Posted in Governance

CaSPA & Plenary Council Writing Groups

Posted by Phil Lewis on 11 November 2019

It was great news for CaSPA that our President, Loretta Wholley has been chosen to be on one of the six Writing Groups connected to the Plenary Council. Lorettta was chosen for the Conversion, Reform and Renewal Writing Group (Theme 6). All of the groups have a tremendous task ahead of them to prepare a submission to the Plenary Council by Easter next year.  In order to see what Loretta and the Theme 6  team are discerning, please visit the Plenary Council website ( On the website you will also be able to view the other five themes of the Plenary Council.

Phil Lewis

Executive Officer

CASPA GOVERNANCE PAPERS - Feedback From Other S...

Posted by CaSPA on 27 April 2019

As you are aware, the CaSPA Board ratified its submission to the 2020 Plenary Council on the theme ofGovernance in Catholic Education. Since then, the submission has been distributed broadly among Governance groups in Catholic Education.  At least 25 different groups have been in contact some at the initiative of CaSPA, and some seeking further discussion with CaSPA as they had learnt of the existence of these papers.

Over the past 11 months, CaSPA has been fortunate to have the assistance of Dr Peter Casey []. Peter has undertaken doctoral studies in the topic of Governance of Catholic Education at the University of Melbourne. He was commissioned by CaSPA to prepare an excellent background paper for its submission to Plenary 2020.  In recent weeks, Peter has generously volunteered to continue consultation with key stakeholders. His work is highly recommended to any group who is interested in developing their understanding of Governance in Catholic Education.

Following are some of the Frequently Asked Questions [FAQs] that arose out of discussion with these stakeholders:

What was the most common response in these discussions?

Many were surprised at the strength of feeling among Principals who had concerns about Governance arrangements in their jurisdictions. The fact that 1 in 4 CaSPA Principals finished in their roles in 2018 in less than ideal circumstances came as a surprise to many.

What significant responses have impacted on the potential development of the CaSPA submission?

CaSPA members have great regard for the primacy of the principle of subsidiarity, in line with the Church's social teachings. Other stakeholders have pointed out that the complementary principle of solidarity calls on our members to accept responsibility of acting for the common good while cognisant of one's own subsidiary rights.

(An amended table of elements of Good Governance is included below)

A number of high order governors such as trustees saw the primary roles of governors as ensuring fidelity to mission as an agent of the Church while boards were to ensure the practical civil and canonical compliance of the operation.


What was the most surprising response in these discussions?

The response by one Governance group was that the principals collectively were incapable of exercising their duty in regard to compliance and so had this responsibility taken away from them and given to the local CEO who had to employ significant staff numbers to undertake a role that is exercised quite successfully by schools in most other parts of the

We met with a senior CEO group charged with the governance of the schools of an Archdiocese. They told us that they had not yet been invited by the Archbishop to investigate governance despite the recommendations of the Royal Commission hence they had not looked at the issue. They invited us to meet with them because of the concerns of secondary principals who referred them to CaSPA and its submission.

What was the response to the recommendations?

While many agreed with the need for an independent body to oversee and support good governance within the Church, there was quite a deal of comment about how this would work in practice e.g.

How would it be funded?

Is this not already the role of the NCEC so why create a new entity?

How could it be successful if it did not have any powers of enforcement?

....the Bishops would never agree to it

The Church is not capable of creating processes that can impartially review its own activities

Have there been any suggestions for enhancing the recommendations?

There have been some significant discussion around leveraging off existing civil authorities. Most states and territories have the equivalent of the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority. These bodies already oversee aspects of the governance of non-government schools and have a number of other facets which appeal:

they have legal standing

as an existing entity, they do not require funding to come into being

their findings are enforceable by law

they are external to the Church and Clerical authority

While it may be a little ideal, it is not outside the bounds of possibility that with the following amendments, these existing Authorities could fulfil the role envisioned in the original CaSPA recommendations:

We already have at the National level, the COAG Education Council that oversees most aspects of Education in Australia, a collaboration between federal and state/territory jurisdictions;

The group of existing RQA bodies could ideally operate in a similar way to promote and monitor good Governance practice in schools

What has been the response from others in the non-government sector?

There have been preliminary discussions with the Chair and Executive Officer of AHISA. While they believe there would be caution from their colleagues at the prospect of greater regulation in the area of Governance, they do recognise that there have been less than optimal practices occur with governance in some instances.

They are however interested in further discussion regarding the establishment of Governance Standardsto complement the existing Principal and Teacher Standards that have been developed by AITSL in recent times.



