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There are six key areas where PART 33 OF THE EDUCATION Act and/or the school’s Integration Agreement prescribe additional requirements for integrated schools, the following relates to enrolment:

  • preference of enrolment
  • the enrolment process in Catholic schools.

Enrolment is the responsibility of the Board (normally carried out by the principal in accordance with Board policy). The granting of preference is the prerogative of the Proprietor.

Requirements of integration

The standard clause in the Integration Agreement of Catholic Schools states:

  • Preference of enrolment at the school under Section 442 of the Education Act 1989 shall be given only to those children whose parents have established a particular or general religious connection with the special character of the School and the Controlling Authority shall not give preference of enrolments to parents of any child unless the Proprietor has stated that those parents have established such a particular or general religious connection with the special character of the school.

The above statement represents a binding agreement between the Proprietors and the Crown; it must be observed in letter and in spirit. This and the other clauses of the Integration Agreement must be interpreted in terms of:

  • the nature of the Church, which is essentially missionary and has special care for those who are deprived of God’s word or of material resources
  • the importance of Religious Education
  • the responsibility of parents to educate their children into the community of the Faith
  • the nature and purpose of a Catholic school.

Preference decisions

It is important to distinguish preference given before enrolment from actual enrolment. The Proprietor, not the principal nor the Board, decides who is to be given preference – i.e., those who are entitled to be enrolled before any non-preference students are enrolled. The criteria for granting preference are set out in the Resources section.

Subject to this decision, the Board (acting usually through the principal) enrols students in the following order:

  1. the students who have been given preference by the Proprietor
  2. the number of non-preference students (if any), up to the maximum number of non-preference students allowed by the Integration Agreement – provided the maximum roll is not exceeded.

It is the prerogative of the Board to determine the selection policy to be adopted when the number of non-preference students applying to enrol is greater than allowed by the Integration Agreement.


An appeals process will be formalised in each diocese, with a person or a committee appointed by the Bishop being delegated this responsibility.
The Preference of Enrolment Certificate will inform families of their ability to appeal a decision not to grant preference.
A national appeals form can be found in the Resources section. This is the agreed national appeals form and will be used by all dioceses throughout New Zealand but will include diocesan specific information.

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Enrolment Process

(view process)

Parents contact the school
Parents who wish to enrol their children will usually first approach the school principal. The principal will ensure that the parents understand the nature of a Catholic school, explaining that the curriculum has a religious dimension and that the school will need the support of the family if the child is to fully benefit by the Catholic education provided.

The principal will explain the policy on preference of enrolment and how parents who wish to claim preference can obtain a preference certificate. The principal will also explain the legal obligation to pay attendance dues and, in appropriate cases, the diocesan policy for applying for a reduction in because of circumstances of hardship. These explanations will assist the parents when they come to sign the commitments on the enrolment form.

Claiming preference
When parents apply to enrol a child the principal must inform them that if they wish to claim preference and have not yet done so, they need to obtain a preference certificate. To do this they visit their parish priest, or other person designated by the Bishop (diocesan offices will let schools know who is eligible to sign this certificate). If appropriate, arrangements for paying the attendance dues may be made at the same time. In secondary schools, arrangements about attendance dues are often made by the principal on behalf of the Proprietor.

If a preference certificate has been refused and the parents wish to appeal the matter, either directly or through the principal, the application can be referred to the Proprietors’ Office (or the Diocesan Education Office). The director of the office, or whoever is the appointed appeal authority in the diocese, makes whatever investigation is necessary (including consulting the parish priest, if appropriate) and makes a ruling or seeks a ruling from the Bishop. The parish priest or delegated person who originally refused the certificate is normally informed whenever a preference certificate is issued on appeal.

No student can be enrolled as a preference student unless the principal has received a preference certificate signed by a parish priest or other approved signatory. (See Enrolment Process flowchart in Resources Section)

The Proprietor, not the principal nor the Board, decides who is to be given preference – i.e., those who are entitled to be enrolled before any non-preference students are enrolled. The criteria for granting preference are set out here.

