Catholic education is a lifelong process of human growth and development. It is more than schooling. It begins in the home, continues in the school and matures through involvement with the Christian community in the parish - so only in the partnership between home, school and the local Church can authentic Catholic schools develop and grow.

Who is involved in the educational community?

  • Linda Page

    Parent and School Board member
  • Catherine Ible

    Parent and School Board member
  • Suzanne Fern

    Catholic Primary School Principal
  • Phil Bretherton

    Catholic Primary School Principal
  • Fr Jim McKewon

    Parish Priest
  • Noel Hurley

    Schools Consultant
  • John Mula

    Diocesan Director of Schools

The Catholic school community is made up of families and school staff and it is supported by the parish and the wider community. Together, they constitute the ‘educating community’ of the Catholic school. Each member brings particular and special knowledge, skills and capacities which play an important role in enriching the Catholic school community. Parents have a particularly important role as the first and primary educators  of their children.

Effective Catholic school advisory bodies actively seek to reflect the communities which they support – either in composition (that is who sits around the table) or by ensuring that the diversity of voices within their school community can be heard and acknowledged - especially those voices which are not often heard or may be silent. It is particularly important to ensure that the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and community members who have or who support someone with a disability are heard and welcomed.

School advisory bodies should exist for the good of the entire school community. Members do not represent any one ‘group’ within the school or parish or even themselves, rather they are tasked with working together to promote the interests of the entire school community  - ‘the common good’.


Do you begin your meetings and/or functions with an Acknowledgement or Welcome to Country?

Acknowledgement of Country Card    Poster  

What Does Working in Partnership Mean? 

Parents are the first and primary educators of their children. Catholic schools are called to intentionally and purposefully partner with parents in the education of their children, supported by collaboration with the parish and wider community[1].  

Catholic school advisory bodies are one expression of this important partnership.  
By partnership we mean:

Collaborative relationships, based on mutual trust, respect and shared responsibility, involving all members of the Catholic school community, which aim to foster and enrich the spiritual formation, learning and well-being of the children and young people at the school. [2]

Developing partnerships may not always be easy. It requires commitment and time. Because of pressures and circumstances, many families will need support to enable them to become actively involved in their children’s school and faith lives. 

However, the results of this effort will be significant.  Schools that engage families in their children’s learning are tapping in to a rich source of information and expertise. [3]

Partnership is more than Just Involvement

The most effective partnerships are those that are intentionally aligned to the faith formation, learning and well-being of young people. They invite a collaboration among parents, teachers and the parish and provide opportunities for each member to learn from each other by sharing knowledge, insights and experiences.

This type of partnership differs from the more traditional ‘involvement’ activities that schools offer families (school boards, P&F, fundraising activities and the like) which often require parents to attend the school in order to participate. An engaging partnership reaches out to parents wherever they are.

Research tells us that in order positively affect the educational outcomes of young people, parents need opportunities to be both involved in the life of the school and engaged in their child’s learning and well-being [4] . 

School advisory bodies can help fulfil this role by providing an important opportunity for the involvement of parents (and others) as well as a vehicle to promote the broader engagement of all parents in their children’s education.

How do we relate and work together? 

All Catholics, through their baptism, are called to collaborate in the mission of the Church. Collaborative Ministry is a particular way of relating and working together. It is an ongoing process that involves bringing forth people’s talents and interests to meet the needs of the community through collaborative decision-making. Collaborative ministry is indispensable as neither parents, teachers nor parish priests can achive all that needs to be achieved alone.

The following are some essential elements of effective collaboration based on Collaborative Ministry[5]:

Building mutual trust and recognition        


Collaborative ministry is built upon good personal relationships. People who want to work collaboratively need a strong sense of their own identity and a desire for mutual trust and commitment. They must also be willing to move beyond fixed roles and stereotypes, to explore new horizons and to acknowledge their limitations and areas of vulnerability.

Developing common vision and accountability

Collaborative teams place a high priority on developing a shared vision, often expressed in a mission statement, or in regularly reviewed aims and objectives for their work together. This gives a strong sense of identity and assists them in being purposeful and disciplined in their use of time and resources.

Development of persons and skills




Formation and personal development are obviously important for those involved in collaborative ministry. Collaborative teams in particular need formation planned to meet their particular requirements as a team. In addition, individuals should be encouraged to pursue their own personal and professional development, insofar as it is practical to do so.

