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Catholic schools in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle present student leaders with a number of unique opportunities to develop their leadership skills, work on and develop social justice initiatives on behalf of their school, and grow as confident young individuals.

School captains or school leaders are elected at each of our 56 schools to represent their school.

Student leaders are not only responsible for representing or speaking on behalf of their school at local and national events and Masses, but are often responsible for coordinating school-based initiatives and are able to work with other school leaders in the diocese at camps and retreats, to contribute their thoughts on the current model of Catholic Education and their ideas for the future growth of education in this area.

Each year, school leaders have an opportunity to meet with the Catholic Schools Council (CSC) and the Bishop of the diocese to talk about the issues that are important to young people. Student leaders are encouraged to provide constructive criticism about any area of schooling which they feel needs enhancement or improvement and to provide their thoughts about what students need to feel further supported or inspired in their education. This in itself highlights how valued student leaders are to the future of Catholic education. Feedback directly from young people and those who experience Catholic education is a positive way of ensuring we listen to, and act on, the feedback offered by those whom we serve.  This also highlights the important role school leaders have in knowing and understanding what their school’s values and needs are, and being responsible for communicating this with the Bishop and members of the CSC and CSO.

Each year, student leaders from each of the secondary schools are also invited to participate in the Caritas Just Leadership Day and look at issues of social justice and how schools can do more in this field. In addition to the opportunity to gain knowledge and awareness of social justice issues, students also learn about each other’s school communities, what initiatives already exist in schools and how these resources can be shared to better student and community outcomes.

This day has a strong focus on leadership and the idea that if school leaders are to promote justice effectively, they need to be able to communicate, plan creatively, organise and lead! Students work together on the day and are then asked to prepare an action plan for their own school.

Public speaking & debating

For a lot of students (and adults), speaking publicly can often involve overcoming anxiety and fear. Students from primary school through to high school are encouraged to overcome this fear by presenting in front of their peers as part of their English lessons, with opportunities available to represent the school in public speaking and debating available to those who wish to pursue it. With the right training and a bit of encouragement, students who speak with passion, authority and conviction, can inspire and challenge an audience with their thoughts or opinions. Teachers in the Catholic school system encourage students to further their public speaking skills, acknowledging how beneficial this skill can be during school, but particularly as they enter the employment market or enter into management or team leader roles where public speaking is often essential.

Debating encourages teamwork and thinking on the spot; students work together to present their case in a limited timeframe, formulating rebuttals or ways to further their argument against the opposing team.   

There are both debating and public speaking initiatives at a primary and secondary level for schools in the diocese to take part in. Schools often compete against other schools within their own diocesan cluster, before progressing through to the diocesan finals.

During Catholic Schools Week the Diocesan Public Speaking Finals for secondary schools, are held at the Catholic Schools Office in Newcastle. Schools from all over the diocese showcase the many talented public speakers they have each and every year.