Fifty years after leaving St Bede's College, former Parliamentary Speaker David Carter still runs into "Bedeans" regularly.
"You meet them everywhere. You quickly establish the connection," he says.
"You live as a Bedean and it gives you a special connection with people. They are all around the world."
St Bede's, a decile 9 Catholic boys' school in Christchurch, has four MPs in the current Parliament: Carter, National Party deputy leader Gerry Brownlee, Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor and National MP Matt Doocey.
Only Auckland Girls' Grammar School can equal it, and only two of its four MPs spent all their high school years there: Community and Voluntary Sector Minister Poto Williams and Green MP Golriz Ghahraman. Labour MP Kiritapu Allan attended for two years and Building and Construction Minister Jenny Salesa was there for a few months.
And St Bede's is one of 24 faith-based integrated schools that have 29 MPs in Parliament - 26 per cent of our 111 NZ-born MPs, more than double the 11.2 per cent of school students who attend integrated schools.
Integrated schools are the most over-represented in our Parliament, ahead of private schools which have 8 per cent of MPs against only 3.7 per cent of all students.
State schools are under-represented with 67 per cent of MPs against 85 per cent of school students.
O'Connor, who first became a minister in 2002, says there has long been strong Catholic representation in both politics and the public service.
"I have certainly run into a strong cohort of Catholics at senior levels of the public service," he says.
"I like to think it is around strong community values as well. I guess the church itself is probably based on collectivism and collective effort that I guess flows through into what we do in a democratic society."
Buying into a network?
An analysis by the NZ Initiative, produced in association with this Herald series, found that your child has a better chance of leaving school with University Entrance at an integrated school (38.8 per cent) than at either a private school (37.4 per cent) or a state school (30.5 per cent), after adjusting each school's results for each student's personal and family background.
Despite this, some may think it's still worth sending your child to a private school, with fees averaging $20,000 a year more than integrated schools, if those fees buy entry into a valuable network that your child can draw on in adult life.
This is certainly a feature of some societies such as Britain, where 65 per cent of senior judges and 59 per cent of state department heads attended private schools, against 7 per cent of the British population.
For comparison with NZ data, 29 per cent of British MPs and 48 per cent of British-educated chief executives of the biggest 350 listed companies went to private schools.
In New Zealand too, Herald research for this series has found that private schools are more over-represented in business than in politics, accounting for 18 per cent of NZ-educated chief executives of the 50 biggest companies on the NZX sharemarket.
However, in actual numbers that 18 per cent is only six out of 33 people, after excluding 16 chief executives of our top 50 listed companies who were educated overseas. Some CEOs actually run NZX listed companies from Australia or the United States.
One chief executive, Auckland Grammar-educated Philip Littlewood, runs two of the 50 companies, Stride Property and Investore Property.
Auckland University education professor Peter O'Connor says other research also shows that "we have far more of a meritocracy than the UK".
"Our civil service in New Zealand is not marked by private schools."
In business, that is partly because of globalisation. Surprisingly, Britain's top 350 companies are even more internationalised than Kiwi companies, with 43 per cent of the British companies run by overseas-educated chief executives.
Old school ties may still exist. Doocey, who worked in mental health in Britain for 15 years, kept in touch with several fellow Bedeans in London.
But any connection to a school you attended in New Zealand is hardly likely to be much use in most big international companies.
The power of money
Money, as distinct from school ownership, clearly is still a powerful force in our society.
Ghahraman remembers starkly what it was like studying law at Auckland University with just one friend from decile-3 Auckland Girls' Grammar.
"Everyone else had gone to effectively a private school or maybe Epsom Girls," she says.
"There was a real feel of Grammar boys, King's boys, St Cuth's girls and Dio girls and a couple of other schools just thrown in there.
"There was a sense that everyone's family were lawyers at big law firms or judges. Their grandparents were judges. When judgments were cited, it would inevitably be someone's grand-dad."
Obviously those contacts helped when it came to job-hunting, but Ghahraman says it was more than that.
"Being able to envision yourself in a particular career, and not having to think outside of your world, that's what you have to likely do. It's the first step, even thinking that you could do a law degree," she says.
"It was not just that everyone had gone to St Cuthbert's, it was that they went to St Cuthbert's and also didn't need to work through university and everyone went off to the family bach in the study break, when I worked four nights a week. It's just all those little advantages."
A Herald investigation found in 2018 that 60 per cent of students accepted into law, medicine and engineering at six NZ universities came from the richest third of homes, and only 6 per cent from the poorest third.
If you included only decile 1 schools - the most disadvantaged - that figure dropped to just 1 per cent.
However, private schools are only part of that picture because even in the top two deciles they have only 11 per cent of all students. Integrated schools have a similar 12 per cent, but 77 per cent of students, even in that richest fifth, go to state schools.
High-decile schools, like St Bede's, tend to have stronger alumni networks. Auckland lawyer Ross Pennington, who attended decile-7 New Plymouth Boys' High School, says his wife Nicky's decile-10 St Cuthbert's Old Girls' Association is "much more active".
