A new path for Western Sydney Catholic schools

By Catholic Schools Parramatta Diocese, 13 February 2024
Catholic Schools Parramatta Diocese (CSPD) leaders are seen in discussion during the 2024 CSPD System Leaders’ Day at Rosehill Gardens. Image: CSPD/Supplied


On 25 January, as thousands of students across the Diocese of Parramatta readied their school supplies and uniforms for the new school year, 550 Catholic school leaders from across Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains gathered to prepare for the year ahead.

Held at Rosehill Gardens, the event marked the one-year anniversary of the system of 80 schools becoming Catholic Schools Parramatta Diocese (CSPD), formerly known as Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta (CEDP). The day celebrated all that had been achieved in the previous year, while looking forward with positivity, hope and a new strategic focus for 2024.

The annual CSPD System Leaders’ Day began with an Acknowledgement of Country from Executive Director of Schools Jack de Groot. Jack also extended a warm welcome to principals new to the Diocese or leading different schools in 2024 and to members of the CSPD Board in attendance.

In his address, Bishop of Parramatta Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv expressed the importance of continuing to embrace the synodal way and cultivating relationships as we put aside personal preferences for the sake of the whole.

“We are richer and better not only because we are all like-minded, but more often than not, because we are prepared to learn and enrich ourselves with the insights from others.”

Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, speaks during the 2024 Catholic Schools Parramatta Diocese (CSPD) System Leaders’ Day at Rosehill Gardens. Image: CSPD/Supplied

Bishop Vincent reminded school leaders that they are called to accompany, facilitate and empower their students throughout their schooling journey and to approach all they do with care, attention, patience and love.

“Ideological positions are widening on every issue whether it is immigration, environment, gender or the Voice for Indigenous Australians. As Catholics, we are called more than ever to listen, discern and act with Christian wisdom, integrity and truth.”

The Bishop thanked the Board for their mutual partnership and commented that the change to the organisation through incorporation had been a positive one.

This sentiment was echoed by Board Chair Elizabeth Crouch AM, who described the first year of CSPD as “an extraordinary year”.

Elizabeth, who also serves as Chair of Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network, inspired attendees as she described what motivates her involvement with education.

Catholic Schools Parramatta Diocese (CSPD) Board Chair Elizabeth Crouch AM speaks during the 2024 CSPD System Leaders’ Day at Rosehill Gardens. Image: CSPD/Supplied

“My high expectations for local kids, whether in education or health, come from a strident commitment to equity, a Catholic sense of social justice and, frankly, a sense of what’s fair for every Australian child.” Elizabeth said she and the Board were grateful for the opportunity to meet with school communities and staff to discuss opportunities for the future. To date, the Board has visited just over 40 schools and plans to visit the remaining schools during 2024.

Highlighting the need to work in partnership to drive a high-performance culture, Elizabeth urged CSPD to be a driving force for education in the West.

“I encourage you to embrace the opportunity that change brings, push yourself out of your comfort zone and build a bridge to a brighter future for our students, teachers and school community.

“The focus for the Board will be on walking with you in that synodal way the Bishop talked about to encourage and facilitate high performance, whether for our students or staff…ensuring that performance is viewed as an enabler and not a constraint.”

The final formal address of the day was delivered by Executive Director of Schools Jack de Groot. Jack began by highlighting the aspects of the annual gathering that have made it such a success in the past.

“The sense of community, of shared endeavour, of networking, of friends in the shared mission of Catholic education for the young people of Western Sydney and their families.”

Catholic Schools Parramatta Diocese (CSPD) Executive Director Jack de Groot speaks during the 2024 CSPD System Leaders’ Day at Rosehill Gardens. Image: CSPD/Supplied

Shifting the focus to the future, Jack emphasised the importance of ensuring that CSPD’s strategy is centred around what will have the biggest impact on student learning. He identified embracing a performance culture, supporting evidence-based explicit teaching practices and ensuring that learning spaces meet the needs of students and staff as key priorities towards a new strategic direction.

“My hope for this System Leaders’ Day, is that we mark the occasion as a clear step in the journey we have embarked on to set a new path for CSPD.”

School leadership groups were then encouraged to consider and discuss these strategic priorities in their individual school contexts, identifying both their strengths and challenges in these areas and what could be done locally to ensure success.

A video presentation featuring members of the Educational Reference Panel and some of our parents and students, produced by the Multimedia Team within CSPD’s Digital Learning and Library Services Team, highlighted the importance of understanding the communities and voices of our schools.

Catholic Schools Parramatta Diocese (CSPD) leaders are seen in discussion during the 2024 CSPD System Leaders’ Day at Rosehill Gardens. Image: CSPD/Supplied

Attendees also heard from Director of Education in the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn, Ross Fox, who shared his insights from their strategic transformation over the last few years. Ross emphasised the vital role of data in identifying areas for improvement and the importance of professional learning in increasing teacher capacity.

As the day concluded, Jack de Groot thanked leaders for their collaboration and insights and invited them to continue to share the same sense of synodality and positivity in working together to provide the best educational opportunities for the children and young people of Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains.

With thanks to Catholic Schools Parramatta Diocese (CSPD).


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