by PETER GRACE
The difficulty of filling certain teaching positions was looked at from all angles at the primary principals’ conference in the last week of March.
Palmerston North diocese’s manager for Catholic Schools, Lynette Roberts-King, told NZ Catholic on March 30 that she spent three days at the conference the week before. She said one of the
main topics was the disparities with director of religious studies positions — and with teachers in tagged positions (those requiring Catholics) generally.
“We looked at some of the issues and challenges in sourcing people … then we talked about some possible solutions,” she said.
Mrs Roberts-King said Catholic schools with more than four teachers were legally required to have a director of religious studies (DRS). Even so, there were a number of primary schools
in the diocese without appointed DRSs.
The diocese could put all sorts of systems in place, she said, but principals needed to nurture the skills of people aspiring to those roles.
Conference attendees looked at what some of the critical issues are.
Some of those identified were that:
• The DRS is a senior leadership role, but there is often a disparity between responsibility, management units, release time and so on.
• For people looking to move into a principal’s role, being a DRS is not seen as a valid path.
• DRSs are often overworked.
• The DRS role is often a lonely one. There is often a lack of recognition of the importance of the role.
Principals were asked to discuss ideas without limitations in the sense of forgetting about their limited funding, forgetting about all those things.
“Just look at what we need to do,” Mrs Roberts-King said.
Some suggestions included leadership and development training. “So giving the DRS at least the same leadership development opportunities as a DP [deputy principal] and AP [assistant principal] gets, so you are looking at all the leadership time and preparation and formation for future leadership.”
With respect to the excessive workload faced by DRSs, other staff should be encouraged to support and lead liturgy, and senior staff encouraged to work with new religious education
teachers, to support them.
There was a need to look at the core job of DRSs, because it was easy for anything Catholic to be put on them, even if it wasn’t part of their core role.
The biggest issues, she said, were being able to have regular release time, and developing the capacity of other staff to provide support.
“One of the other big key things is that people feel that they aren’t holy enough to take on the role.” That pointed to a need for theological and faith formation.
People see the role as being the leader of the faith, “or certainly that leader of the faith community along with the principal”.
One idea mooted was to have an aspiring two-year DRS programme covering such things as staff leadership, theological formation, curriculum leadership.
“So that would be something people would be nominated into so it’s got some status in it.”