Key dimensions of governance




Canon Law

The governing body is recognized by the Catholic Church as responsible for ensuring fidelity to the teaching, pastoral and evangelical life of the Church as required by Canon Law

Civil Law

The governing body is recognized by state and federal governments as a legal entity and is charged with responsibility for ensuring accountability for compliance with all relevant legislation


The governing body defines the key roles, responsibilities and accountabilities of those in the entity


The governing body models and promotes best practice in decision making, communication and professional relationships, honouring subsidiarity and responsible autonomy


The governing body makes decisions cognizant of the impact on its own schools but also in support of the common good of other schools in its neighbourhood, system, state and the nation

Human Resources

The governing body appoints, supports and evaluates the performance of those in key leadership roles


The governing body ensures the appropriate use and development of, and accountability for finances and physical resources

Strategic Planning

The governing body plans strategically for the growth and development of the entity


The governing body effectively enacts its espoused organizational and operational principles, thus engaging the implementers of the enterprise relationally to pursue the vision and mission of the entity


Components of Governance


Component of Governance





High Performing


Low Performing


·  Bishop of the Diocese

·  Leader of the Religious Institute

·  Holds the title deeds

·  Accepts ultimate responsibility for the wellbeing of the entity as an integral part of the mission of the Church

·  Accepts responsibility for ensuring all the dimensions of good governance are observed and promoted in the entity (Refer Table 3)

·  Understands and practises subsidiarity in both theory and practice




Servant leadership

·  Reverts to a more hierarchical model of church organisation with great power vested at this level


Might is right

·  Reluctant to embrace and/or exercise overall leadership of the entity




Laissez faire

Delegated Authority

·  Director, Catholic Education Office

·  President, PJP

·  Parish Priest as Canonical Administrator

·  Delegated Canonical Administrator

·  Acts on behalf of the Licensee to oversee operations

·  Leads strategic direction of the organisations

·  Key interface with other agencies e.g. governments

·  Models high level leadership practice

·  Consults with those at lower levels

·  Provides critical feedback at higher levels

·  Develops professional and robust relations with all levels

Relational leadership

·  Tends to micromanage other levels of the entity

·  Is unwilling or unable to be consultative with lower levels of the organisation





Command and control

·  Lacks confidence or capacity to work as leader

·  Is overwhelmed by strong personalities in the organisation's structure

·  Lacks training and/or experience to lead with credibility



Promoted beyond competence


·  Usually located in the staff of a CEO or PJP

·  May be found amongst members of a high performing Board and its committees


·  Provides expertise, knowledge and support to which a typical school would not have access


·  Possesses the appropriate skills, expertise and knowledge

·  Provides these skills in a timely and effective manner

·  Is conscious of the time and demands on schools when providing support or seeking information

Support and service

·  Focuses on process rather than service

·  Sets unreasonable timelines for communication

·  Unreasonably prioritises compliance at the expense of pedagogy


Bureaucracy is an end in itself

·  Lacks the skills or experience to provide the levels of service required by the organisation

·  Exhibits poor organisational and/or communication skills that undermine the support function



Mediocrity rather than service

Site Leader

·  Principal


·  In theory is responsible for all matters that occur within and impact on the school

·  In fact, this varies according to the jurisdiction in which the principal operates; some principals have delegated employer status; some have budget control; some systems have central control of many aspects of the school's operation

·  Is aware of the needs of the local community and works successfully to meeting these

·  Operates in a spirit of cooperation and collegiality with other levels of governance and with peers

Support and leadership of local community

·  Can be preoccupied with local issues at the expense of others

·  Leads autocratically

·  Lacks cooperation with other levels of governance and peers



Looking after 'Number One'

·  Lacks confidence or capacity to work as leader

·  Is overwhelmed by strong personalities in the organisation's structure

·  Lacks training and/or experience to lead with credibility


Leader in name only


NSW Bishop orders schools not to ask priests fo...

Posted on 6 March 2019

Above: Armidale bishop Michael Kennedy asked the director of the Catholic Schools Office to 'notify the schools not to ask the priests to provide their working-with-children check ...'

Michael Kennedy's letter to schools follows comments made during Sunday Mass about George Pell's conviction

A bishop has written to the director of a Catholic Schools Office that oversees 24 schools asking that principals be directed to stop asking priests for their working-with-children checks.

The bishop of Armidale, Michael Kennedy, wrote: "It has been brought to my attention that some schools may be requiring that the priests who are ex officio members of the School Advisory Council provide their working-with-children check details."

He wrote that the diocese verified and recorded these checks and that schools should accept that all priests were required by the diocese to have a working-with-children check and therefore did not need to ask the priests for those details.

He asked the director of the Catholic Schools Office, Christopher Smyth, to "notify the schools not to ask the priests to provide their working-with-children check and if they have, they are not to register as the priest's employer for the purposes of verifying the working-with-children check".

