- Minister Gardner: New 3-Year Funding Agreement for the Federation
- Looking for New Council Members
- Charles Campbell College: Training Parents to Present Maths Development Workshops
- What Happened at our AGM?
- Our New Encouragement Award
- Family Survey Results: Impact of COVID 19 on Schooling
- Racial Prejudice and Injustice - How do we discuss this with our children?
- Visit to Galilee Catholic School
- Know Parents Needing Literacy Support?
When we met with the Minister last year, he was extremely enthusiastic about our commitment to re-connect with regional and rural communities, and our engagement forums for parents and school staff.
The Federation has been lucky to receive operational grants from both Liberal and Labor state governments for many years. We have always understood these can't be taken for granted or considered 'our right', and especially now that grant funding is hotly contested.
The Minister's decision to provide a three-year funding agreement, and increase the annual amount from $22,000 to $30,000, is testimony his appreciation and respect of the work we do and the way we go about it.
The Federation is governed by a small group of quite ordinary but very committed and passionate people who believe in the right of parents and families to have a voice in issues affecting their children’s education.
We have four vacancies on the Council which we are hoping to fill in the next few months and are keen to hear from people with a possible interest in joining us.
The Council meets face-to-face once a term on a weekend and has four other meetings by teleconference. Dates and times are negotiated to suit all Council members, and travel and accommodation expenses are paid for members who live in country regions.
The Council is a developmental environment, meaning we do not expect people to have super-amazing skills. Through encouragement, coaching and experience; councillors grow from passionate and keen volunteers into confident and accomplished governors.
Council members are mainly but not only drawn from school communities that are affiliated with (are members of) the Federation.
If you are potentially interested in joining the Council, please get in contact with Vice-President Caz Bosch on 0418 891 531 or Parent Engagement Officer Nicole Kovacevic on 0407 394 732.
The College's PIE grant project links directly to the South Australian government's new parent engagement framework and its vanguard decision in 2019 to implement the nationally recommended phonics screening check for Year 1 students:
Georgie Gardner, who is chair of the College's Governing Council and deeply involved in the school's parent network says Principal Kevin O'Neil's vision for parent involvement and engagement has made 'the biggest difference ... more than you can possibly imagine.'
After putting on hold the facilitator training for the maths workshop in March, the College went ahead in late June with appropriate attention to social distancing and personal hygiene (yes, we each had our own hand tongs to make our own morning tea and lunch!). One participant who was worried about having a cold (or worse) did not attend through group consensus and so will complete her facilitator training later this year.
The College is on track to have 16 trained presenters in the full set of three workshops by the end of 2020. How amazing!
The facilitator training was delivered by our vice president Caz Bosch who is also the vice-chair of Parents Australia, and the Federation contributed in a small way through the printing of some training materials.
We held our AGM on 26th May by teleconference with 10 school communities present by proxy and Cardijn College represented 'in person' by Board Chair Wayne Copley.
Highlights from the 2019 Federation Council & Office Report:
- We introduced a new affiliation fee structure which means all school communities who choose to affiliate with us pay less than they used to, some pay a lot less, and some now have free membership.
- Twenty-seven schools joined after Catholic Education SA lifted its ban on schools affiliating with us. Others said they had not thought about this when setting their 2019 budget but would do in 2020.
- We appointed two very part-time Parent Engagement Officers who have been wonderful. With some extra help from Council members, the Federation visited 16 schools in Terms 3 - 4.
- We presented on our role and work to the South Australian Catholic Primary Principals Association and met with the Australian Catholic Primary Principals Association.
- We distributed $29,500 on behalf of Minister for Education John Gardner to support PIE grant projects in 16 school communities.
- St Columba’s Memorial School (Yorketown) won the 2019 Tom Ffrench Award and St Mary Magdalene’s School, the inaugural Dineen Award.
- Kylie Ind resigned from the Federation Council after 7+ years of service, including almost 3 as President. Kylie made many sacrifices to travel away from her home in Mount Gambier to Adelaide and interstate. She led with much courage in hard conversations and decisions and was always optimistic. Kylie has much to be quietly proud of and we have much to be deeply grateful for. Thank you Kylie!
St Mary Magdalene's School has been awarded the inaugural Dineen Encouragement Award for its thoughtful and well planned 'whole of community' effort to better support its student's social and emotional development.
