Learning to change the world

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6 June 2019

Image of construction for Iona College.When it opens next year, Iona College will become the Geelong region’s fifth and newest Catholic secondary school. Foundation principal Damian McKew discusses the challenges and opportunities when building a secondary school community from the ground up.

What do you like about leading a new Catholic school?

There’s something very exciting about shaping a new Catholic community and upholding the values we hold dear. I think our young people are looking for something to believe in and our schools are places where a belief in God can be nurtured. The education journey has never been more important than it is today.

Our motto is: ‘Learning to change the world’. It’s really aspirational, but why shouldn’t it be? These young people are being gifted with a great education. We want them to learn that this gift comes with a great responsibility, in that they become fulfilled people who contribute to our future. We need that now more than ever.

What does the leader of a Catholic school require?

It all starts with authenticity. It’s one of the ways we’ll build community and trust, and shape our culture. I’m fortunate to have been principal of Clonard College, Herne Hill, so I’m aware of the hopes and dreams of families in the area. Education isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ environment, so it’s important I lead a school that is able to respond to the individual needs of our young people.

As the foundation principal of a secondary school under construction, it’s been a great year for learning new skills. As well as meeting families and our first Year 7 students, I’m also the head of maintenance and fast becoming the best school registrar ever.

What are the greatest opportunities and challenges for families today?

Families naturally worry about the future of their children, but this is also a time of excitement. Never before have students had so many diverse options to study such a broad range of subjects. Families face issues in caring for young people in an increasingly connected world, but there are also great opportunities for global learners through technology. We have a responsibility to our families and students to help them negotiate this balance.

What are your hopes for the future?

In 2025, our first group of Year 7 students will be in Year 12. My hope for those young people is for them to graduate from our school as good people. Yes, I want them to get good marks, but it’s also important that we’ve helped them to form good character. I want Iona to be known as a place where everyone feels a sense of belonging and actually has fun as they pursue their educational dreams. We’re building a new school here and a new way of doing things.

This article will appear in the Term 2 edition of Catholic Education Today.