‘As partners in Catholic education and open to God’s presence, we pursue fullness of life for all.’ (John 10:10)
To meet the rights of all students, Catholic Education Ballarat schools must continue to have a strong commitment to respecting and valuing student diversity, inclusion ‘Education for All’, wellbeing and identity formation – spiritually, ethically and cognitively. This commitment that we all share pertains to ability, culture, race, socio-economic status, ethnicity, religion/no religion, philosophy of life, gender identity and sexual orientation. Our diverse student population enriches the communal life of Catholic schools and the communities in which we live, ‘Based on their identity and experience, others have a contribution to make, and it is desirable that they should articulate their positions for the sake of a more fruitful public debate.’ Pope Francis, Encyclical Fratelli tutti, s.203.
The 2019 pandemic has brought to light a marked disparity in educational opportunities for some students. This awareness should lead us to continue to strive to provide educational experiences for all students that are transformative for them and their teachers – as learners together. Pope Francis (October 2020) calls us to, ‘ensure that everyone has access to a quality education [which is consistent] with the dignity of the human person and our common vocation to fraternity.’ This time of pandemic provides us with a space for reflection, discernment and reassessment in how to meet the learning requirements of all our students with diverse learning needs because these are formative aspects of their emerging identities, opening them to pursue fullness of life within the scope of this Catholic educational landscape (Jn.10:10).
Our learning environments will continue to enable all students to access education that is appropriate, equitable and empowering, such that they can engage with the daily life of the school and curriculum, demonstrate their knowledge and strengths, and maximise participation through quality learning opportunities. We, in Catholic Education Ballarat, have a commitment to creating learning environments where all students are empowered to flourish, both personally and in community. CEB believes that the principles of inclusion are predicated on the intention to provide an educational environment that promotes the human dignity of each student within a supportive Catholic community. The principles of inclusion recognise:
practice that is informed by the teachings of Jesus Christ, and the Catholic Tradition, legislative requirements, educational philosophy and societal expectations
the uniqueness and the diversity of students as children, created in the image of God
the need for belonging within a Christ-oriented community underpinned by respectful relationships
a whole school approach to planning, curriculum development and school organisation informed by Enhancing Catholic School Identity (ECSI)
access to required differentiated resources and learning opportunities, to enable all students to engage purposefully and to experience learning success.
As educating for fullness of life for all (Jn 10:10) is the defining feature we strive for with our diocesan Catholic schools, it must include that, ‘We are committed to the rights of people with disability, [in fact] Australia is required under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) to respect, protect and fulfill the human rights of people with disability. The eight general principles of the CRPD include the full and effective inclusion of people with disability in society and respect for the individual autonomy and independence of people with disability. These principles inform the rights and obligations in the CRPD.’ (Royal Commission- Promoting Inclusion paper 2020)
With the whole of this CEB Statement in mind, together with the energy and commitment, CEB will pursue inclusive education in partnership with our diocesan schools in 2021, and beyond.
Executive Director, Catholic Education Ballarat