From the Principal

This Duce I’d like to share a little of the feedback and analysis from the report we recently received from Enhancing Catholic School Identity Surveys.

Firstly, a special thank you to the many families – along with staff and students — who completed the survey; these projects and their outcomes are obviously a good deal more accurate, meaningful and useful when we have a large number of respondents. The feedback from the Catholic Education Commission was that the completion rate of our De La Salle families was high, which is very encouraging. As ever, it’s great to be able to rely on our De La community to become involved.

Suffice to say this is a very complex project and the data we have received is even more so! In unpacking a couple of the key outcomes we are provided with a picture of our Catholic identity. While a lot of our best work in and beyond the College revolves around our Lasallian charism, we must always remember we are first and foremost a Catholic school, and without the Church, there would have been no St John Baptist de La Salle to hand down the ethos with which we all identify so strongly.

It was interesting to note the ‘Features of a Catholic Education’ which rated most highly among all three sets of respondents; parents, students and staff. Ranked within a couple of decimal points of each other in terms of importance were:

  • Openness to different cultures, beliefs and life philosophies;
  • Involvement in social justice projects;
  • Ecological awareness: care for nature and the environment.

In an overview of the school identity types, the Melbourne Scale explores, from a theological perspective, ways Catholic schools can give shape to their identity in a pluralising cultural context. Our data from the survey responses saw us classified as a school of ‘Recontextualisation’.

This is a Catholic school with a diverse school population, among whom there is at least a significant and recognisable group of Christian believers. The school is deliberately engaged in a common search for a renewed Catholic profile. Through a conversation with plurality, it aims at a reinterpreted understanding of the Christian faith in the contemporary, diversifying world. Resisting a consensus paradigm, it is driven by a focus on difference and ‘otherness’. The encounter and conversation between different views is being moderated for a clear preferential option for the Catholic faith.

Another model used to measure Catholic identity is the Victoria Scale, which provides an overview of how Catholic schools see themselves pedagogically. Given this is the preferred outcome, I was pleased our community’s responses meant we were classified as a ‘Dialogue’ school (maximal Christian identity, maximal solidarity and openness to diversity).

 This is a Catholic school in the midst of cultural and religious plurality. This school deliberately puts emphasis on its Catholic inspiration, while simultaneously taking seriously our multicultural world. A multiplicity of voices, views and perspectives are recognised and engaged with as contributions to the dialogue. A preferential option for the Christian story and message sets the tone for this dialogue. Receptivity and openness to what is different are a prerequisite to re-profiling the Catholic faith in the middle of a pluralising culture (Recontextualisation). In the midst of plurality we search for what it means to be Christian today; as Christians we search for a way to live in the middle of plurality. 

 (Understanding and Interpreting the Enhancing Catholic School Identity (ECSIP) Report of Your School: A guide for principals and school leadership teams as they explore the survey component of the Enhancing Catholic School Identity Process, July 2014).

Last Saturday I had the opportunity to be involved with Lasallians at different ends of their journey in the College. During the day I interviewed ten Year 5 boys who have applied for a Year 7 place in 2019, from a range of primary schools. These interviews, while only 20 minutes each, are always a great exercise. I find it both encouraging and enlightening to discover what these young men have to offer. They are so full of hope and ambition, many of them so mature and articulate, eager to impress and ready to make the transition to secondary school.

Many of the boys had either been on a tour, have a brother here or know friends and or ex-classmates who attend De La. When asked about what they were looking forward to about coming to the school, there was great excitement, their answers ranging in reference to the variety of subjects available, the specialist facilities, the chance to make new friends and to play ACC sport. The consistent theme among the applicants was their keenness to just get here and become part of the community.

Later that same afternoon I went down to Elsternwick Park to watch The Old Collegians’ Footy Club Under 19 Blues in the Premier Division of the Amateurs. The team is made up predominantly of 2016 Year 12 students with a sprinkling of this year’s Year 12 students and a couple from Year 11. Unfortunately, the team lost comprehensively in their Preliminary Final, but that happens in footy and at their age, there’s always next year. The game wasn’t the story though. In the sheds after the match, I stood in a corner of the crowded room with the players and their families and listened to the young coach, Nick Hyland (Class of 2009) talk about the season. There was little mention of football though, it was all about the camaraderie and true friendship amongst the young men with a common link to the College and the sense of belonging. Nick spoke of the privilege of being considered by the club as a viable candidate to coach, of being accepted by the players and the team — being supported and mentored by a couple of the dads had been so meaningful to him. Last year’s College Vice Captain and Blues 2017 Captain Sean O’Callaghan responded on behalf of the team, speaking about the bond, the friendship and the enjoyment of tackling the season’s highs and lows together.

It was very gratifying to see the most recent De La Salle graduates (and several current students) revelling in the experience of being part of the Lasallian community via the footy club. These young men who all left school nearly 12 months ago, along with many of the dads present who are Old Colls, displayed a beautiful link between their times as students at the College and their ongoing bond. I really hope the Year 5 boys I interviewed on Saturday end up like these young men.

Lastly, a reminder that the Parent Network Annual General Meeting is coming up on Monday 25 October and we would encourage all parents and guardians to attend if they can. The Parent Network is an important part of the structure of the College. Parents who participate have the opportunity to get involved in a friendly and social way while supporting the life of the College, and we deeply appreciate all of their efforts on behalf of the College community.

Mr Peter Houlihan

Back to The Duce Issue 2017 14 – 14 September 2017