Bishop asks secondary schools to look at enrolment policies

Marist Primary

Auckland Bishop Patrick Dunn has asked that Catholic secondary schools in his diocese unable to accept all preference applicants have an enrolment policy or scheme that places very high priority on such applicants having certificates for Catholic Baptism, First Eucharist and Confirmation.

Bishop Dunn sent a letter dated September 20 with this request to Auckland diocese parish priests, secondary school chaplains, principals, boards of trustees and secondary school proprietors.

He noted the distress experienced by families who have “made a sincere commitment to the Catholic Church, but whose enrolment for their children at a Catholic school has not been accepted”.

An appendix sent with the letter reminded readers that preference applicants have to be accepted prior to non-preference applicants.

But since there is no ranking of the five preference criteria, in schools unable to accept all preference candidates (for instance, because of roll limits), “it is possible for preference students who do not have any participatory connection to the Catholic Church being accepted ahead of students from practising Catholic families and ahead of students who have received the sacrament of Baptism”.

It was also noted that, for schools that have too many preference applicants, a Ministry of Education- approved enrolment scheme or a board of trustees-
approved policy is needed.

“This ensures that there is a transparent process for determining which applicants will be accepted and assists in ensuring that schools are not ‘cherry-picking’ applicants,” it was stated in the appendix.

“It is entirely valid for enrolment schemes and policies to include priorities for acceptance . . . ,” it was also stated, with reference to the bishop’s request.

Bishop Dunn, in his letter, requested that all Catholic schools unable to accept all preference applicants have a transparent, board-approved enrolment policy or Ministry of Education-approved enrolment scheme.

“This enrolment scheme needs to have the requirement that enrolment applications are to include the child’s Catholic Baptism Certificate and First Eucharist and Confirmation Certificates (as applicable) as well as the signed preference certificate.”

Under the bishop’s request, enrolment policies or schemes in Catholic secondary schools are to afford very high priority of acceptance to all preference applicants who have included a Catholic Baptism certificate, and First Eucharist and Confirmation certificate, and then to preference applicants who have included a Baptism certificate.

In primary schools unable to accept all preference applicants, a very high priority is to be given to preference applicants who have included a Catholic Baptism certificate.

Bishop Dunn requested that all recipients of the letter send him a copy of their enrolment policy or scheme by October 1, 2020.

In the appendix, it was also noted that there are many valid reasons why Catholic families choose state primary education and then Catholic secondary education for their children — the most common being ease of access.

“It is desirable that all preference students attending a Catholic primary school should be accepted at a Catholic secondary school. However, it is entirely valid for a [Catholic] secondary school to accept [preference] applicants from state primary schools ahead of some preference students attending a Catholic primary school (particularly those who, during the time at a Catholic primary school, have not been baptised and/or received the other sacraments of initiation).”

For schools with an enrolment scheme based around a geographical area, then all preference candidates living within this defined area must be accepted before preference students from outside the area, despite the latter having a participatory connection with a parish/eucharistic community and/or attending a Catholic primary school.

The bishop’s letter also asked for recipients to send reports to him one year from now about how they plan to help families and children at schools to better connect with parishes and participate in parish life.

The bishop praised the initiatives and work already underway in parishes and schools in this area.

Michael Otto

Reader Interactions


  1. Greg says

    This is good leadership by Bishop Pat in Auckland.

    Other areas of justice, subsidiarity, and integrity that need addressing are if Catholic schools are to be more than “cheap-private” are:
    (1) creation of enrollment zones for Catholic colleges. The poaching by wealthier Catholic colleges of the select “cream” in areas already serviced by a poorer Catholic colleges makes a mockery of proclaiming the kingdom through justice.
    (2) Tagging of staff. Both the judgement of acceptability for Catholic character and the imaginative accounting made to reach the tagging minimums (40%) need some honest reflection.

    We do not want to get into a future situation where the state schools seriously consider challenging our special character protection.

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