As Pope Francis said, “An education in the fullness of humanity should be the defining of Catholic schools”. This sentiment is reflected in a new series of policies and procedures from Catholic Education Diocese of Wollongong (CEDoW), which were released to schools during several workshops held in September and October. Their aim is to embrace and support student pastoral care, wellbeing and diverse learning needs across all age groups.
“Catholic schools are places where we aim to educate the whole person – academically, pastorally and spiritually – meaning and purpose,” said CEDoW Director of Schools, Peter Turner at an event on 5 September that marked the release of the CEDoW Diverse Learning Needs Policy and the CEDoW Student Pastoral Care and Wellbeing Policy.
“Our schools have increasingly become places of acceptance and inclusion but it has also brought significant complexity. We don’t underestimate the difficulty and challenges faced by schools, and by the system, in meeting the diverse learning, pastoral care and wellbeing needs of our students in an ever-challenging regulatory and litigious environment.”
The aim, through the release of these policies online via the Policy Directory on CEDoW’s website, is to help to bring reactive processes and practices into consistent, coherent and interactive CEDoW documents. This has been done in a comprehensive and easily accessible way for all staff.
The new policies were released alongside a multitude of associated procedures, frameworks and embedded links including the Positive Behaviours for Learning Framework K-12 (PB4L) [in development] and a new Case Collaboration Framework that replaces the Managing Student’s Pastoral and Educational Concerns (MSPEC) process.
Focusing on consistency in approach, quality practice and meeting compliance, the new policies and procedures were four years in the making.
"It was very easy to decide to release these two policies at the same time because there is so much consistency between them,” said CEDoW Senior Professional Officer for Education Policy, Anne-Maree Creenaune. "In trying to manage all of the societal pressures that are placed on schools, we have still managed to develop policies to support schools in navigating this territory."
During their development, the policy team also identified a range of future projects and initiatives that will be followed up - with some well underway and imminent, and some requiring new project teams.
“The purpose of these two policies was to provide clear, concise and consistent expectations so that all schools could meet the necessary requirements to support students within the Catholic context,” said Holy Spirit Bellambi’s Support Department Coordinator and policy project team member, Frances Williams.
“We aimed to provide responses to the many questions that have existed in the past, in regards to diverse learning needs and pastoral care in both primary and secondary schools.”
“At the core of our decision making was the belief that the policies had to account for the needs of staff, students, and parents and in some situations, the community, in a changing world influenced by technology, social media, and a diverse range of experiences and expectations.”
In an ever shifting society, the policies are designed to be adaptive.
“Even though the development of the policies took four years, it is assuring to understand that a great deal of collaboration and discussion took place to arrive at the policy release day,” said Mrs Williams. “The policies are dynamic documents and they are able to keep pace with the ever-changing conditions associated with policy formation.”
At each workshop, expert staff members from the CEDoW offices were available to help school staff to prepare for the expected implementation by February 2021. Thanks were given to the project team members for their deliberations and contributions, the various working parties and consultation groups – both from schools and from within the organisation across every team but in particular to School Improvement Services, Specialist Support, namely Dr Paul McCann and Cynthia McCammon.
In addition, the Director of Schools offered his sincere thanks to Anne-Maree Creenanune for her capable and credible professionalism.
“These policies provide an interactive platform as a one-stop-shop to identify and clarify the responsibilities of our schools, and in addition include links to processes and procedures to help schools meet these responsibilities,” said Dr Paul McCann, Head of School Improvement Services, Specialist Support. “Ongoing personal and professional learning formation and growth experiences will be provided to schools to support these policies and their implementation.”
THE POLICIES IN BRIEF
The CEDoW Student Pastoral Care and Wellbeing Policy was developed to support school staff in meeting their compliance obligations according to CEDoW, the New South Wales Education Standards Authority (NESA) and the Australian Education Act 2013 (Cth).
There are three clear messages:
- Developing and educating the whole person within safe, supportive and respectful environments;
- Focusing on developing leadership, inclusion, student voice, partnerships, and wellbeing and support for positive behaviour; and
- Responsibility of all schools and staff in partnership with parents/carers.
The policy expectations are expressed in eight sections:
- Student Safety, Pastoral Care and Wellbeing for Learning
- Targeted Support for Students
- Learning and Teaching
- Families and Community Partnerships
- Safe and Supportive Environments
- Student Bullying
- Student Sexualised Behaviour
- Student Health and Safety.
The policy contains 11 procedures as embedded links.
The CEDoW Diverse Learning Needs Policy was developed to support school staff in meeting their compliance obligations according to CEDoW, NESA and the Australian Education Act 2013 (Cth), the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) and the Disability Standards for Education 2005 (Cth).
There are three significant messages:
- Responsibility of all to support students with diverse backgrounds, cultures, abilities, and dispositions;
- Commitment to increasing access and participation, promoting personalised learning; and
- Collaborative practices with parents/carers and support staff.
The policy expectations are expressed into six sections:
- General Diverse Learning Needs
- Students with Disability
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Students
- New Arrivals and EAL/D Students
- Gifted Students
- Students in Out of Home Care.
The policy contains 16 procedures as embedded links.
Ongoing support for the implementation of the policies is available on an individual school basis.