Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Why is the name changing from ‘board’ to ‘council’?

The name is changing from board to council to avoid confusion with the Melbourne Archdiocese Catholic Schools (MACS) board, which is the governing body for MACS. School Advisory Councils, as the name suggests, are advisory in nature and the name ‘School Advisory Council’ is used to reinforce this point.

Why is the council called ‘advisory’?

The School Advisory Council provides a forum for discussion and discernment, where the voice of parents/carers and the wider parish informs and supports the decisions made by the principal and parish priest for the good of school and parish. At all times, School Advisory Councils have the wellbeing of, and outcomes for, students as a paramount consideration.

School Advisory Councils do not have a legal identity and do not become involved in the day-to-day management of the school.

It is important that School Advisory Council members understand that their role is to give consideration to, and advice on, important school matters in order to support the principal in the context of the MACS governance arrangements. The School Advisory Council must act within the parameters of the Terms of Reference for School Advisory Councils.

The School Advisory Council supports the school and the principal in many ways, including by:
• supporting the development of child safety initiatives and culture
• promoting the school’s Catholic ethos and culture
• articulating and enacting the school’s vision and mission
• promoting faith formation and development
• assisting with capital resource planning and maintenance
• disseminating information about the school in accordance with the Terms of Reference for School Advisory Councils
• implementing school policies as required
• supporting and communicating school and parish matters, including the school’s annual report
• giving advice on issues such as enrolments, school improvement plans and enrolment trends
• engaging in discussion about the annual school budget and other financial matters
• giving advice about the school’s master plan.

Most councils/boards have decision-making authority – why not MACS School Advisory Councils?

The School Advisory Council has no legal status. As such it exists to advise the principal, but is not the governing body of the school. The MACS board is the governing body of all 290 MACS schools.

To who or what is the School Advisory Council accountable?

The council is accountable at a local level to the principal and the parish priest. The School Advisory Council is ultimately accountable to the MACS board, which delegates this responsibility to the Executive Director.

Why is the parish priest/canonical administrator an ex officio member?

MACS schools belong to a parish, or an association of parishes in the case of secondary colleges. Hence, the priest has a key role as the custodian of mission and the beneficial owner of the land on which the school is built. One forum where this role can be most evident is as an ex officio member of the School Advisory Council, where he represents the parish or parishes whose mission the school serves.

Can we have a Parish Education Board and a School Advisory Council?

Key documents such as the Working Together in Mission charter and Terms of Reference for School Advisory Councils allow for flexibility in how parishes and schools establish a model of engagement that can be customised to local need. Hence, the importance of discernment as to what will meet the needs of parish and school, particularly between parish priest and principal, at the local level. As the school serves the mission of the parish, it is essential that the parish priest is actively involved in the life of the school and its advisory council.

What do you advise about establishing a single School Advisory Council in a parish that has more than one school?

The Terms of Reference are clear that each school should have some form of School Advisory Council. It may well be that a parish priest and principal (depending on the number of schools in the parish) decide to have an overarching Parish Education Board/Council which the parish priest attends, and each school has a smaller School Advisory Council which the parish priest can attend from time to time or send a delegate. Of utmost importance is the discernment between priest and principal/s.

Do I have to be Catholic to be a School Advisory Council member?

The short answer is ‘no’. Any person who has a child in the school can adhere to the purpose and sentiment of the School Advisory Council as set out in the Terms of Reference.

The council should be composed of people who appreciate, value and share the educational mission and ethos of the Catholic Church. Their capacity to contribute, their shared understanding and their positivity are essential.

The following is a list of some of the key qualities and skills for members of the School Advisory Council:
• commitment to the MACS Statement of Mission
• commitment to Catholic education in the parish and school
• commitment to the vision and mission of the parish and school
• understanding of the role of parish priest, principal and council members
• willingness to ask questions and seek clarification
• ability to think strategically
• willingness to support the contributions of other council members
• capacity to listen in an active and meaningful way
• willingness to work cooperatively with others
• commitment to maintaining confidentiality at all times.

Each council member is required to commit to the following:
• understanding the council’s role
• having a positive and constructive attitude
• elevating any appropriate issues for consideration by the council
• preparing for council meetings
• attending each council meeting, unless there are extenuating circumstances
• bringing expertise and views to discussions on behalf of the whole community
• participating actively and responsibly
• participating in council work
• participating in council formation activities
• attending the MACS Annual General Meeting, if possible
• abiding by the applicable MACS school governance policies, including the Statement of Mission, Code of Conduct and Conflict of Interest Policy.

You do not need to be Catholic to achieve the above, but a commitment to the mission of the Church is a requirement.

What qualifications or skills do I need to be a School Advisory Council member?

