Catholic Education: A Legal Perspective Patrick Walsh Catholic Schools Convention August 2012.
Legal Landscape • The Private Schools Conditional Integration Act 1975. • Defines and protects Special Character. (Part one). “Education with a Special Character means education within the framework of a particular or general religious or philosophical belief, and associated with observances or traditions appropriate to that belief”. • Crown investment in state integrated schools, staffing, operational costs, property.
Political landscape • Parental choice. • Strength in Diversity • Competition/ track record of success. • Cost benefits. • Sensitivity to electorate.
Defining Catholic Education • Legal protection exists to safeguard the point of difference. • Academic excellence, high standards of behaviour and dress, good discipline are features of Catholic schools but don’t define them.
Catholic Character • Accentuate, demonstrate, celebrate. • Physical presence of Catholic identity; statues icons, chapels, classrooms, alters, posters • Proud to be Catholic. • Unapologetic physical expression of our Catholic identity.
Catholic Ritual • Lived expressions of our Catholic Faith. • Sacraments, mass, reconciliation • Liturgies • Prayer
Religious Education • Manifestly reflect Catholic theology, social teaching. • Compulsory and academically robust. • Given status and resourced appropriately. • Supported by other faculties.
Proprietors Representative Legal Guardians of Catholic Character Make searching and probing inquires into • Professional development in Catholic Character • Catholicity of the strategic and annual plan. • Performance agreement of the principal. • Tagged positions/ preference cards. • NCEA results in religious education. • Familiarity with the sacramental and prayer life of the school. • Quality of Parish/ School relationships. • Resourcing for religious education • Compliance with the Catholic schools handbook and reporting to the Proprietor. • Familiarity with the sexual health program in the school. • School fees/ costs can’t be a barrier to Catholic Education
Employment of staff • Pivotal to Catholic Character. • Employer (principal) makes expectations manifestly clear. • No opt out provision. • Test ‘willing and able’. • Non-compliance or actions that might undermine Catholic Character are employment issues supported by PSCI Act
Challenge of Authenticity • Unchurched and lapsed Catholics. • Diminishing religious, priests, practising Catholic teachers. • Parental motivation for choosing Catholic Schools. • Catechesis or Evangelisation. • Catholic Character Review- Essential auditing mechanism.
Sustainability • Sacramental life of the school. • Role modelling of staff and lack of personal testimony. • Succession of Catholic principals DRS’s and tagged positions. • Sufficiency of religious education for teacher practitioners. • Disconnect between Parishes and schools.
The Future • Growing thirst and demand for values education within a religious tradition. • Re orientation to our point of difference which the law protects. • Ring fence, protect and nurture the essential features of Catholic Education. • Develop a national plan to address issues of authenticity and sustainability.