Friday, 3 June 2016

United: ACPPA & NZCPPA candles, a Tokotoko and bullroarers

Danny Nicholls skilfully captured the combined ACPPA & NZCPPA exec members during their meeting day in Auckland
I was fortunate to be present during the inaugural combined Australian Catholic Primary Principals Association (ACPPA) and New Zealand Catholic Primary Principals Association (NZCPPA) meeting on Tuesday 31st May, 2016. Two days were planned for the Catholic executive members to collaborate, learn and share with one another before the commencement of the Trans-Tasman Primary Principal Conference in Auckland. You can read a reflection about our first day of school visits on an earlier blogpost here.  Below are reflections, links and slideshows from our meeting day. 

Special thanks to all of the contributors mentioned throughout this blogpost who shared their presentations. May our trans-tasman ties strengthen and grow as we unite to bring about the reign of God and keep alive the mission of Jesus Christ for our students and families in our Catholic schools across Australia and New Zealand.

Two candles were presented from the ACPPA to the NZCPPA. Brad Gaynor explained that the ACPPA have also got the same two candles and will create a sacred space to light the candles at future meetings. The candles have logos representative of both countries, the wattle for Australia and the fern for New Zealand entwined within a cross as a mark of unity to Christ and each other through our Catholic faith.
ACPPA & NZCPPA special candles, bullroarers and tokotoko
Mark Mowbray (New South Wales, ACPPA president) presented two bullroarers that were painted by a local pastor and tribal elder from the Biripi people. Bullroarers are a sacred wooden object used in Aboriginal religious ceremonies. They are attached to string and can be whirled round to produce a noise and communicate over great distances. Mark then shared a story written for him by an elder. It was called "Gulambara and the voice of Yuludarra" and was based around Catholic Aboriginal spirituality and the Trinity. Mark explained that together, the ACPPA and the NZCPPA will have the voice of the Holy Spirit at their meetings now and in the future.
ACPPA President Mark Mowbray 
Michael Mokai (Hamilton Diocese, meeting chair and outgoing NZCPPA president) spoke about the New Zealand gift of a Tokotoko to the ACPPA. This is a Maori talking stick. When you hold it, it increases the prestige of the speaker and is a representation of the spirit world. Mike explained that our conversations can continue when we are not in each others presence.

Donaugh Shirley (Queenslandprovided a synopsis of the Australian Catholic Education sector. Donaugh explained there were twenty-seven dioceses in Australia. Some were quite small and some were very large. In most dioceses a Director of Education acts as an agent for the Bishop. Principals have more autonomy than in New Zealand although this is changing in some parts of Australia. The majority of the funding comes through Federal Government to the diocese and then the rest is made up by school fees.
Special needs is a growing area in Catholic schools and schools are renowned for catering for the needs of learners. The number of special needs students has doubled in the last few years. Early years education is also a highlight and there is huge diversity across Australia. Some young children start at three years of age in Western Australia and advice sessions for parents are also available . In Queensland, organisations outside the school system organise the Early Years programmes. The ACPPA need to advocate for students, teachers and principals as an organisation. The Catholic Commission are trying to get equity over the funding across Australia.

Therese Coleman & Deb Daines (Christchurch Diocese) shared a presentation around the theme 'Managing our Patch' (see below). They explained that Catholic schools are an extension of the Parishes. The Board of trustees explanation plays a major governance role in New Zealand schools and the electing of parent trustees is the second largest election in New Zealand. Therese and Deb shared finance information and explained that 60% of the staff in Catholic schools must be Catholic. Catholic teaching positions are advertised as 'tag' positions. Tags are hard to fill in different parts of the country. There are five preference options for the enrolment of children into Catholic schools but the priest makes the final decision. Legally schools must not enrol any more than approximately 5% of their maximum role of non - Catholics. New Zealand schools have a Diocesan Catholic review every three years and state government review every three to five years.

You can click on the arrows and enlarge the slideshow below to view it.

Deb Daines
Therese Coleman
Melanie Bolwell (Northern Territory) shared a beautiful prayer presentation entitled 'Dreaming Big'. Due to images of children from her school we are unable to share this with you.

Bruce Young, Daniel Pepper and Craig McKernan (Auckland Diocese) spoke about Indigenous Education in New Zealand.
Bruce explained the history going back to Bishop Pompellier and the missionaries evangelising the Maori people in 1840. He shared the importance of  The Treaty of Waitangi, the nations founding document and the fact that Roman Catholicism and spirituality are included in article 4 of The Treaty. The religious brothers and sisters were brought out to educate the early people. Then the Government developed native schools and Maori language started to get banned in schools and homes. From 1880's to 1950's Maori education was pushed aside. The language was lost and slowly it is returning. 

In the last fifteen years the government has focussed on Maori and Pasifika students ensuring success for all. The NZ Curriculum document was developed in 2007. You can access information about this at this link.  Daniel explained it has a very explicit vision stating that Maori and Pakeha must learn and grow together. There is also a Maori Curriculum document to ensure there is a focus on success for Maori including correct protocols. 