Armidale is a city in the northern tablelands of New South Wales. The Catholic Schools Office Diocese of Armidale administers 24 schools, including 19 primary, two central and three secondary schools. The working-with-children check is a requirement for anyone who works or volunteers in child-related sectors, and involves a criminal history record check and a review of reportable workplace misconduct.

Schools must register with the Office of the Children's Guardian and must verify all workers have a valid check, including those working in positions like school cleaners, who may be employed by an external company, or school volunteers.

Chris Smyth, the director of schools in the Catholic Diocese of Armidale, said schools had a rigorous and comprehensive child protection policy.

"All priests in the Diocese of Armidale who undertake any ministry in Catholic Schools have a current verified working-with-children check," he said. "The Diocese has provided these to the Catholic Schools Office who then make them available to school principals upon request."

In public schools, school principals and admin staff do not have to request checks from district office and can ask for details of the checks themselves.

It follows controversial comments made by Kennedy during Sunday mass about the conviction of Cardinal George Pell for child sexual abuse crimes. He told parishioners: "When you and I look at the cardinal's life isn't it reasonable to apply today's gospel and think 'surely a good tree doesn't produce rotten fruit but good fruit?'

"There are many people who, on the information they have gleaned, cannot understand how the jury could have come to a guilty verdict," he said.

"The evidence and testimonies, at least those that have come to public knowledge, seem to leave plenty of room for incredulity or 'reasonable doubt' to say the least."

Meanwhile, Kennedy has urged recipients of the Cathedral Parish of Saints Mary and Joseph newsletter to remember Pell in their prayers. It also contained a quote: "A good tree does not bear rotten fruit, nor does a rotten tree bear good fruit."

Pell was convicted following a committal hearing followed by a trial. Jurors deliberated for almost four days after listening to five weeks of evidence. They were unanimous in their guilty verdict.

From: The Guardian Wed 6 Mar 2019

By: Melissa Davey

Figures show violence to Principals not so sign...

Posted on 4 March 2019

While the headlines in the media highlight "Violence to Principals" as one of the key findings of the Annual Principal Health & Wellbeing Survey, the figures for our sector show this is not as significant at all. This is not to say that attention to violence is not an important issue for our colleagues in other sectors. What we would hope for is Sector Appropriate responses. The CaSPA survey to principals conducted in November - and with a far higher response rate than the National Well Being Survey -  indicated concerns with Governance, Work Load, Industrial Relations along with Trust and Valuing the Role of Principal as being the significant points of concern.

Below is an article from Education HQ which reports on the latest data from the Riley Well Being Project.  It is our hope to recieve Catholic Sector specific data from CCI in due course.  CCI are financial supporters of the  Annual Principal Health & Wellbeing Survey as part of their over all support for Principals and Teachers in Catholic Schools.

The Principal Health & Wellbeing Survey also found that nearly half of all principals were threatened with violence last year.

Worryingly, both numbers have risen significantly since the survey was first taken in 2011 and are far higher than the equivalent rates for the general population.

Associate Professor Philip Riley, the survey's chief investigator, said that the findings help to explain Australia's much-discussed leadership succession crisis.

"Clearly, our nation builders are under attack," he said.

"Consequently, fewer people are willing to step into the role. At a time when 70 per cent of school leaders will reach retirement age within 2-3 years, we are ignoring a looming national crisis."

Female school leaders were found to be more at risk of physical violence than males, with 40 per cent of women and 32 per cent of men reporting violent incidents last year.

There was also a very significant difference in the experience of school leaders by sector.

Forty-nine per cent of school leaders at government primary schools reported threats of violence, the highest of any category.

The lowest prevalence of threats was reported by P/K 12 independent school leaders, at 12 per cent.

Speaking to EducationHQ, Riley explained why there is such a large difference between the sectors.

"When you start to dig in, what's happening is there's a kind of pathway to government schools for the worst offending kids," he said.

"They start in all areas and then they gradually get removed from independent schools and from Catholic schools, they all eventually end up in government schools, so we have this slightly skewed set of figures by the time kids are a bit older.

"But all the anecdotal evidence I'm getting is pretty much 'it's ubiquitous', and even though the numbers are lower in Catholic and independent schools, they're still way too high.

"We do the same survey in Ireland and the rate there is only double the population rate. So there is something about our culture that makes it worse ... [Ireland has] lots of stresses and strains just like we do, but it doesn't turn into violent behaviour towards their school leaders."

Among many other alarming findings, 99.7 per cent of principals were found to work hours far beyond those recommended for positive mental and physical health.

One in three school leaders were identified as being so distressed that there was a serious threat to their physical and mental health.

The survey makes 15 recommendations to try and address these issues, with governments, employers, professional associations, unions, community members, individual educators and researchers all playing a part.

