A collaborative partnership project between Brisbane Catholic Education, Catholic Diocese of Toowoomba, the Australian Catholic University and a range of primary and secondary Catholic Schools in Brisbane and the Toowoomba Diocese.

Welcome to the Spiritual and Pedagogical Accompaniment Program (SPA)

Project Introduction and Aims

This project explores a novel, partnership-based approach which includes targeted mentoring to assist pre-service teachers to understand what it means to teach in a Catholic setting, and how to incorporate Catholic perspectives into their teaching.

A pilot project ran in 2019 with a small number of pre-service teachers and one school. The 2020 project reflected on the feedback from the pilot project, expanding to 3 primary schools and 3 secondary schools. In 2021 there was further expansion to a second cluster of schools in the Southern area of Brisbane.

The 2022 model includes extended school experience opportunities, and targeted mentoring support from ACU academics and Faith Companions, with the aim of strengthening PST Catholic understandings and transitioning into the (Catholic) teaching profession.

Why are we doing this? Research and Priorities

In 2017, Gleeson and O’Neill surveyed a large cohort of ACU pre-service teachers and teachers practicing in Catholic schools and raised concerns relating to teachers’ levels of theological literacy, particularly young teachers, and pre-service teachers’ commitment to “faith-based purposes and characteristics of Catholic schools”. (p. 66).

In Queensland, a priority of the Brisbane Catholic Education Office is to develop and support staff and Catholic schools to incorporate Catholic perspectives into curriculum and promote re-contextualised Catholic world-views.

Partnering with BCE for a faith-based work integrated learning project aligns with a number of ACU’s strategic priorities and addresses concerns raised by Gleeson and O’Neill.

This project will provide an innovative and distinctive teaching and learning experience within the Catholic Intellectual teaching tradition for pre-service teachers (PSTs) by providing targeted mentoring support.

This will be through a ‘Faith Companion’ who will help PSTs understand the Catholic intellectual tradition, re-contextualised Catholic world-views and ways to incorporate these views into curriculum in Catholic schools.

As has been indicated in preliminary data from interviews in the ACU/BCE pilot project, an authentic experience in Catholic settings is desired by pre-service teachers, and identified as an aspect of the teaching degree at ACU which sets it apart from other universities.

Benefits for Pre-service teachers in the program

  • Develop a deeper understanding of Catholic Identity, what it means to teach in a Catholic school, and how to incorporate a re-contextualised Catholic world-view into their discipline areas;
  • Receive greater mentoring support to help transition from PST to graduate;
  • Additional mentoring support in relation to requirements for completion of the Teacher Performance Assessment (GTPA) for both pre-service teachers and supervising teachers.

Additional Mentoring Support

This program includes additional mentoring support from a person called the Spiritual and Pedagogical Companion (SPC). They will provide support around understanding what it means to teach in a Catholic school, and how to incorporate a re-contextualised Catholic world-view into your teaching. You will also be provided with support to think about your pedagogy, data, assessment and the reflective process.

The ACU academic project coordinator, Dr Amanda Gutierrez, will be an additional support for PSTs on top of their Lecturer in Charge, particularly for final years as they navigate the requirements of the Teacher Performance Assessment task (GTPA/QTPA).

SPA Program | A fresh approach to pre-service teacher education




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This program is open by application for all ACU, USC and QUT PSTs completing their final placement in 2022.  There is a 6 month program available for mid-year and accelerated pre-service teachers.  A 12 month program is available for all other pre-service teachers.  The program links to pre-service teachers’ final year (or final two for MTeach 12 month program) placement unit/s.

This partnership project concentrates on the mentoring aspect of PST experience, in particular mentoring around what it means to teach in a Catholic school, Catholic identity and developing one’s own spiritual identity.

To do this, a team will work with pre-service teachers before, during and after their official professional experience in a school, and pre-service teachers will have regular contact with their placement school during the year.

Feedback from the research evaluation of the program, and other research studies, suggests that the more time pre-service teachers can spend in schools, particularly in their final year, the better their sense of belonging to the profession and ‘classroom readiness’.

