As 9am on Wednesday morning arrived we drew a collective sigh of relief as our VCE students commenced their English exam. At the same time the new headline came through that we had recorded another day of double zeros for new cases and deaths due to coronavirus. In the depths of our lockdown and remote learning, I am sure there were many times that many of us wondered if we would ever be able to sit the exams. Throughout this pandemic we have been reminded of the power of hope. At times I reminded staff and students that the only way out was to go through it. And whilst we are not there yet, we have much to be grateful for and much we have learned through this experience.  

In my Graduation address to the Class of 2020, I reflected on how this pandemic has formed them. This year has been the greatest test of character for the Class of 2020 and they have shown all that Clonard stands for in how they responded. They have known disappointment, frustration, uncertainty, doubt and sadness. None of this is was what we wished for them. In spite of this they chose resilience, courage, positivity, optimism and hope. They took everything they knew about community, connection and belonging and reinvented ‘school spirit’ and leadership for our community, especially our students, in an online space. In so many ways they will be more ready for the world that awaits them than any other graduating class before because of the independence and self reliance they have developed this year.  

We sent them forward from this place reminding them that Clonard will always be a part of their story and they can always return. This story now continues as an ‘Old Collegian’ where they join with the sisterhood of all the amazing women who have gone before them. We reminded them that their story will always count because wherever they go, they will be people of ‘strength and kindliness’. 

We called on them to know the light within, that only they have and nurture it. Surely, more than ever, the world needs the unique light that each of these young people can bring. To keep this light alive Julia Baird tells us, to pay attention, never underestimate the power of the ordinary, seek awe in nature daily, show kindness, practice grace, embrace imperfection and mess, be bold and live deliberately. I believe this is living as people of learning, hope and purpose. 

And finally we urged them to find their voice and raise it to speak of justice and joyWe hope our graduates use their voice with the authority that comes from knowing deeply what they stand for and who they will stand with. They were reminded that too many voices of women have been silenced, discounted or dismissed. We hope that they will always  let their voice speak for those who have no voice. This honours the legacy of a Brigidine education. 

Even though we have farewelled this graduating class, the rhythm of school life continues. Each week we are adapting and changing as COVID restrictions are adjusted. Our Year 7 students enjoyed a day out as a community at Lake Dewar, participating in a range of activities as part of the Amazing Race. Within the current changed restrictions, we are also planning for an Orientation activity for our incoming Year 7 students for 2021. This will be communicated to families as soon as it is finalised. Again we recognise that this too may change before the eventual date. I commend the agility and adaptability of staff who are continuing to adjust plans and processes. We thank families for their ongoing support with ensuring their daughters are wearing masks and staying home if unwell.  

We have received the final report from our School Improvement Framework Review which accompanied our VRQA and Child Safe review. 

The reviewers outlined the following strengths:

  • Strong, committed and decisive leadership with the courage to drive change and develop further leadership capacity throughout the school.  
  • A strong reputation and enrolment position, with a well-defined business plan for managing future growth. 
  • Staff (teaching and non-teaching) who are proud of the school, capable and collegial.  
  • A strong sense of Catholic identity as evident in the: 

    – positive relationships, hospitality and strong sense of community.   
    – Brigidine charism that inspires all members to live a life of service to one another, and evident in the range of opportunities for participation in community service, social justice and advocacy activities.  
    – opportunities and support for staff to gain accreditation. 
  • A clear focus on planned school improvement in curriculum and pedagogy, evident in: 

    – Effective introduction of a new approach to Student Wellbeing 
    – The development of the College Learning Charter 
    – The strengthening of links between student Wellbeing and Learning 

 The report further stated that as Clonard engages in the process of strategic thinking and planning, the reviewers recommend that the College:  

  • Develops a collaborative approach to the elaboration of a College-wide and holistic plan for wellbeing, linked to learning, to enhance individual and collective responsibility and accountability.  
  • Develops an integrated performance and development culture, articulating a clear instructional framework and alignment of professional learning.  
  • Develops  a College-wide data Plan which provides more systematic access to data and intelligent use of evidence, enhancing learning outcomes for all students.  

The Extended Leadership Team of the College and the Stewardship Council have considered this feedback and have commenced drafting the next School Improvement Plan for 2021 -2024. This plan will respond to the review recommendations, whilst also responding to the Kildare Ministries Living Justice Living Peace Charter, our graduate outcomes and contemporary thinking and evidence in relation to a broad range of influences on education. We look forward to bringing this to the community for your engagement as we commence the new school year. 

Our initial Master Planning processes are continuing with the architects working with the Project Control Group and Stewardship Council to refine some initial concepts towards a potential Master Plan concept. The feedback from students, families and staff is being used to guide the process and has formed the initial draft aspiration statements. Again our architects have indicated that once we are further along the way, they will look forward to meeting with families and members of the community to outline the concept, provide clarification and seek feedback. Again, this will most likely be early in 2021. 

As we come to the end of NAIDOC week, I pay tribute to our courageous FIRE Carriers and the work of staff in our community to ensure that the voices, stories and culture of our aboriginal students and their families is valued and respected. At Clonard we are committed to walk with, learn with and learn from the members of our community in a spirit of reconciliation and justice.  

Blessings
Luci