One key recommendation is the abolition of Australia's "antiquated, complex, obscure and difficult to traverse" school funding system.

"Australia should adopt a whole of government approach to education," Riley said.

"This would mean the Federal Government, states and territories combine to oversee a single education budget. The funding agreement should be bipartisan and a transparent mechanism which is simple to understand."

Professor John Fischetti from the University of Newcastle said the findings should "shock us into action" for two reasons.

"First, the experiences of our fantastic school leaders are becoming more 'United States-like,' where young people and their parents often take out their economic stresses and their sense of hopelessness for the role of education on those who are there to turn that around," Fischetti said.

"And, second, the boredom and lack of engagement of so many young people are not-so-silent cries out for a new design of schools based on learner passion not teacher-dominant pedagogies, rules and obsolete assessments."

Professor Jeffrey Brooks from RMIT University agreed that the survey should force policymakers to take action.

"The Principal Occupational Health, Safety and Wellbeing for 2018 data confirms what we already know, but it raises the stakes - the alarming rise in violence against principals demands an urgent response at local and national levels," Brooks said.

"Working conditions for principals are a problem for several reasons. First, people in the positions now need immediate help in terms of wellbeing and safety.

"Second, principals influence quality teaching and student learning. If they are not well or pushed too hard, it will surely have a negative effect on our schools.

"Third, Australia needs a steady pipeline of high-quality leaders. This is a priority for all states, and if we aim to attract high quality candidates, they must know they will be supported and cared for."

However, Associate Professor Scott Eacott from the University of New South Wales believes the report does not go far enough in its recommendations.

"The recommendations do little to resolve this or other issues (such as increased threats of violence, and acts of violence)," he said.

"Instead, we have calls to depoliticise education, appeals to moral choice and trust, and asking people to be nice to one another."

"On face value these are well intentioned and desirable, and the data is persuasive, but the structure of Australian federalism, entrenched sector divides, and the customer based approach of many to schooling means that these are mere platitudes rather than the call to arms that is required."

In response, Riley defended the report and its recommendations.

"I can understand his frustration, but that doesn't mean that what I'm saying is not right. I mean my number one recommendation, which I think sort of agrees with him is that we need to take the politics out of education...

"What we need is something like a Reserve Bank, a government structure like the Reserve Bank where they can stand independent of government but clearly reporting to them, be given a global budget and then be responsible for the spending of that with long-term goals, and clearly aimed at a cultural shift, that we don't accept these sorts of terrible behaviours.

"So I think it's a bit rich to say it's a platitude to ask people to be nice to each other and I don't think I'm being naive, but I think we need a line in the sand where we say 'we're not going put up with this anymore.'"

Riley noted the results were reflective of the "volatile environment" that's playing out in wider society.

The survey's data is drawn from a remarkably large sample size.

In the eight years that it has run, the survey has collected data from roughly 50 per cent of Australia's 10,000 principals, with 2365 participating in 2018.

Save the Date - Catholic School Governance in t...

Posted on 21 February 2019
I am pleased to announce the inaugural Catholic Schools NSW Education Law Symposium to be held in Sydney on Monday 30 September 2019.

The theme of the 2019 symposium, the first of what will be an annual event, will be 'Catholic School Governance in the 21st Century'.

This professional development forum will be a premium opportunity to explore the governance related challenges - and responses - facing Catholic schools in NSW.

The Symposium is an opportunity to gather as a Catholic faith community to explore the complex governance and compliance issues that increasingly feature in the Australian school sector; participants will benefit from the insights of leading sectoral and nationally recognised experts.

Symposium topics include:
  • Governance and Catholic culture
  • Education law in the post Royal Commission and the Truth, Justice and Healing Council era
  • Catholic Education Governance frameworks for the 21st Century
  • Models of Governance - options for Australian Catholic school systems and authorities
  • Understanding Section 83c
Who should attend?  Principals, others designated as responsible persons (Parish Priests, religious), School Board Chairs, Heads of governance and compliance and finance officers.

As a NESA approved provider of governance training and an Endorsed Provider of Professional Learning, CSNSW will register the forum with NESA to ensure that 'responsible persons' can use the forum hours to assist in meeting their mandatory obligations for governance related training.

Registration of the course in relation to the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers will also provide those leaders in schools who are accredited teachers to also register these hours as NESA approved professional learning.

  • ·         'Save the Date' - Monday 30 September 2019 in your personal and broader membership Calendar
  • ·         'Spread the word' , please send this through your networks and your Committee and encourage those who contribute to governance decision making in schools and systems to register their interest.

CSNSW will cover registration costs for this inaugural event.

Please direct all enquiries to Bronwyn Hession

Yours in Christ,

Dallas McInerney
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