This project’s focus on Faith Mentoring adds the additional benefit of assisting pre-service teachers in understanding what it means to work in faith-based settings.  The specific differences to the normal placement are outlined in more detail below:

The extended placement allows an opportunity for PSTs to:

  • visit their placement school in Nov/Dec before their final year;
  • attend the first week of school (last week of January), including pupil free days (teacher PD and orientation);
  • attend their placement school one day a week or fortnight during the year (volunteer days separate to their official placement block);
  • Potential to attend their placement school for a longer placement block if their personal work and university schedule allows it (volunteer days, before official block commences);
  • More time in the school enables them to build greater rapport with their school and class/es which means easier planning, preparation and a possible head start on data collection for their TPA;
  • If two blocks completed in final year, both blocks can be at the same school.

Before Official Placement Block/s

  • Attending school once a week/fortnight – interaction with school staff and supervising teacher;
  • Face to face, Zoom / Google Meet / Facetime or phone meetings with the Spiritual Companion once every two months;
  • Attending Mentoring Training PD to assist with building mentoring relationship between PST and school mentor.

During Official Placement Block/s

  • Professional mentoring conversations with supervising teacher, Spiritual Companion and leadership staff member (if available) at school once or twice during the block (depending on length of block);
  • Classroom observation visits 2 or 3 times by Spiritual Companion (depending on length of block), followed by one on one mentoring discussion;
  • Regular mentoring conversations with supervising teacher;
  • Prompt questions will be provided by the ACU academic to help journal reflection (relating to Faith project and for GTPA evidence).

After Official Placement Block/s

  • Overnight Spiritual Retreat (mid-year, attendance not compulsory);
  • Focus group conversation with whole PST project cohort, Academic Coordinator and Spiritual Companion;
  • Final one on one face to face, Zoom / Google Meet / Facetime or phone meeting (depending on availability) with Spiritual Companion.
  • Mostly second semester engagement, which includes;
    • An invitation to attend an overnight Spiritual Retreat in July
    • Commence engaging with your school mid-Term 3 or earlier if negotiated, and then attend your EDET 101 block (or EDET 100 block if you are mid-year entry);
    • Your Companion will catch up with you early in semester 2, and may also contact you during semester 1 just to touch base;
    • BCE will hold a group session for all ‘2nd years’ in semester 1 and 2 about BCE and teaching in Catholic schools;
    • Completing the Signum Fidei Program Module 1

The SPA Team

The Schools

Northern Cluster – Brisbane


  • St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School, Bracken Ridge
  • St Kieran’s School, Brighton
  • Southern Cross Catholic College (P-12), Scarborough
  • Christ the King Catholic Primary School, Deception Bay
  • St. Ambrose’s Catholic Primary School, Newmarket
  • St. Peter’s Catholic Primary, Rochedale


  • St John Fisher College, Bracken Ridge
  • St Benedict’s College, Mango Hill
  • Southern Cross Catholic College (P-12), Scarborough
  • Mary MacKillop Catholic College
  • Mt. Maria College, Mitchelton
  • Southern Cross Catholic College, Scarborough
  • St. Eugine College, Burpengary

Southern Cluster – Brisbane


  • St Catherine’s Catholic Primary School, Wishart
  • St Joachim’s Catholic Primary School, Holland Park
  • St. Oliver Plunkett Catholic Primary School, Cannon Hill
  • St. Martin’s Catholic Primary School, Carina
  • St. Pius X Catholic Primary School
  • St. Paul’s Catholic Primary, Woodridge
  • St. Kevins Catholic Primary, Benowa


  • St Thomas Moore College, Sunnybank
  • Trinity College, Beenleigh
  • St. Peter Claver College, Riverview
  • St. Mary’s College, Ipswich

Sunshine Coast


  • Our Lady of the Rosary, Caloundra
  • St. Thomas More Catholic Primary, Sunshine Beach


  • Unity College, Caloundra
  • Good Samaritan Catholic College, Bli Bli
  • St. Columban’s College, Caboolture

Brisbane Catholic Education

Brisbane Catholic Education

This project would not be able to run without the generous support of Brisbane Catholic Education and the Catholic Diocese of Toowoomba (pilot, 2022)

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