Executive Officer's Report

Executive Officer's Report

I have much pleasure in presenting to you my report as Executive Officer of the South Australian Commission for Catholic Schools for 2022.  This Annual Report highlights the significance of Catholic Education in South Australia.  You will see the breadth and depth of the responsibilities and work undertaken by SACCS in 2022 in conjunction with the Catholic Education Office, which enacts the work arising from the Commission.

In this report, you will see many initiatives that have been progressed through the partnership between the Catholic Education Office and SACCS.  Work moved forward in a broad range of areas including land purchases and building programs for schools; identification of possible future new school sites; policies and procedures developed and reviewed; launch of the SACCS Commitment Strategy for 2022-2027; inaugural Catholic School Awards; school amalgamations; Catholic School Music Festival; and resulting from the Regional Schools Pathways Program, the opening of our first diocesan secondary school in the Riverland region.

Catholic schools continue to be schools of choice in South Australia.  This year we achieved the significant milestone of over 50,000 students attending our schools.  We are seeing a significant period of growth in student numbers.  This number includes 309 students who are currently attending our schools on full scholarships awarded to children and young people in care.  Their scholarships include full tuition, along with an amount to cover the cost of items like uniforms, textbooks, excursions, and extracurricular activities, including sport or music lessons.  We have also seen a strong increase in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Students with 1,022 attending our schools.

2022 started with a major event in February, the launch of Towards 2027:  Expanding Horizons and Deepening Practices, a strategy for Catholic Education South Australia.  The South Australian Commission for Catholic Schools launched their new strategy for the next five years outlining commitments in seven strategic areas:

  • Catholic Identity and Mission
  • Students
  • Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
  • Learning and Teaching
  • People, Leadership and Culture
  • Financial Stewardship and Improvement
  • Participation in Mission and Purpose.

I feel privileged to be working alongside staff of the Catholic Education Office, principals, teachers and support staff who all give above and beyond, especially in the ever-changing environment during COVID-19.  They have navigated a constantly changing landscape to comply with many guidelines and regulations.  As we slowly emerge from the stringent restrictions of COVID-19 our staff and students are to be congratulated on their responses to the many challenges they were handed during the last couple of years.  The overriding priority was always to ensure the best possible learning outcomes for all of our students during this time.  I thank all of those who work in Catholic education for their energy, expertise, wisdom, and leadership that each has brought to their school, office, or centre.

The Commission continued its advocacy for the fair and equitable funding of Catholic schools and students with both the state and federal governments.  With March holding the state election, the Commission, with the support of the Political Strategy Group of CESA, targeted fair funding for Catholic Schools, Recurrent Funding, Capital Funding, Preschool Education, Fair Access to Rural and Regional Buses, Year 7 Transition Funding, COVID-19 Responsibilities and Vocational Education and Technical Colleges.  Meetings were held with the Premier, State Treasurer and opposition members to discuss these issues and their importance to students in Catholic schools and their families.

The federal election was also held in 2022.  The National Catholic Education Commission strongly lobbied the political parties for better equity for Catholic school students around Australia.

Both the state and the nation had a change in the parties winning government.  We are working closely with both new governments to secure better and more equitable resources for our students and schools.

SACCS celebrated the opening of their new fee-free special assistance school in the Northern suburbs of Adelaide.  Compass Catholic Community is a co-educational secondary school for young people aged 17 to 24 who, for whatever reason, have found themselves disconnected from education.

As a result of the Regional Schools Pathway Program, the Commission opened St Francis of Assisi College, Renmark.  It is the first Catholic secondary school catering for students from the Riverland area, which provides a Catholic pathway for students in this region.

The Western Technical College also opened its doors in 2022.  The College, which is a campus of Mount Carmel College at Rosewater, provided trade and vocational training to not only Catholic school students, but also to students from government and independent schools.

2022 welcomed the inaugural Catholic Education Awards.  Awards were spread over a number of categories for staff working in schools and the Catholic Education Offices honouring those who continually give above and beyond in their work for the benefit of our students.

Parents and carers of students in Catholic schools in South Australia make a significant contribution not only financially, but in their support of the learning of their children and the health of our schools.  To assist our parents, Catholic School Parents SA (CASPA), was formed.  CASPA’s vision is that all parents and carers of children are empowered through leadership, communication, advocacy, and partnership.  CASPA will provide resources, education, and support to assist all families and parents in their role.

The Commission’s work is supported in many ways by other church organisations, other education sectors and government.  We especially value our strong ties with the Governors and Trustees who have governance of their Catholic schools located in South Australia.  Their relationship with the Commission ensures a strong partnership between all parties responsible for schools in South Australia.

Rebekah Lyons concluded her work as Executive Secretary to the Commission at the end of December 2021.  I would like to acknowledge and thank Rebekah for her outstanding work for the Commission over the last eight years.  I would like to thank Sylvia Jaksa who stepped into the role, thereby providing a seamless changeover for the Commission while they looked for a new administrator.  In September we welcomed Jackie Phillips to the role of Executive Administrator to the Commission.  I would like to sincerely thank both Sylvia and Jackie for the work they undertook during the year to ensure the efficient running of the Commission.

My grateful appreciation goes to my colleague, Ms Nichii Mardon, Director of the Catholic Education Office in the Diocese of Port Pirie and her significant work in leading the schools in that Diocese.  The Leadership Team of the Catholic Education Office are also to be acknowledged for their commitment and agility in leading our system through this time of unprecedented challenges.

I would like to offer my thanks to the Commissioners themselves, who provide many hours of their time to the Commission, sharing their wisdom, diversity and experience.  I would also like to give thanks to the many people that serve on the standing committees of the Commission in their work supporting the Commission.  The Commission is strongly led by Professor Denis Ralph.  His strong advocacy, support and guidance has been at the core of the continuous improvement and development of Catholic education in South Australia.

We are blessed in South Australia to have our Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Adelaide, Archbishop Patrick O’Regan DD and the Bishop of Port Pirie, Bishop Karol Kuldzyck SDS as active Commission members who provide much wisdom and support to the Commission’s work as an integral part of the church.

As we look toward 2023, I am optimistic in what we will achieve as a system, as we roll out our new strategic plan to further improve and build on the excellent progress we have already made in providing the best possible outcomes for our students.  The major focus of our work has always been to support our students to become thriving people, capable learners and leaders for the world God desires.

Dr Neil McGoran
Executive Officer