NCEC virtual symposium addresses school improvement in a COVID-19 world

12 Nov 2020

By Theresia Titus

A panel discussion, moderated by Australian journalist and broadcaster, Geraldine Doogue AO, focussed on school improvement, student wellbeing, faith formation, and parent engagement. Photo: Supplied.

The National Catholic Education Commission (NCEC) held its “Faith in the Future” virtual symposium on 30 October, with more than 1100 registered educators and staff from Catholic education in Australia tuning in.

The online conference featured two keynote speakers including University of Toronto Leadership and Educational Change Associate Professor Dr Carol Campbell, and Australian Catholic University Philosophy of Education Professor John Haldane.

Federal Minister for Education Dan Tehan MP and Shadow Minister for Education and Training Tanya Plibersek MP spoke at the symposium and participated in the Bicentennial Games, a fun and informative segment on the 200-year history of Catholic education led by the quizmaster and national director Marist Schools Australia Dr Frank Malloy.

Other participants in the games included Troy Hayter, Principal of Clontarf Aboriginal College (WA); Loretta Wholley, Principal of Merici College Canberra (ACT) and President of the Catholic Secondary Principals Association; Phoebe Surman, Year 12 student Gleeson College, Golden Grove (SA); and Chloe Coomb, Year 11 student Cathedral College Rockhampton (QLD).

During her keynote session, Dr Campbell acknowledged that 2020 has been a challenging year for educators and teachers, as remote learning dictates the process of education during COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr Carol Campbell, Associate professor of Leadership and Educational Change at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto, spoke on school improvement in a pandemic-ridden world. Photo: Supplied.

“As we go through the conversation about school improvement in the COVID-19 world, the one thing that I want to say to you is that you matter, the work that you do as educators matter very much. I want to say to you that you matter at all times education matters but perhaps in this time of a global pandemic you matter even more so than before,” Dr Campbell said.

Dr Campbell explained that “high-performing education systems tend also to be those that have invested in the teaching profession”.

One of the important investments must be made to achieve a high-performing education system, according to Dr Campbell, is to positively construct teachers’ professional identities by having a defined career path, respect for the profession and policies that allow work-life balance for educators.

Dr Campbell also emphasised that COVID-19 pandemic has changed the education system across the world, encouraging teachers and educators to embrace the change by looking at the opportunities risen from remote learning and to “be gentle with each other”.

A panel discussion – chaired by Australian journalist and broadcaster Geraldine Doogue AO – focused on school improvement, student well-being, faith formation and parent engagement.

Panellists included Glenn Fahey, Centre for Independent Studies; Carmel Nash OAM, Catholic School Parents Australia; Matthew Brennan, Principal of St Augustine’s College, Cairns; Sam Wright, Vice Principal – Students of Padua College, Mornington Peninsula; and Carmelina Eussen, Principal Casimir Catholic College, Marrickville.

Dr Campbell encourages teachers and educators in Australia to welcome phased-in return, clear communication at all levels and for all participants, and most importantly, prioritise mental health.

Towards the end of her talk, Dr Campbell mentioned the importance of collaboration, which has been increasing during the pandemic.

“Sometimes we have to look outside, reflect differently on ourselves and take that learning back – so we are looking globally but we’re making change locally,” she expressed.

“I’m pleased that in Australia things are going in the opposite direction and you’re seeing improvements. Everyone’s a bit scared but we’re all less scared together. We’re all in this together.”