.
- Parents' sense of efficacy for helping their children succeed in school
- Parent participation in school activities.
- Parent interest in becoming accredited presenters to sustain the workshops in their school community.
Workshop fees for Catholic schools and early learning services
Affiliates: Reading and writing workshops ($250 each); maths workshop ($300).
Non-affiliates: Reading and writing workshops ($600 each); maths workshop ($650).
* Advertised fees exclude GST and printing costs for workshop materials.
STEM is an approach to learning and development that integrates the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.
STEM impacts all aspects of life and STEM professionals are in high demand.
Why is it important to encourage girls in STEM?
There is a current gender imbalance in STEM and this imbalance will not change when half the population is not being supported to engage in STEM. Improving participation for women and girls in STEM fields is a key step to building an inclusive, diverse and innovative workforce.
The federal government is aiming to grow girls' interest in STEM jobs and careers through a project called The GIST (Girls in STEM Toolkit).
The link below will take you to the GIST website where you can view events that take place, read about where a STEM career can take you, and complete a quiz that shows you subjects and careers that match your interests.
There are also free resources for teachers and a section for families which includes DIY home activities.
For the past three years, the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) has been looking at how student reporting is done in Australia and what principals, teachers, parents/carers and students think about it.
ACER says that while lots of effort, time and cost goes into writing end-of-semester reports, there's not much evidence on their usefulness. As well, they are a source of considerable disatisfaction. For example:
- Teachers say end-of-semester report writing takes them away from the core aspects of their job like planning high-quality instruction and delivering the curriculum.
- Students say they get overwhelmed as teachers pile on final assessments in preparation for reporting.
- Parents and carers say they are very unhappy with the timing and frequency of reports and want more communication about their child's learning so they can provide better support.
ACER says that because end-of-semester reports usually just summarise a student's grades and briefly comment on what has been achieved, parents and carers are often receiving nothing more than out-dated and 'un-actionable' information.
ACER says it's much more important to continuously report student achievement during semesters and that parents/carers appreciate clear information about what their child has, and has not yet, been able to demonstrate.
ACER also says that parents/carers feel the format and time limitations of parent/carer-student-teacher interviews and conferences don't support meaningful discussion about student learning.
ACER recommends that student reporting should:
- Clearly explain terms like achievement, performance and progress.
- Be continuous and aligned to the assessment cycle not the traditional end-of-semester reporting cycle.
- Show and describe not only what students have achieved or their performance in assessments, but how they are developing and the learning gains (growth) they have made over time in relation to the typical pathway of learning in each area.
- Make clear how students are performing and progressing against expectations (e.g. levels; benchmarks; achievement standards).
- Give clear information about how a school defines and determines performance ratings.
- Present information in clear and accessible ways but also provide opportunity for parents/carers to easily obtain more detail about a student's learning and school work.
- Include specific information about how a student can improve - paticularly, what they need to do next to progress in a learning area.
Thank you, The Masked Singer, for reminding us how we could be. As a family.
The 17 and eight year-old, the one in between, the mad mother and even the Chap; we were all gathered in the loungeroom bantering and laughing and exclaiming as each celebrity was revealed behind their elaborate mask.
As a family we were doing something together, on a weeknight no less, as we congregated around the television in a so last-century way.
It felt like a circuit-breaker to the isolation of life as we live it right now; soldering and connecting.
We weren't hiving off to our individual screens, binge-watching on laptops and scrolling on phones, each in our own little temple of isolation.
We were together as a family, youngest to oldest, and it felt rare and precious. Reviving.
Nikki Gemmell, Journalist
The federal government has received thousands of responses to its draft religious freedom legislation, including one from The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster Australia.
The legislation aims to protect against discrimination based on religion and religious beliefs in the same way that other legislation protects against discrimination based on race, sex, age and disability.
It is intended to cover beliefs associated with major faith traditions like Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Buddhism and of smaller and emerging faith traditions.
When the federal attorney general Christian Porter was asked in a TV interview, ‘Can I basically get away with saying anything if I make a persuasive enough case that it is my genuinely held religious belief?’ he said:
‘Well, you’d need to be able to anchor what you’ve said in religious, accepted religious doctrine, and you would have to say that in good faith, and it would have to relate to and be consistent with your religion.’
In other words, you won’t be able to ‘make up’ a religion or just say what you want and then claim you’re being discriminated against on religious grounds.
Religious leaders, law experts and schooling bodies and others are divided on whether this type of legislation is needed or not, and whether the draft legislation is 'fit for purpose'.
Law professor Iain Benson from Notre Dame University says protective legislation is essential because Australia is experiencing a strong anti-religious bias but the draft legislation ‘does not go nearly far enough’. The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference agrees.
The Association of Heads of Independent Schools of Australia, which has some Catholic school members, congratulated the government for taking action but also said the draft legislation ‘leaves schools unsure about their enrolment and employment practices and increases their vulnerability to legal challenge.’
At the other end of the spectrum, the Australian Lawyers Alliance has been quoted as saying ‘the legislation is unacceptable because it allows religious belief to be used as a cloak for sexism, racism, homophobia and other prejudices.’
It is sensible to be mindful and smart when choosing tech gifts for children and teenagers this Christmas and this new guide from the Esafety Commissioner has arrived just in time.
It will help you to understand the risks and how to encourage safety with gifts like drones, virtual reality games, gaming memberships, wearables and more.
Christmas is a beautiful time of the year when we as Christian Catholics rejoice in the gift of the Christ Child who comes among us as the vulnerable one.
Christmas is the moment when Jesus was completely dependent on his parents, Mary and Joseph for love and nourishment. His presence brought, and continues to bring, joy to our world and the lives of the forgotten ones.
Christmas is a time where we find God in unexpected places - in the faces of refugee children, homeless men and women who we often walk past without noticing, in the families with a member in prison, in the survivors of abuse - just as Mary and Joseph found God in the hearts of the shepherds.
We celebrate Christmas by gathering our family and friends together. It is a time for gifting one another, but also for opening our hearts and minds to those who struggle and hide within our world.
As Saint Oscar Romero, a guiding light for the poor communities in El Salvador said during a period of terrible violence:
'We must not seek the child Jesus in the pretty figures of our Christmas cribs. We must seek him among the undernourished children who have gone to bed with nothing to eat and among the poor newsboys who will sleep covered with newspapers.'
Peace and joy are the most precious gifts of Christmas. So let us join together and send these gifts into our world this Christmas time.
Let us send peace and joy that comes from the sacred crib place from within our hearts, where we hold the Child Jesus closest.
Let us remember that it is only in Christ that ‘we live, move and have our being’ (Acts 17:28).