What impressed us most was the time and effort St Mary Magdalene's put in to create interest in its PIE grant project which saw it achieve a record turnout of parents/ carers, school staff, board members and members from other local Catholic schools. It then cemented this success by offering parents two follow-up sessions with the school leadership and another one with a school counsellor.
Congratulations St Mary Magdalene on your hugely successful effort.
The Dineen's had Vision and Courage
It is 1967 and the Our Lady Queen of Peace Mothers' Club is meeting at Des and Gen Dineen's House. There's plenty of normal chit chat but also a serious discussion about the future of struggling parish schools like theirs. Next minute, the mum's vote to take political action.
This is how the campaign to get the state government to help fund Catholic schools began, and how our Federation began.
At first, the Church hierarchy was not happy about parents trying to play a role in the education process ... [it thought] mothers were for mothers' clubs and fathers were for working bees.
We were trying to achieve a more active role for parents because we knew that parents were voters and had the chance to persuade politicians to give the schools money (Des Dineen).
Gen's husband Des joined in and took the lead, helped by the Director of Catholic Education who convinced the Archbishop to let the parents give it a go.
When Premier Don Dunstan became angry with 'the parent voice' and said he was going to call the Archbishop to complain, the Federation's President Bob Pridham was known to say, 'Go ahead, he is not a member of the Federation and nor will he ever be eligible.'
With the state election not far away, the Premier gave in and announced funding of $10 per Catholic primary school student. Gen said, 'We had accomplished in three months what other states had taken years to achieve ... how we celebrated.'
The success achieved through the vision and courage of a small bunch of parents, including the Dineens, encourages our hearts and inspires our deep commitment to a common cause and the greater good.
The Australian Council of State School Organisations repreents parents with children in government schools. It surveyed Australian families in April - May about schooling in the COVID crisis and received an incredible 3000 responses, including from parents with children in Catholic schools.
Children attending school
Only 19% said their children were still attending a school in person, with the most common reasons for school attendance being:
- 51% child needs structure to study
- 49% adult/s in essential work
- 36% school encouraging attendance
- 31% virus poses little danger to children.
Notably, many said school staff had complained about being 'forced' to have children at school.
Children requiring additional support
More than 22% completed the questions relating to children who normally received additional support at school.
49% said their children could manage social distancing independently, 22% said they could manage if accompanied, and 15% said their children could not comply.
Access to devices, the internet and school servers
95% of remote learning families reported reliable access to the internet.
73% of families with primary age children, compared to 51% of families with secondary age children, said their school's server was reliable.
It was noted that the difference might be explained by the fact that primary schools didn't depend as much on live online classes (18%) as secondary schools did (58%).
Family wellbeing during isolation
72% of remote learning families felt supported by their schools, but many comments referred to complex systems, poor communication, and unrealistic school expectations.
40% of remote learning families were unhappy because their children's learning days had either too much or too little structure.
56% of families of children with additional needs were concerned they would lose school support through remote learning.
At-home families were much more likely to report 'worse than usual' wellbeing than at-school families.
"[Feeling] stressed, anxious. Schools should … have better systems in place to teach by now. Every workplace has had to adapt not just them"(VIC parent, government primary school).
"We have coped remarkably well, lots of online social interactions have helped" (NSW parent, government secondary school).
Reasons to return to school
Families in home-based school learning were asked to rank reasons to return to school from 'most convincing' to least.
Snapshots of comments
"My son is struggling to focus when normally he’s fine. Missing the interpersonal contact. My daughter is quite happy but falling behind in a lot of work! She normally keeps up" (VIC parent, government primary and Catholic secondary schools).
"I believe children should be back at school now. It is not feasible for parents to work from home, supervise children and after 8 weeks kids need to get back to school and our economy needs to be restarted" (NSW parent, Catholic primary school).
"If I didn't have to work I would happily home school the kids. Access to technology devices is also an issue. I take my computer to work. Some work they send home is links to websites but they don't have access to technology until I'm home" (NSW parent, government primary and secondary schools).
"It's been really hard on the kids and I think they are the group in the community who is having the most asked of them at the moment" (VIC parent, government primary school).