Subject to this decision, the Board (acting usually through the principal) enrols students in the following order:

  • the students who have been given preference by the Proprietor
  • the number of non-preference students (if any), up to the maximum number of non-preference students allowed by the Integration Agreement – provided the maximum roll is not exceeded.

It is the prerogative of the Board to determine the selection policy to be adopted when the number of non-preference students applying to enrol is greater than allowed by the Integration Agreement.

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Determining Preference

Proprietors of both Diocesan and Trust Board schools have agreed that preference is established if the parents or guardians have obtained a signed statement to that effect from a person (usually the parish priest) who has been delegated authority by the Bishop.

The Bishop may give the same authority as parish priests to chaplains appointed to various ethnic groups (such as Māori, Korean, Samoan etc.) or in some dioceses to special parish-based committees.

The criterion used to determine preference is that the “parents have established a particular or general religious connection with the special character of the school”, as required by the school’s Integration Agreement. (See Resources section for Guidelines and a detailed explanation of the preference of enrolment criteria, and the Preference Certificate.)

The signed statement is called a preference certificate. It is authorised by the Bishops Conference. Its text cannot be amended by individual schools. Supplies of this certificate are held by parishes and are obtainable from Diocesan Education Offices and the NZCEO website. The certificate may also be included in the school’s application form for enrolment, but it is the parish priest or other person designated by the Bishop who must sign the form.

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Non Preference Students

At the time of enrolment the principal is to explain to parents of non-preference students the school’s programme of Religious Education and religious observance. Parents need to understand that their child will be expected to attend the ordinary Religious Education classes, but that they have the right as parents to withdraw their child from religious observances and education concerned with particular observances. (See Section 445(2) of the Education Act).

The wording of the non-preference consent form (“I/We accept that she/he will participate in the general school programme that gives the school its Special Catholic Character”) is to fulfil the requirement to be responsive to the sensitivities of students and parents of different philosophical affiliations. The wording of the consent form enables the parish priest to discuss with the parent and non-preference child seeking enrolment what it means in practice to live and work within the context of a Catholic school community. By signing this consent form the parent is acknowledging on behalf of the child that they are making an informed decision and on the basis of such an informed decision wish to apply to enrol the child as a non-preference student.

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School Administrative Requirements

The principal needs to ensure that the master roll of the school states whether each student has preference or not. It is important to retain the preference certificate or a photocopy of it as evidence in the school’s records. Parents are required to get a new preference certificate when they wish to enrol another child at the school or when the child moves to another Catholic school.

ERO officials and Catholic Character reviewers may check the accuracy of preference of enrolment data, either of their own accord or at the request of the Proprietor.

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Schools Facing Pressure on the Roll

It must be clearly understood that there is an obligation on schools to accept preference students ahead of any non-preference students.

If all preference applications are unable to be accepted, the school should have a clear transparent enrolment policy, or an enrolment scheme officially approved by the Ministry of Education, specifying priorities for acceptance.

While there can be no ranking of the preference criteria, Diocesan Vicars and/or Managers of Education, can offer schools assistance on developing enrolment policies, acceptable to the Ministry of Education, which can include priorities such as:

First priority of acceptance is preference students:

  • from within the local parish or contributing parish or parishes
  • who have a sibling attending the school
  • with some connection with the local parish or contributing parish or parishes
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Enrolment Obligations of Parents

In view of Sections 443 and 447 of the Education Act, it is important that the enrolment form for every Catholic school contain, besides the information the school wants, a statement that:

  • the parents accept as a condition of enrolment that the student will participate in the general school programme that gives the school its special character
  • the parent’s contract, as a condition of enrolment, to pay attendance dues as determined by the Proprietor from time to time and approved by the Minister of Education, and acknowledge the right of the school to discontinue the attendance of their children if they default on payment without making proper arrangements. (Note: This occurred at a school in Auckland; the parents went to the Ministry of Education, which upheld the school’s rights to terminate the enrolment.)

Parents are required to attest by signature that they are aware of and consent to these conditions. A specimen section of the enrolment form for parental attestation is available in the Resources section; this also contains a statement on the application of the Privacy Act.

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Maximum Roll

The Integration Agreement for each school specifies the maximum roll of the school and the maximum number of non-preference students who may be enrolled. Preference students are always enrolled ahead of non-preference students, however many non-preference students are allowed in the school’s Integration Agreement.

Managing the school’s maximum roll

The Board is legally responsible for managing the roll within the numbers set down in the Integration Agreement.

If the roll is expected to exceed the maximum, the Board should take the following three steps:

  1. The Board must refuse further non-preference enrolments, even if the non-preference number is below the maximum allowed. If this does not solve the problem, the Board should immediately inform the Diocesan Education Office or, if the school is non-diocesan, the Proprietor’s governing body.
  2. The Board could discuss the setting up of a non-binding enrolment policy with a neighbouring Catholic school that has less pressure on its roll and which is convenient for applicants to attend.
  3. If the Proprietor and the Board agree not to seek an increase in the maximum roll, the Board may work with the Proprietor and the Ministry of Education to set up an enrolment scheme. If preference students seeking to enrol can reasonably attend some other Catholic school that has preference places available, the Proprietor may advise the Board to apply to the Ministry for an enrolment scheme as per Section 11PB of the Education Act 1989 (as amended by the Education Amendment Act 2000).

If it still appears that the roll will exceed the maximum, the Board needs to inform the Proprietor’s office immediately, recommending that the Proprietor approach the Ministry of Education to negotiate an increase in the maximum roll by means of a Supplementary Integration Agreement.

When special circumstances lead a Board to consider enrolling a non-preference student in addition to the number or percentage allowed by the Agreement, it must first seek the approval of the school’s Proprietor by approaching the Diocesan Education Office or, in the case of non-diocesan schools, the Proprietor. The Proprietor will normally consult the regional office of the Ministry of Education before deciding, and then seek approval from the Ministry.

Availability of space for international fee-paying students

International fee-paying students can be enrolled above the school’s maximum roll, if the school has sufficient capacity (physical space) to take them (Education Act, Section 4(6)). If the Board wishes to provide more capacity for the school to take such students, it will need to negotiate with the Proprietor first. However, the Proprietor is not responsible for providing capital assets for international students in excess of the maximum roll.

The Board is not entitled to enrol international students if the enrolment would exclude a New Zealand student who is entitled to be enrolled (Education Act, Section 4(3)).

Schools that may become eligible for enrolment schemes need to manage their roll prudently and allow for the number of places required for the next several years’ enrolments of New Zealand students before deciding to enrol international students.

Apart from the situations outlined above, international students are normally included in the maximum roll and can be allotted a place within either the school’s preference or non-preference quota. They are not eligible for Ministry of Education funding.

Increase in maximum roll

The maximum roll can be altered only if both the Proprietor and the Minister of Education agree and sign a Supplementary Integration Agreement.

There are some general principles that govern maximum roll increases. The Minister may agree to an increase in the maximum roll if Catholic children would otherwise be deprived of education in a Catholic school.


  • maximum rolls will not normally be increased to cater for non-preference students who wish to enrol
  • if there are other nearby Catholic schools with empty spaces, and if the additional students could conveniently attend one or other of those schools, the Ministry will need to be convinced that the roll pressure cannot be solved by establishing an enrolment scheme.

The Proprietor must agree to supply any new accommodation made necessary by the increase, but only when the actual roll requires it.

Appointments to any additional teacher positions generated by the new actual roll cannot legally be made, or the teachers paid, until the new Supplementary Integration Agreement is signed and is published in the New Zealand Gazette.

Process for gaining an increase in the maximum roll

The application for a maximum roll increase is made by the Proprietor to the Ministry through NZCEO. The steps outlined here have been agreed by Proprietors and the Ministry; adhering to them will help prevent undue delay in processing any changes.

If the Board considers that a maximum roll increase is needed, it first consults the Proprietor, then completes sections 1-3 of the Request for Maximum Roll Increase form (see Resources section for more information) and forwards it to the Proprietor.

The Board should consult neighbouring state schools early on to discuss the reasons for the proposed increase and procedures for dealing with the increasing roll in the integrated school.

It is also essential that the Board consults neighbouring Catholic schools or Catholic schools in its catchment area (see section 7 of the Request for Maximum Roll Increase form found in the Resources section). Such preparation will help avoid undue delay in processing the application when the Ministry consults the neighbouring state schools.

The new maximum roll sought by the Proprietor will be the maximum number of students that can be accommodated without overcrowding. When fixing this number, the Proprietor should consider the views of the Board, the views of the Ministry of Education’s regional office and the relevant school building code.

If the Proprietor agrees that the increase is necessary, the remainder of the form is completed and sent to the Ministry of Education through NZCEO. There are two annual deadlines for these applications: 31 March and 1 September.

It takes time to prepare, consult on and negotiate an increase in the maximum roll. Boards need to plan two or three terms ahead if they anticipate an increase. Much more time will be required for applications for Policy 2 funding.

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Enrolment Schemes

Schools that are nearing their maximum approved rolls may be approached by the Ministry of Education to set up an enrolment scheme. The Proprietor needs to be consulted about a proposed enrolment scheme. NZCEO can provide advice on how to set up an enrolment scheme and the implications of a scheme on the waiting list for preference students. (An example of an enrolment scheme is available in the Resources section.)

Boards may prefer to request the Proprietor to apply for an increase in their maximum roll. Depending on local circumstances, an application for an increase in roll may result in the Ministry of Education requiring an enrolment scheme.

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International Students

The Board should follow general government requirements on enrolling international students however the following concerns the particular requirements affecting state-integrated schools and Catholic schools in relation to international students.

Reasons for enrolling international students in Catholic schools

When schools think of enrolling international students, they should consider the following reasons for doing so:

  • Pastoral: In his address to the International Congress of Catholic Schools in Europe (28 April 2001) Pope John Paul II stressed the need for Catholic schools to welcome students from other cultures: This concrete means of overcoming the fear of others without doubt constitutes a decisive step towards peace within our society.
  • Equity: Foreign students develop New Zealand students’ awareness of the global family of nations and of international, social, economic and justice issues.
  • Educational: Through contact with students from other cultures, New Zealand students develop their understanding of world geography and cultural differences. They therefore begin to develop an international viewpoint and create friendships that promote international understanding.
  • International relationships: By offering educational opportunities for overseas students, New Zealand will enhance its positive international standing in the long term.
  • School viability: Schools with falling rolls, or with rolls that are under their maximum, will particularly benefit from earnings from fees paid by foreign students.

Enrolment of international fee-paying students

The Board should consult the Proprietor when setting the number of international students to be enrolled in the school.

There are three key constraints on enrolling international students in state-integrated schools:

  • ensuring that New Zealand students are not excluded by international enrolments
  • providing adequate physical accommodation if the school intends to enrol international students beyond its maximum roll
  • respecting the preference/non-preference ratio among the international students.

The Ministry of Education’s Pastoral Care of International Students Code of Practice 2016 and International Student Wellbeing Strategy fully covers the care of international students.

It is mandatory for the school to formally sign up to this Code with the Ministry of Education before it enrols any international fee paying students.

Maintaining the preference/non-preference ratio

Given the school’s special character, the Board needs to ensure that the preference/non-preference numbers of international students are broadly in keeping with the ratio stated in the school’s Integration Agreement, and that the special character of the school is not jeopardised.

Resources and Appendices



Determining Preference

Enrolment Scheme

International Students

Maximum Roll Increase