Comment on The New Zealand Initiative report on the value of fees for private schooling

WelCom September 2020 Paul Ferris, Chief Executive, NZ Catholic Education Office Proprietors of high-performing integrated schools have every reason to be happy with the conclusion The New Zealand Initiative report…

WelCom September 2020

Comment on The New Zealand Initiative report on the value of fees for private schooling Archdiocese of Wellington
Paul Ferris

Paul Ferris, Chief Executive, NZ Catholic Education Office

Proprietors of high-performing integrated schools have every reason to be happy with the conclusion The New Zealand Initiative report comes to. Excellence is at the heart of the mission of a Catholic State Integrated School and when outside agencies see the quality of the work of the schools we are rightly pleased. 

However, the report is focused on the quality of the academic performance and not the overall work and focus of a Catholic College for which we have a much greater interest. I am assured that our colleges perform at the highest level within the state sector and that we have much to be pleased about. This report focuses on one comparison when in fact there are number of factors we as a Church have an interest in. Pastoral care, and preparation and respect for life are critical for the students to have a faith encounter. These are not measured in any way in the report. Parents outside the integrated school network might well be encouraged to seek enrolment in our schools because of the comparison the report makes but unless they are coming to be part of a living Church community they would be unwise. 

“Pastoral care, and preparation and respect for life are critical for the students to have a faith encounter.” 

This report compares private, state integrated and state schools but despite the mathematical modelling used to compensate for the various levels of wealth, what it shows at surface level is that wealth can buy opportunity. What it suggests to me is that despite our range of deciles, students in our schools can seek the emancipating effect of successful education and can move to greater participation in society. From the data in the report, it is reasonably clear that this can happen in our school network.

“Despite our range of deciles, students in our schools can seek the emancipating effect of successful education and can move to greater participation in society.”

The report also notes that UE is the measure of success. In 2004 the Government sought to grow participation in university but we now realise that university is not necessarily the best option for all. We are short of skilled and qualified tradespeople who play a very important role in the comfort of our lives. No measure of schooling should focus only UE.

Integrated schools don’t compete with private or state schools. Each has their own place in the range of choices that exist for schooling in New Zealand. Catholics should serve the whole community including those on the margins and it is these schools that I celebrate most fully. In the last five years, two of our lowest decile schools have won the Prime Minister’s Award for Excellence for the work they do with low-decile communities. These schools show us what is possible for everyone when we are united by a common belief and a desire to let everyone share in the fruits of education. 

The report noted that some of our marginalised communities are still less likely to enrol in an integrated school including our tangata whenua. When that problem is addressed and we continue to produce the results that are shown in this report we will be much further on in our Gospel mission. 

We should be grateful to The New Zealand Initiative for this report but we should not be distracted from what is the mission of our schools.