Many children will be distressed and confused about the racial injustices and protests currently happening in America and issues relating to Australia's #blacklivesmatter protests. As parents, we may be experiencing the same, or similar emotions, too. When you add in anxiety, isolation, and grief due to the COVID-19 crisis, it's probably fair to say just about everyone is finding it harder to express and manage their emotions than usual. This is an important time, however, to try to be calm (or give the appearance of being calm), help children to express and think through their feelings, reassure them, and help them to feel safe by letting them know you are there to listen and protect them.
Racism, civil unrest and civil violence are pretty difficult topics for children, teenagers and adults of all ages. Opening up a dialogue by asking what your child already knows is a good place to start as long as you don't jump right in and start to tell them what you think (that is, what you think they should think). How they respond will likely vary from age to age.
Younger children might feel confused or scared by what they have seen and heard, whereas older ones might feel frustrated and angry - at the group, the government, individual rights and responsibilities, or who knows what. Asking what they know about what is happening, and what their friends are talking about and why, are good ways to get a conversation happening.
Some good resources are available to help parents and carers talk through tough topics and emotions with children.
Here are two that we think are worth looking at:
30 Brave Boosters in 30 days on Instagram was developed by Karen Young. For 30 days, she shares ways to help children and teens manage anxiety and be calm, courageous and resilient. At the end of the 30 days, you will have a toolbox of actionable, practical tips at your fingertips to use whenever you need them.
UNICEF works globally to protect the rights of all children and make a significant difference to children of all ages who experience disadvantage and injustice. This article looks at talking points, arranged into age categories, that you can use to a discussion about racial injustice.
Our Parent Engagement Officers, Lisa and Nicole, visited Galilee Catholic School last month and were warmly welcomed by co-principal Kerri and Parents and Friends Coordinating Group representative Kelly.
Kerri talked about Galilee's plans to become a campus of Cardijn College next year and then open up to Year 8 in 2022 and Year 9 in 2023. These plans are important for Galillee's future as the state government is building a Birth - Year 12 super school right next door which will open in 2022 with 'state of the art' facilities.
Kelly spoke about the PFCG which is small but does its best to encourage families to get involved in the school and to fundraise for the school and charities. She said COVID-19 has made it difficult to connect with parents and just about all the group activities had been put on hold.
Kerri said Galilee still wants to go ahead with its 2020 PIE grant project but it's hard to judge just now if parents will be willing to come together face-to-face. The project involves two workshops for parents and school staff which will be presented by SPELD (Specific Learning Difficulties Association). One will look at the best strategies parents and other family members can use at home to help children with spelling and reading, and the other, to help them with maths.
Galilee encourages its students, staff and families 'to grow together as a learning community'. And this includes building family skills to help expand ways for children to be successful learners at school, home, and in the world around them.
As our PEO Lisa said, the SPELD workshops are a very affordable way to do this and are extra valuable for parents who might have some concerns about their children's progress.
Thank you Kelly and Kerri - and PFCG Chair Yvonne who was unable to attend the meeting but is interested in becoming a member of the Federation Council.
Lots of parents struggle with their own reading and writing, but don't know where to go for support. The Reading Writing Hotline is a free national phone service that puts adults in touch with the help they need.
- Their phones are answered by specialist teachers who can help find the most appropriate classes, tutors, or learning materials; and
- They have a national database of classes, tutors and online help.
Many parents make sacrifices for their children's education but are embarrassed about their own learning needs. Sometimes people just need to chat and get advice about literacy issues. The Hotline is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year and in that time has helped over 160,000 adults to find literacy and numeracy classes.
As an organisation that works with parents, we want to let you know about the Reading Writing Hotline's information and workbooks for parents, such as
- writing for the workplace
- filling in forms and writing school notes
- reading to your child
You can partner with the Hotline by;
- Emailing or Calling for more information about how they can work with you
firstname.lastname@example.org 1300 6555 06
- Check out their website for details, case studies and videos
As we end what was another very challenging term for families, students and school staff, we unite in Jesus' name and pray this prayer with you all.
You grace each of us with equal measure in your love.
Help us to love our neighbors more deeply so we can create safe, peaceful and just communities.
Inspire us all to open our eyes and ears so we can overcome intolerance and indifference.
Thank you for sending Jesus to provide us with the example we need. And may the Holy Spirit warm our hearts on the journey.