Collaborative ministry needs particular skills. Some of the skills used are relational skills, others are practical and work- related. Among the skills needed are evaluation, self-appraisal, listening, consulting, discerning, consensus decision-making, planning, group facilitation, and handling conflict.


Learning to deal with conflict


It seems to be almost inevitable that conflict arises within collaborative teams. If collaboration is to grow, conflict must be brought into the open. The courage to face and work through conflict, negotiating until a compromise is found, and even seeking help in order to resolve it, are not weaknesses but signs of maturity and commitment. Collaborative partners can also agree to disagree, or to set aside areas where agreement or compromise cannot be found. 


Shared decision-making




The desire for shared decision-making is a natural outcome of working collaboratively. It is effective because it arises out of shared responsibility and vision, and mutual trust and recognition. This form of decision-making brings wider resources to a decision than would be available to an individual alone.
The more challenging option is aiming for consensus decision-making, in which the whole group or community works towards a consensus which becomes the decision. This may not be the decision that everyone wants, but will be one that everyone can accept, including those who may disagree.

Styles of meeting





Working collaboratively will involve learning and using different styles of meeting in order to express in action the values and vision of collaborative ministry. Collaborative ministry combines the elements of two styles of meeting: a business style of meeting, with agenda items, discussion and decision- making; and a formative style of meeting, in which there is dialogue and reflection.

There are two other elements which are important:

  • The first is giving time to discernment and prayer.
  • The second is recognition and use of people's expertise and energies

Creating a culture of collaboration

Creating this culture is not, in general, an activity which is planned. Usually it begins to show itself in a gentle shift in atmosphere and sensitivity, expressed in attitudes and in many small signs. But by following the above practices, a new culture and possibly new strutures, will emerge.







Collaborative ministry draws deeply upon faith in the Trinity. It is not simply a way of re-organising work or structures. It is a way of expressing in our life together what God asks of us and calls us to be. Above all, we need to let our prayer challenge us not to become inward-looking. The purpose collaborative ministry is to enable the Church in mission. It must look outwards because God's life is for the whole world and all of creation.

Different attitudes to prayer and varying experience and formation need to be explored with sensitivity to what each can receive from others. Teams and partners need to work out together a pattern of prayer and shared worship with which all are comfortable.


Quick Reflection:

  • Identify three needs, situations and/or calls to mission, in your context which might be better met by greater collaboration?
  • What 2-3 concrete, practical steps do you see as ways towards implementing more collaboration in your context so that you can better respond to the needs of your community?
  • What obstacles to greater collaboration exist in your context? What can be done about these?

Deeper Reflection:

  • Describe and Explore: Invite people to identify and explore their own experience and understanding.
  • Act Differently: Invite people to think about the implications of what they have discussed for the way we work together.
  • Pray and Celebrate: Suggestions for scriptural reflection, prayer and celebration 

Download Collaborative Ministry Reflection Tool: 

Collaborative Ministry Reflection

1 Parent Engagement in Action Guide, CEOM (2013) 
2 Adapted from the Family School Partnership Framework (2008) and the Tasmanian Catholic Schools Family, School Parish Partnership Framework (2011).
3 National Family School Partnership Framework (2008) 
4 Harris, A et al (2009). Do Parents Know They Matter?
5 The Sign We Give, The National Conference of Bishops of England and Wales (1995)

“The governance of Catholic schools should reflect the reality of Catholic education as a partnership between parishes and parish priests, dioceses and diocesan authorities, religious institutes, Catholic education authorities, schools and – crucially – parents and children.”

NCEC (2002) Catholic School Governance


“Community is at the heart of Christian education not simply as a concept to be taught but as a reality to be lived . . . Through education, people must be moved to build community in all areas of life; they can do this best if they have learned the meaning of community by experiencing it.”

To Teach As Jesus Did, 22 and 23

Key term: Collaborative Ministry

Collaborative Ministry describes the particular relationships and ways of being that bring together lay people (families, staff and students), religious, bishops and priests. Collaborative Ministry does not just happen because people work together but demands a conscious committment to common Catholic values and convictions and a sharing and respect for each individual's gifts. Fundamentally, Collaborative Ministry is built upon strong and mutually respectful relationships.

The Sign We Give (1995) National Conference of the Bishops of England and Wales

Key term: Shared Wisdom

Shared Wisdom is a means of discernment and decision-making that recognizes the worth of every individual's contribution and the unique knowledge, experience and wisdom that each brings to a group. Sr. Mary Benet McKinney.

What does Shared Wisdom mean to me as a Principal?: