National Catholic Education Commission Meeting – report

Hand up in the classroom

The one hundred and ninety-seventh NCEC meeting was held on Thursday 15 November 2012 at the Catholic Education Office, Melbourne.

This was the final meeting of this particular Commission (its four-year term of office runs from January 2009 to December 2012), and the Chair, Mrs Therese Temby, thanked Commissioners for their important work on behalf of Catholic education over what had been a very busy period.

Logo for NCEC

The Chair of the Bishops Commission for Catholic Education (BCCE), the Most Rev Greg O’Kelly SJ, also thanked Commissioners for their important contribution to the national Catholic education debate. On behalf of BCCE, Bishop O’Kelly also thanked Mrs Temby for her invaluable work as Chair of NCEC.1. Review of NCEC
Bishop O’Kelly said that BCCE had prepared recommendations for discussion at the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference Plenary in late November regarding the NCEC mandate. Bishop O’Kelly said that the BCCE recommendations were based on the report of the Panel that the Bishops had formally established to review the work of the NCEC. The Review Panel had worked through the first half of the year and had received eighteen written submissions and had had discussions with groups and individuals from every state and territory.
Bishop O’Kelly said that a new NCEC would be formed in 2013, once the Bishops Conference had formed a view on the nature and scope of the NCEC’s ongoing work.

2. Better Schools – The National Plan for School Improvement
Mrs Temby welcomed the Hon Peter Garrett, AM, MP (Minister for School Education) and Senator the Hon Jacinta Collins (Parliamentary Secretary for School Education and Workplace Relations) to the meeting. Minister Garrett outlined the government’s work towards a new school funding model, and thanked NCEC for its active participation in this project.
In the discussion that followed, Minister Garrett and Senator Collins dealt with questions and comments from Commissioners that largely focussed on school funding issues, including:

  • The high level of confidentiality insisted on by the Minister, where details regarding the current model settings cannot be discussed except with State Directors of Catholic Education Commissions.
  •  The indexation methodology that will be proposed (how government grants keep pace with rising costs in schools).
  • What the government’s promise that “no school loses a dollar” actually means in the context of some states already reducing grants to Catholic schools.
  • Funding for Catholic special schools.

3. The Victorian Catholic School Identity Project
The meeting also had a presentation from Mr Tony Byrne (CEO Melbourne) on the Catholic School Identity Project conducted in Victoria over the past five years by the Catholic University of Leuven.
4. Australian Government policy initiatives
NCEC considered the likely impact of recent national policy and administrative decisions on Catholic schools, including
• The legislation establishing the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission.
• The Commonwealth Minister’s steps to “harmonise” the various Commonwealth and state/territory regulations governing the operation of nongovernment schools.
• The Treasury paper on tax concessions for not for profit organisations.
• The Prime Minister’s announcement that the government would set up a Royal Commission into institutional responses to instances and allegations of child sexual abuse in Australia.