Craig's school does a powhiri (Maori welcoming ceremony) every term for new students coming into the school. Transiency and truancy are huge challenges but it comes back to the importance of building relationships with students and families. Craig's staff are all learning to speak TeReo (Maori language). The Maori Achievement Collaborative (MAC) for example, is ensuring there is representation and equity for educational outcomes for Maori by challenging all of us. ERO (Government Education Review) will not consider your school to be high performing unless Maori are feeling valued and progressing as Maori students. We have to change the perception of our staff. It starts at the top and then it filters down to the staff.
Bruce talking about the history of NZ education
Karen Pearce (Queensland) spoke about Indigenous Education in Australia. Karen believes Australia is far behind New Zealand in this area and they have a long way to go. Aboriginals only got the vote in 1967. Australians need to learn from us.
We all had a chance to share the Aboriginal Lord's prayer.

Karen focused on the Queensland and Townsville Diocese. 10% of students in the schools are indigenous. The Council of the Australian Government developed the 'Closing the Gap' initiative to help close the gap in Indigenous disadvantage. Closing the Gap focuses on reading, writing and numeracy, however, one of the main problems is getting the children to school.
The Australian Curriculum include cross curriculum priorities and Torres Strait islander priorities.
All schools now acknowledge the traditional owners of the land. 
Karen's Torres Strait Islander Dance Troupe performs at different schools. It is mainly made up of non indigenous students.
Schools celebrate special days and build relationship bridges together. RAPS - Reconciliation Action Plans.
Most of the funding is used to employ staff as it is very hard to get staff in some schools.
High schools have more funding for scholarships eg. sporting opportunities
The Northern Territory has flexible learning centres for indigenous children who drop out of school.
Some of the challenges include: generations on welfare and substance abuse, school attendance and access to education.

Danny Nicholls (incoming NZCPPA president) and James Murray (Hamilton Diocese) spoke about Spiritual and Faith formation. Teachers and children encounter Christ each and every day. There are both challenges and opportunities to provide spiritual and faith formation for our students and staff.Parish priests have a role as a spiritual leader and they are on the board of trustees. Different diocese are exploring faith based clusters of communities of learning to strengthen their Catholicity. New Zealand Catholic schools receive the same operational funding as state schools but must use a substantial amount for special Catholic character resourcing and professional development.

James and Danny presenting
Brad Gaynor (Australian Capital Territory ACT)
Every diocese has some form of accreditation and there are many opportunities for professional learning. All school documents and strategic plans have a big push for spirituality and faith formation.
Brad Gaynor presenting
Siloam ('So I went and I washed and then I could see') is a 24 hour spiritual retreat for Catholic principals to take time out and connect with their colleagues and each other in a spiritual way. Principals meet three times a year in the ACT for this 24 hour retreat. It has a spiritual theme and is a process rather than a programme. Principals break into small groups and each group has a priest assigned to them. The priests are progressive and forward thinking. The second day is about leadership.
Some of the issues facing Catholic schools are: disengaged and disinterested teachers, lack of clergy, Parish priest restrictions, every diocese is different, the Catholic education curriculum is constantly changing and different across Australia, managing all of this and at the same time providing relevant and engaging Catholic education for students. As a result of accreditation, there are now more highly qualified knowledgeable Catholic teachers. The concern is that this is still not filtering from the teachers into children in their learning to ensure schools are truly Catholic.

Sue Jury (Wellington dioceses) spoke about the positives and negatives of the Religious Education RE curriculum in New Zealand.
In 1996 a new RE curriculum was created by teachers for teachers. It is a National curriculum with six strands - Sacrament, Church, Holy Spirit, God, Jesus, Communion of Saints and three other learning areas which include prayer, liturgical year and myself and others. Here is a link to some further information about the curriculum.
A major challenge is that the curriculum is year based and it needs to move with the times. It is difficult to teach it in composite classes. We are working towards a New Zealand Curriculum model with a programme levelled from 1-4. It  will need to be more easily adaptable to modern pedagogical practices. Many schools have moved to an integrated approach using a one page overview that provides, for example, everything a Year 4 student needs to know. Assessment is planned at the beginning of the unit around specific aspects of knowledge and experiences of faith. The knowledge only is assessed.

Not included at the meeting but an extra to share. At St Joseph's in Oamaru we have a DRS (Director of Religious Studies) blog. This is a record of our RE staff meetings and ongoing sharing around assessment and data gathering that led to an RE Curriculum target in 2016. This target aligns with our literacy and numeracy targets to action and support learning needs and gaps for our learners based on our data. You can learn more at this link and track back through older posts.

Ros Oates (South Australia) shared a You Tube video about  the curriculum in Australia ACARA with Robert Randall CEO (see below). It is a very complex curriculum with much to cover and the goals is to refine it further. Ros' slideshow is available below.
Ros Oates presenting

                          You Tube video of Robert Randall talking about the Australian Curriculum

Special thanks to Mike Mokai for chairing this meeting and ensuring representatives from both ACPPA and NZCPPA had opportunities to share and collaborate during this valuable time together.

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