Date of Submission



The Catholic Education Office (CEO) Sydney is a large non-government education authority which administers the systemic, Catholic schools of the Archdiocese of Sydney, Australia. The system consists of 148 primary and secondary schools with an enrolment of some 62,000 students. The major research question was: What characteristics of a learning organization can be identified in the Catholic Education Office (CEO) Sydney and are these perceived to raise standards in systemic schools of the Archdiocese of Sydney? Like all western education systems the CEO Sydney is immersed in constant change and is expected to account for improving educational standards within the system. The learning organization with its emphasis on adaptability and continuous improvement was considered an appropriate framework within which to conduct this research. The study consisted of two main parts the first investigated the CEO Sydney as a learning organization using a survey questionnaire distributed, using a dedicated web site, to a sample of primary and secondary principals in the system and a smaller number of senior CEO Sydney personnel. The response rate was 91%. This was complemented by examination of relevant CEO Sydney documentation and policies. The definition of the learning organization adopted for the study consisted of eight characteristics each of which formed a scale in the questionnaire. The eight characteristics adopted were: 'Systemic Thinking and Mental Models', 'Continuous Improvement of Work', 'Taking Initiatives and Risks', 'Ongoing Professional Development', 'Trusting and Collaborative Climate', 'Shared and Monitored Vision/Mission', 'Effective Communication Channels' and 'Team Work and Team Learning'. This part of the study was essentially a quantitative one, with the data subjected to descriptive, statistical analysis complemented by some clarifying and contextualising qualitative data. The second part of the study investigated the perceived relationship between the CEO Sydney and its learning organization characteristics and the standards in three curriculum outcome areas (religious education, literacy and numeracy). This part of the study was also quantitative using descriptive statistics complemented by Pearson correlation, multiple regression and canonical correlational analyses. Once again some relevant contextualising qualitative data was gathered. Five demographic groups (gender, role, region (principals only), years of experience as a principal and age) were examined to see if there were any differences in the extent to which the various learning organization characteristics and curriculum outcomes were identified by each group. The results of this study indicated that the CEO Sydney exhibited many of the characteristics of a learning organization with particular strengths in 'Continuous Improvement of Work', 'Systemic Thinking and Mental Models' and 'Shared and Monitored Vision/Mission'. The weakest characteristic was 'Taking Initiatives and Risks'. Demographic group analysis of this data revealed that there were no statistically significant differences in the responses of the different demographic groups. The results also indicated that there were correlations between the CEO Sydney as a learning organization and raising standards particularly in religious education and literacy and less so in numeracy. Finally, the study made a number of recommendations for the further development of the CEO Sydney as a learning organization and ways that it can further raise standards in the schools of the system.


School of Educational Leadership

Document Type


Access Rights

Open Access


282 pages

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Faculty of Education