WelCom February 2024
Dr Kevin Shore
Chief Executive, NZ Catholic Education Office
Kia ora koutou
Every year is unique and has its issues and challenges and 2023 was no exception. Adverse weather, which repeatedly impacted on Northland, Auckland, Coromandel, and the East Coast of the North Island, including Gisborne and the Hawke’s Bay, was particularly challenging. The resilience of these communities was inspiring as their character was tested, in many cases, multiple times. NZCEO acknowledges the staff and communities in our Catholic schools who faced this adversity and in the best traditions of Catholic communities rolled up their sleeves to help and support those in need. At times, this meant putting their own needs second to others and this generosity of spirit and action was appreciated. Let’s hope the weather is kinder in 2024.
School attendance was a significant issue in 2023. There is no doubt in my mind if the young people in Aotearoa are to fulfil their potential, they need to regularly attend school. The downward trend of regular attendance at school since 2016 has affected both state and state integrated schools and our Catholic schools are no exception. While rates of attendance in Catholic schools are on average higher than state schools there is still room for considerable improvement. The issues at the heart of non-attendance are complex but could be improved immediately if schools could get the full support of their parent community to ensure their child attends school every day. Attendance to school and success at school go hand in hand and there is no secret in that recipe.
The election of a new coalition government in late 2023 signals a different flavour of approach to education in 2024. What will not change is a strong focus on literacy and numeracy and the work that has been done to date on best-practice models of pedagogy should continue and that is to be applauded. The focus by the new Education Minister, Erica Stanford, on an hour of reading, writing and mathematics will not be a major change for most of our Catholic schools as much of this is already in practice. How the Government intends to refocus the curriculum on academic achievement and not ideology has not been signalled at this stage and NZCEO looks forward to some clarity on what is intended here.
The coalition agreement has signalled partnership schools (previously charter schools) are to be reintroduced and that the model includes the option of existing state schools (and possibly state integrated schools) moving into the partnership model. At the time of writing, NZCEO has not seen any material on the process of how this will be rolled out and what regulations will govern the partnership school model so it is difficult to comment on the impact this may have on the state integrated education network. NZCEO will continue to watch this space very closely.
In 2024, NZCEO is excited to be hosting the first National Catholic Education Convention since 2018. The Catholic education community is excited by the opportunity to gather again, celebrate and recognise those in our sector and discuss how we continue to align with the mission of the Church in educating the 67,000 students who attend Catholic schools in Aotearoa New Zealand. The conference will be held in the TSB Arena in Wellington from Wednesday 19 June through to Friday 21 June 2024. Information is on our conference website: www.cathedconvention.co.nz/programme
In terms of education, 2024 will be a time of adjustment to a new government and policy change. However, what is unlikely to change is the commitment by all in Catholic education to ensure that every student is educated within an environment where a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is the bedrock for everything else.
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