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New CESA head inspired to educate 'good people'


With 103 schools, 6000 staff and 46,000 students under his care, new Catholic Education SA director Neil McGoran has a big job on his hands but he is not fazed, saying he gets plenty of inspiration from his two young daughters.

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A self-confessed “passionate educator” and devoted father, Neil McGoran said his two daughters will be the driving force for him in his new role as director of Catholic Education South Australia.

“The inspiration as an educator comes from me being a father to my two girls – who have me wrapped around their finger. Through their eyes I see Catholic education and education in general, and their hopes – and my hopes and aspirations for them – drive me as a leader,” he told The Southern Cross during his first week in the job.

Daughters Mia, 12 and Stephanie, 10, attend Loreto College and Dr McGoran, a former humanities/English teacher and his wife Michelle, a maths/science teacher, enjoy hearing their thoughts about their day at school.

“We’ve pretty much got the whole curriculum covered, with the exception of art. There’s probably no escape for our daughters, but we try to be interested and engaged without being overbearing. It’s a hard balance to strike, but I do my best and my daughters are very patient with me,” he laughed.

It is his love as a father and a desire for his girls to fulfil their dreams that he believes underpins the ethos of the Catholic education system, and one of the reasons he is so pleased to be “coming home”.

“When I got this job I was very excited about the possibilities to continue the excellence of Catholic education. I hope most people understand that young people who graduate from Catholic schools achieve wonderful results and more importantly than that, they are really good people.

“They have a critical conscience to do things for other people, they are good thinkers, good discerners, they are culturally aware and globally aware.

“As a parent of two children in Catholic schools, I don’t think you could ask for any more for any young person, but especially for your own children.”

A member of the Mount Barker parish, Dr McGoran said as CESA director he would be reinforcing the importance of the parish-school relationship.

“We want everyone in the parish to recognise the college or school is an integral part of the parish, and everyone in the college and school to recognise they are part of the parish.

“Each of those has something particular to offer that relationship. There are wonderful things schools do for young people through ecological conversion, social justice, outreach activities and they add to parish life, and at the same time there is the important life-long commitment of parishioners to the parish, Church and discipleship.

“Those two things are so important and when they work together you really have a vibrant parish.”

The former head of the SACE Board and principal of Nazareth Catholic College Secondary Campus, Dr McGoran started at CESA on Monday September 11 and hit the ground running.

On his first day he contacted principals to thank them for the positive welcome and over the next few months plans on visiting each school under his care.

“I think it’s important to get to know those principals better and also meet with their leadership teams, hear about their aspirations for their own school and for their students and how as director I might be able to support them to achieve those aspirations.”

He added that the strategy for Catholic Education was already in train and he would be ensuring the good work continued.

“Like everyone new to a position with different experiences there might be something I can add to those strategic directions which, first and foremost, are about helping young people to come to understand their own relationship with God and its importance for them, and also through that relationship to experience success in schooling and their own wellbeing.”

Dr McGoran said students at Catholic schools should be aware they have an “entitlement” to an education that “empowers” them.

“Be confident in who you are, but at the same time be thinking about education as an opportunity to help you develop those skills and capabilities that you are going to need and most certainly use throughout your whole life. Not only in the learning and work you do, but the kind of person and citizen you are.”

For parents the choice of school was “so important” and he urged them to continue to support Catholic schools because they “work in partnership with you and they do want the same outcomes for your children”.

“It is a big decision and at the end of it, at the end of schooling, you want to be able to look back and say ‘thank you’ to the school, because they’ve helped to shape your child to be the person that he or she is now.”

Future challenges would include the ongoing issue of a funding model and Dr McGoran said if the government wanted to grow Australia socially and economically it needed to invest in young people.

“So it makes sense to invest in schools that are producing really sensible, articulate, young people – and Catholic schools are doing that.”

He had been briefed and read about falling enrolments in some Catholic schools, but parents needed to know that the Catholic system produced “well-rounded, confident young people”.

“We will continue to deliver that and we just need to reassure parents that it’s a choice worth making.”

He added that opening Early Learning Centres at some schools ensured a seamless transition and pathway through Catholic education.

“We also need to make it clear to parents and students that those pathways all the way through Catholic Education are inclusive of the full range of young people. That includes vocational education and training that can be done as part of a senior secondary qualification… we do that brilliantly.”


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