(Main image – Students from Christ the King Primary School learning from home)
Dear staff, school families, and all in our Catholic education community,
Term One has been one full of upheaval, calling us to adapt to new ways of teaching and learning while ensuring we keep the wellbeing and safety of every student and staff member at the centre of our actions.
As we navigate the changes to our daily lives and support our State’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the early start to the school holidays has been welcomed by parents and students. For staff in Catholic schools, next week will provide a much-needed opportunity to reflect on the transition to remote teaching and plan for the ongoing learning and pastoral care of students when Term Two commences.
There are three messages that I share with you now.
The first is thank you. For school and office staff across the system, it has been an exceptionally busy and uncertain term, and while the world has been changing around you, you have continued to put the learning and wellbeing of students first. Office based staff have been doing incredible work supporting school leaders and communities. I thank you for all for your outstanding service to our system and students.
I would also like to thank the many parents, families and friends of Catholic education who have partnered with schools and have openly expressed your gratitude and support to Principals, teachers and other staff through this challenging time. While everyone has had to manage changes to work, school and social routines, and have also had to consider the safety of your family and loved ones, many of you have offered encouragement to staff at your schools, and been patient and responsive as schools have made the changes required to support learning from home in recent weeks. I ask that you continue to partner with your child’s school as you work together to ensure the best learning and support for your child.
Many families are also under increased financial strain at the moment, and in the context of COVID-19, as a system we have reiterated our commitment to guaranteeing the enrolment of all students, no matter the financial situation of their families. If you would like more information about fee support available, I urge you to contact your Principal.
The second message I share with you is one of encouragement. While we need to remain attentive and responsive to our changing circumstances, we continue to focus on all that we are doing well in responding as an education system to the current pandemic. Our schools have transitioned impressively to remote teaching and learning under extreme circumstances. The collaboration and support across our system of schools has supported us to act promptly while remaining focused on the safety and wellbeing of all students.
Our principals and staff have done amazing work coordinating and communicating with parents, staff and students, while office teams have provided a coordinated and effective response system-wide.
The work we have done as a system and at the school level to implement and better utilise digital technologies for education is paying off as we see remote delivery now happening as a modified version of usual practices, rather than a whole new approach to be learned under pressure. Not all remote learning is digitally delivered, and the excellent work of our schools aligned with our Vision for Learning is witnessed in learning continuity plans that schools have implemented.
Finally, I acknowledge that our preparations for Easter will be far from normal and I offer the the following as we pause to think and pray in relative isolation.
There is a phrase that has helped me gain a deeper understanding of faith on both a personal, and communal level, and that is that we, the Church, are an ‘Easter people’. What does it mean for us to be ‘Easter people’ this year?
Easter, in many ways, is the summary and completion of our faith, while at the same time it is a new starting point for us as Christian people. It is one of the key points in the calendar when we would usually come together with family and as parish communities to celebrate our faith.
This year will be different. Families won’t travel to be together and we won’t assemble in our local church building to celebrate the triduum. This reality, like so much that has happened this term, is disruptive and painful.
Easter is an invitation to enter into something new.
Perhaps it is a new appreciation of the value of kinship and home. Or, a sense of gratitude for the gift of faith and religious freedom.
As we begin to trust and let go, we can be drawn more deeply into the pattern of living, dying and rising; the mystery that is built into the fabric of all creation and is revealed to us most clearly in Jesus Christ. This is what it means to be Easter people, to choose to live in the love that invites us to let go and receive a whole new perception of reality.
Thank you again to all of our staff, working from home, school, or office – our system is able to respond with professionalism, care, agility and generosity amid the current challenges.
Whether a staff member, a parent, a student or a friend, I pray that you keep safe over the holidays, enjoy the company of those physically close and connect online or by phone with loved ones far away.
Dr Debra Sayce
Catholic Education Western Australia