Dear members of the Whitefriars College family,
It was with a great sense of joy and anticipation that we welcomed our senior students back to Whitefriars. Their presence brought life back to our school and it was wonderful to witness the renewing of relationships between students and staff as these young men moved from the virtual to the real classroom environment. We are thrilled today, as we welcome back our Year 7 to 10 students.
The return of our staff and students has reminded me of the importance of relationship in education. Learning to know requires being known and that can only truly occur through relationship. At Whitefriars, each boy is well known here both as a learner and more broadly as a person. This does not happen by accident or left to chance. There is a great deal of work, grounded in research, process and program which assists us in understanding who these young men are, there learning and wellbeing needs and most importantly how to engage and connect them to learning.
Every staff member at Whitefriars, no matter what their role, supports this educational mission. I would however, like to point out one group of people, who every day walk with our young men as learners, particularly those in greatest need. I speak of our Learning Diversity team and in particular our Learning Support Officers. Our teachers have been acknowledged for their extraordinary dedication and efforts in support of our students during the period of our Home Learning Program, and rightly so. Our learning Support Officers too have been there supporting teachers in the virtual classroom and working closely with students who may have found this time more difficult and who have particular learning needs. Our Learning Diversity department walks with boys across the entire learning spectrum to ensure they can reach their learning potential in a supportive setting. On behalf of all of us, I wish to thank our Learning Diversity team for the valuable work they have done and continue to do in support of the young men of Whitefriars.
It is one thing to say we know our boys as learners, it is another altogether to back this up with hard data and quantitative evidence. Many of you will know that in the past few years all schools have adopted the Nationally Consistent Collection of Data (NCCD) process and methodology in determining the individual learning needs of students with a disability.
Where once we relied on external agencies in consultation with our own learning diversity departments to discern the level of support individual students should receive in schools, now educators are called upon to provide information and evidence based on their individual and collective understanding of the needs of students in our classrooms and our school.
In many ways the NCCD represents an evolution in the way schools report the adjustment and support provided to students with a disability. It is part of a broader suite of national reforms aimed at improving the lives of people with disabilities including the National Disability Strategy 2010-2020 and the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). It has been clear from the outset that this change in the way we collect data provides a more comprehensive and specific understanding of the learning needs of our students.
As people who choose to work in a Catholic school in the Carmelite tradition we support the view that each of us is made in the image and likeness of God. Each person brings his and her own gifts and each brings their own needs and all are given equal dignity in this place.
These ideas well represented in the Horizons of Hope documents developed by Catholic Education Melbourne. This document tells us that…
Catholic schools were founded to proclaim Jesus’ message of God’s love for all. Our Catholic faith calls us to embrace the contemporary world with a Catholic imagination, and a particular hope-filled view of the human person and all of creation. Catholic educators invite students to make sense of their world and their lives within a faith community that is faithful to the mission of Jesus.
The NCCD and its processes reflect what it means to be an educator in a contemporary world. It goes to the very heart of our work as Catholic Educators in ensuring that each individual is supported to become the best version of themselves. Pope Francis calls this the search for holiness. “The important thing,” Pope Francis explains, “is that each of us discern his or her own path, that they bring out the very best of themselves, the most personal gifts God has placed in their hearts”. It is our mission as educators to support our young people to do just that.
I would like to acknowledge the dedication, skill and hard work of all our staff who are currently involved in putting forward information and data which will assist in providing our students with the future support they need with regards to their learning and wellbeing.