Hindsight is 20/20 Vision: What 2020 has meant for Catholic Education Tasmania

By Dr Gerard Gaskin, Executive Director Catholic Education Tasmania

The phrase 20/20 vision has always been the universal standard of good eyesight.

We certainly don’t need 20/20 vision to reflect back on the past year with all its challenges for Catholic Education Tasmania. But we would have needed better than 20/20 vision to see, in advance, how we, as a system, would be impacted by COVID-19 and how we would be called to respond.

The hardest decisions are always the ones we have to make when we don’t have all the information we need. This happened almost every day in the rapidly-changing environment of the early months of COVID. Suddenly system and school leadership teams were required to collaborate to make critical decisions about how they would respond to the needs of the students and families who depended on them. Our leaders had to deal with uncertainty and anxiety within school communities. I am proud to say that in the schools and education offices of the Archdiocese of Hobart, the staff regularly put the needs of each other, the parents and the students first.

Several foundational decisions served our school system well during the crisis.

Catholic system leaders forged strong personal relationships with the Minister for Education and the directors of Department and Independent schools to plan and provide a united voice about all necessary decisions.

We communicated quickly and comprehensively about social distancing and daily hygiene regimes in every office and school and communicated any changes to restrictions rapidly, often using social media to reinforce and support critical messages.

We signalled a strong commitment that our schools would remain open, not just for children of emergency workers, but for every student who turned up. School staff adapted to this challenge and we offered fee reductions for all families in hardship.

We were quick to direct expert teams to work with schools to develop learning@home systems for our students. In all of this, our schools never lost sight of our mission to evangelise. Religious education was an essential part of the learning@home curriculum. Regular messages from our Archbishop and senior leadership reinforced our commitment to constant prayer and material support for all those affected, and we reminded each other, every day, of our dependence on Jesus Christ.

What have we learnt? We have seen great resilience and resolve in our colleagues and we have helped families and students cope with the extraordinary constraints of restriction, lockdown and isolation. Today, we remain well-positioned to manage future challenges, and our faith in Jesus Christ ever sustains us.

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