The following is a list of some of the key qualities and skills for members of the School Advisory Council:
• commitment to the MACS Statement of Mission
• commitment to Catholic education in the parish and school
• commitment to the vision and mission of the parish and school
• understanding of the role of parish priest, principal and council members
• willingness to ask questions and seek clarification
• ability to think strategically
• willingness to support the contributions of other council members
• capacity to listen in an active and meaningful way
• willingness to work cooperatively with others
• commitment to maintaining confidentiality at all times.

The School Advisory Council supports the school and the principal in many ways, including by:
• supporting the development of child safety initiatives and culture
• promoting the school’s Catholic ethos and culture
• articulating and enacting the school’s vision and mission
• promoting faith formation and development
• assisting with capital resource planning and maintenance
• disseminating information about the school in accordance with the Terms of Reference for School Advisory Councils
• implementing school policies as required
• supporting and communicating school and parish matters, including the school’s annual report
• giving advice on issues such as enrolments, school improvement plans and enrolment trends
• engaging in discussion about the annual school budget and other financial matters
• giving advice about the school’s master plan.

What are the Terms of Reference?

Terms of Reference describe the scope and limitations as well as defining the purpose and structure of an activity. Terms of Reference are substituted for a constitution when, as is the case with School Advisory Councils: they are advisory in nature, have no legal standing and are not a decision-making body. The eleven sections that comprise the Terms of Reference for School Advisory Councils play an important role in the composition and structure of the council, and are as follows:
1. Purpose of the School Advisory Council
2. Role of the School Advisory Council
3. Council structure
4. Appointment and induction of members
5. The role of individual council members
6. Key roles
7. Committees and working parties
8. School Advisory Council meetings
9. Engaging with your school
10. Record keeping
11. Evaluating the work of the council

What happens to the previous school board constitution?

The previously held school board constitution is now superseded by the School Advisory Council Terms of Reference in order to align the council with MACS policies and obligations. The adoption of the Terms of Reference for School Advisory Councils and the relinquishing of the constitution should take place formally at the first School Advisory Council meeting.

Why is the Statement of Mission so important now? We didn’t have one before.

The Statement of Mission is a critical part of the MACS constitution and establishes the mission and purpose of the schools under MACS. An excerpt from the Statement of Mission highlights its importance in embedding the mission of the Church in our schools as we move into this new governance structure. A school governed by MACS:
• is actively embedded in the life of the faith communities of the local Church, which in turn is tangibly manifest in the life of each school
• is an essential place for the evangelising of children and young people
• prioritises the forming of missionary disciples of Jesus
• exists to assist students and their families to integrate faith, reason, life and culture
• is conspicuously Christian in outlook, explicitly Catholic in faith and practice, and intentionally missionary in orientation
• cultivates spiritual, social and emotional growth in a safe and protective environment
• provides a learning environment in which the whole educational community is formed to embrace life in all its fullness
• offers a human formation that has the intellectual, practical and moral excellence of learners at its heart
• forms consciences, fosters peace and develops respectful dialogue at the service of intellectual charity
• encourages the discovery of Catholic cultural heritage, especially in art, music, literature and architecture.

What if my school doesn’t have a School Advisory Council?

The board of MACS has determined that all schools will have a School Advisory Council by the end of 2021. Regional forums have been organised in May to assist schools and parishes where no school advisory body has been present. As preparation for those forums, principals and parish priests have been asked to enter into a discernment process about the establishment of the School Advisory Council. Decisions need to be made at the local level about:
• the vision and mission of the School Advisory Council for your school
• the composition of the council – who and how many
• the connectedness with parish
• how to advertise for expressions of interest
• how to engage the whole school in the process
• how to customise the Terms of Reference for School Advisory Councils to the needs of the school and parish.

Following the forums, personnel from MACS will assist where required in the establishment of the School Advisory Council.

What role does the parish play on a School Advisory Council?

MACS schools serve the mission of their parish, or parishes in the case of secondary schools. The parish priest/canonical administrator therefore plays a critical and unique role in the life of the School Advisory Council as the representative of the parish or parishes to which the school belongs. Parish and school must collaborate in establishing and maintaining the Catholic nature of the school, and in nurturing the reputation of both. The parish priest is the custodian of mission for parish and school, and represents the beneficial owner of the land on which the school is built. The parish priest plays a unique role in the spiritual, liturgical and sacramental life of the school and the parish to which it belongs.

If they are advisory, who approves the budget?

The budget is presented to the School Advisory Council following advice from the finance committee (where one exists) or from the business manager. Some primary schools will have a financial adviser and/or a MACS business manager, and all secondary schools will have a business manager to prepare the budget. Following discussion of the budget and advice offered, the budget is submitted to the Executive Director who will delegate responsibility for the approval of the budget to the MACS office finance department.