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The Catholic school

New Zealand Catholic schools were founded with the primary purpose of giving a Catholic education to Catholic children. Various Church documents focusing on the Catholic school elaborate on the mission of the school.

Catholic schools were founded by dioceses, parishes or religious institutes under the authority of the Bishop who, as chief pastor of the Church in his diocese, continues to exercise his canonical authority over the Catholic nature of the school. Integration protects the authority and the rights of the Proprietor and of the Bishop over the school.

The Bishop or religious institute or Trust Board, as Proprietor, holds the school in trust for the Catholic community that originally established the school, and the Proprietor continues to be the legal owner of the property that constitutes the integrated school.

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Canon law

Those who administer Catholic schools need to keep in mind those Canons that focus on Catholic education. Some of the Canons that are relevant to the establishment of schools and the enrolment of students are paraphrased below:

  • Canon 217: All those baptised into the Catholic Church have the right to a Catholic education.
  • Canons 773 and 776: Parish priests must see to the formation of adults, young people and children.
  • Canon 774 §2: The primary obligation for catechetical formation lies with parents. The same obligation binds godparents and those who take the place of parents.
  • Canon 780: Diocesan Bishops may issue directives for catechetical formation. Catechists are to be duly trained and given opportunity for continuing formation.
  • Canon 792 §2: Teachers are to collaborate closely with parents and listen to them. Parent associations are to be set up.
  • Canon 797: Parents must have freedom to exercise choice in determining which school their children will attend.
  • Canon 798: Parents are to send their children to those schools that will provide for their Catholic education. If they cannot do this, they are bound to ensure the proper education of their children outside the school.
  • Canon 800 §2: Catholic schools are to be promoted and everything possible done must be done to help establish and maintain them.
  • Canon 802 §1: Where there is no Catholic school, one must be established.
  • Canon 805: The diocesan Bishop has the right to appoint or approve teachers of religion and to remove them or demand that they be removed, if religious or moral considerations require.
  • Canon 806 §1: The diocesan Bishop has the right to watch over and inspect the Catholic schools in his diocese and to issue directives concerning the general regulation of Catholic schools.
  • Canon 806 §2: Catholic schools are to ensure that the academic standards of the formation given in them is at least as good as that in other schools.
  • Canons 773 & 776: Parish priests must see to the formation of adults, young people and children.
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The nature of Catholic state-integrated schools

Catholic state-integrated schools are state schools – not private or independent schools. They have three main distinguishing features:

  • Catholic state-integrated schools are embedded in the Church; their Catholic character determines student enrolment and staffing requirements and their Catholic curriculum.
  • The Proprietor, who is the Bishop of the diocese or a religious institute or Trust Board, has ownership of the school’s integrated land and buildings (see Property section). Responsibility for their maintenance and insurance (and the resulting health and safety obligations) is shared by the school’s Board of Trustees and the Proprietor.
  • Each school is governed by its Board of Trustees. The Proprietor has the right to appoint up to four members to the Board.

The state-integrated school is funded by the Government through the Ministry of Education for its day-to-day operation (including staff salaries and the maintenance of the school’s integrated buildings and grounds) to the same standard as required for other state schools.

Schedule 6 of the Education and Training Act 2020 sets out the general conditions of integration, and each school’s Integration Agreement defines the particular conditions of that school’s integration into the state system. The focus of these, of course, is the maintenance of the school’s Catholic Character, which the whole Board of Trustees is required to uphold.

The Proprietor’s appointees to the Board of Trustees are members of the Board in all respects. They have some additional reporting responsibilities to the Proprietor (see Governance section for more information).

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The founding principles of integration

When the Proprietors of Catholic schools integrated their schools with the state system of education, they entered into a partnership with the Crown. The partnership is based on six fundamental principles:

  1. The right to teach, develop and implement the Catholic programme in Christian faith and living, and to follow those religious customs that are normal in the Catholic school.
  2. The right to administer staff appointments and arrange that staff composition recognises the Catholic Character of the school.
  3. The right to enrol firstly, the children of Catholic parents and secondly, the children of other parents who seek a Christian environment for the education of their children.
  4. The right to extend existing schools and build new ones to meet the demands of legitimate expansion and proven need, including schools with special purposes (e.g., to cater for special educational, physical or emotional needs).
  5. The right to own the land, school buildings, ancillary educational buildings and facilities that make up the Catholic school system.
  6. The right of the Catholic community to make a tangible financial contribution through fees towards the cost of maintaining its schools.
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Integration as set out in the Education and Training Act 2020

The Board of Trustees of an integrated school functions according to Schedule 6 of the Education and Training Act 2020.

Schedule 6 of the Act:

  • takes precedence over other named statutes that govern the school, if there is a conflict between it and other legislation.
  • guarantees the school its right to continue through its teaching and conduct to reflect education with a Special Character (Sch 6, Cl 1 (1))
  • states that integration must not jeopardise the Special Character of the school (Sch 6, Cl 1(2))
  • gives the Proprietor explicit rights regarding the Special Character (Sch 6, Cl 1 (3) and (4)) to:
  • supervise the maintenance of the Special Character
  • determine what is necessary to preserve and safeguard it
  • take action if, in the Proprietor’s opinion, the Special Character is likely to be jeopardised, or is not being maintained or preserved.
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Each school has an Integration Agreement

A school becomes integrated into the state educational system when the Proprietor and the Minister of Education approve the school’s Integration Agreement. This agreement establishes a partnership between the Proprietor and the Crown. Each school has its own Integration Agreement.

The Integration Agreement imposes obligations on the Board of Trustees (referred to as the Board). All Board members need to be familiar with it.

The Integration Agreement:

  • defines the school’s Special Character
  • sets out the rights of the Proprietor in relation to the operation of the school
  • prescribes the religious instruction and observances that are to be part of the school programme
  • specifies the lands and buildings that are to be managed and maintained by the Board
  • sets out special requirements and appointment procedures for certain key positions
  • determines the maximum roll and the maximum percentage of non-preference students who may be enrolled
  • provides for the charging of attendance dues up to a maximum amount approved by the Minister of Education
  • requires the Proprietor to insure the buildings and any chattels that are owned or held in trust by the Proprietor
  • provides for the appointment of a chaplain
  • sets out the rights of the Proprietor to have access to the school
  • sets out other matters agreed to between the Proprietor and the Minister.
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Cancellation of an integration agreement and school closure

Cancellation conditions and requirements are found in Schedule 6, Cl 11 of the Education and Training Act 2020. In August 2003 NZCEO and the Ministry of Education agreed on the details of the procedures to be followed in such cases.