Catholic primary schools look to the future

April 2016


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Incoming national president of the New Zealand Catholic Primary Principals’ Association (NZCPPA) DANNY NICHOLLS says attracting suitably qualified staff is a challenge for Catholic schools.

Danny NicholsThere are 242 Catholic primary schools in New Zealand, meaning that Catholic schools represent approximately 10 per cent of all primary schools. Supported by the New Zealand Catholic Primary Principals’ Association (NZCPPA), Catholic primary schools face a number of opportunities and challenges going forward.


The NZCPPA is the collective voice for Catholic primary school principals. The executive was established in 1995 in response to an identified need for a national group representing and advocating for the specific interests of Catholic principals. Since those early days many distinguished principals have served the executive and continue to make a strong impact and contribution to education in New Zealand.

The current executive is made up of 12 members and meets each term. Two members are elected annually from each of the Catholic diocese of New Zealand (Auckland, Hamilton, Palmerston North, Wellington, Christchurch, Otago).

The executive seeks to contribute to the wider education sector as and where appropriate. This willingness to engage is reciprocated. Examples include having a representative seat at NZEI Principal Council meetings, Special Education sector meetings and NZPF Moots. We have active involvements and communications with ERO, the Ministry of Education and NZSTA, among other groups, and regularly have senior leaders from those groups attend our executive meetings.

Forging strong partnerships

As an executive we have identified a variety of opportunities as priorities in the year ahead. We see one of our strengths as a Catholic schools network being a sense of common mission, and this allows us to develop strong national networks.

Initiatives such as our national Catholic Principals Conference, a Facebook page for Catholic school leaders, and annual scholarships and study awards, allow us to provide strong support to our members. We are also increasing our involvement with First Time Principals and formal mentoring and support programmes.

Looking ahead, a strong partnership is also developing with the two major Catholic principals’ associations in Australia and it is hoped that this will yield benefits for our members in access to professional development, resources and career opportunities in the future.

Attracting qualified and credible staff

A significant challenge for Catholic schools is the difficulty of attracting suitably qualified staff for our schools. While many schools genuinely struggle in this area, the challenge is even more pronounced in Catholic schools due to the legislative requirements to fill all ‘tagged’ positions (usually 60 per cent of all teaching roles) with practising Catholic educators. Additionally the key leadership positions of director of religious studies and principal legally must also be tagged roles.

The challenge for the Catholic school system, and by extension the Catholic church, is to ensure a sustainable ‘pipeline’ of suitably qualified, credible and passionate educators to serve the next generation of our schools. To assist with this the NZCPPA executive regularly engages in robust debate with regional and national professional development providers and Church organisations to ensure sufficient support and resourcing is given to developing these pathways.

Overcoming isolation

Another challenge for Catholic school principals outside the main population centres can be feeling isolated from the larger Catholic schools network. While all principals value the network of local principal associations and networks, Catholic schools bring their own specific community, legislative and governance challenges and do not always have neighbouring colleagues with similar issues to share with. Many Catholic schools are the only special character schools in their town or area. NZCPPA strives to support its members in these challenges through ongoing and regular communication with them.

NZCPPA is a dynamic organisation that has increasingly become proactive about supporting members and contributing to the wider education sector. We are proud to represent and support Catholic school principals and developing further our important role within the wider education sector. We look forward to continuing this valuable work in the future.

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