"You are actually engaged for a lifetime. They support each other and help each other," he says.
Nicky Pennington says you are "an old girl for life".
"They do networking drinks and people will come back and give back to the school. It's really targeted for girls studying at university to come and meet people in the professions, in the media or in business," she says.
The power of money also partly accounts for the sporting success of high-decile schools. Five out of 34 NZ-educated current All Blacks (15 per cent) attended private schools, mostly lured there by scholarships, while 21 per cent of All Blacks attended integrated schools and only 65 per cent went to state schools.
The power of faith
But this series has shown that it is not just money that matters. The fact that integrated schools outperform private schools both academically and in at least one element of leadership (politics) suggests, as Massey University's Professor John O'Neill puts it, that "faith trumps dosh".
A recent study of schools in England, where religious schools are fully state-integrated and cannot charge fees, found that actually students' personal faith, rather than the schools they attended, was associated with higher grades in end-of-school exams.
The study used a question in a long-term study of young people asking, "How important would you say religion is to the way you live your life?"
Those who said religion was very important performed better at school, were more likely to go to university, and worked longer hours once they joined the workforce.
But after adjusting for all the students' personal characteristics, including the importance of religion in their lives, it made virtually no difference whether they attended religious or secular schools.
"Faith schooling does not have any impact that is significantly different from zero. Faithfulness does," the authors concluded.
O'Neill comments: "I think it's reasonable to speculate more broadly that having a strong sense of personal cultural identity and belonging may play a similar role for non-European students in our schools."
"I suspect that in any high achieving school, you will find a commonly shared sense of purpose, identity, belonging and therefore active commitment to its culture," he says.
"Certainly, our state-integrated schools have a special character at the point of integration, which for a large majority is the Christian faith, in particular the Catholic faith.
"But similarly, a significant fraction of our private or independent schools claim to promote a Christian character, others a special character such as Steiner or Waldorf, and yet others a particular curriculum or co-curricular 'niche'.
"Equally, our state schools often have a 'high achieving' specialism that they promote to distinguish themselves in the local marketplace: single sex, sport, sciences, performing arts.
"More importantly, the strategy is intended to attract [or poach] students who are both strongly committed to the specialism and also help strengthen the school's critical mass of high achievement.
"The levels of parental support, commitment and sacrifice expected of parents and students are extraordinary in all these faith, special character and local point of difference schools and also in kura kaupapa Māori and kura a iwi."
The power of culture
Auckland Girls' Grammar old girl Poto Williams says that, even though that school was still majority-Pākehā when she was there in the 1970s, it was already "a safe place to be a Pacific kid".
"There was a sense of acknowledging diversity. Our culture groups during the first Polyfest were quite significant and they won a lot of awards," she says.
"It was also a safe environment for girls, with exposure to a lot of things that you would in no way be exposed to at a co-ed school. For example, boys would normally do the lighting in a drama production. I got the opportunity to learn and play music and be involved in drama."
By the time Ghahraman went there 20 years later, a majority of the students were Pasifika and Māori. Ghahraman, whose mother cried when she found that the flat the family rented in Mt Eden was not in the Epsom Girls' Grammar zone, loved it.
"I came into a context where there was a majority ethnic background and female. It was really empowering," she says.
She had attended Auckland Normal Intermediate, which was then decile 10, but her family "didn't have enough money to keep up with things like clothes".
"At Auckland Girls' Grammar it just didn't matter," she says.
Ghahraman went on to Britain's Oxford University and says New Zealand is less class-bound.
"In Britain, even if you have a lot of money, you can't break through some of those barriers, whereas for us I think most of it is actually having access to resources and connections rather than a set class thing," she says.
"I'd say the class influences how well resourced the teachers are and all of that, and we know that students with extra need are not necessarily getting the support that they need."
What the parties say
Private schools have historically been a litmus test for the left/right divide in New Zealand politics.
A recent report for the sector group Independent Schools of New Zealand shows that state subsidies to private schools rose from 20 per cent to 50 per cent of teacher salaries between 1970 and 1975, but were cut to zero by the Labour Government of 1984-90.
National restored the subsidy in the 1990s, raising it to 40 per cent of state schools' funding per student at senior levels by 1999.
Helen Clark's Labour Government froze the subsidy in 2000 at a fixed amount which was allocated to schools based on their rolls.
John Key's National Government raised the dollar amount in 2009 and created state-funded "Aspire" scholarships for up to 250 students to attend private schools. But it then froze the subsidy for the rest of its term so it declined in real terms.
Jacinda Ardern's Labour Government has kept the amount frozen and scrapped the Aspire scholarships.
National's new education spokeswoman Nicola Willis says a new National Government "would be prepared to have another look at the current funding settings" for private schools, but was committed to restoring a different model - privately owned but fully state-funded "partnership schools", or charter schools.
"We would envisage in our first term establishing 25 to 30 new partnership schools," she says.
She also wants to make it easier to establish new integrated schools by ensuring that the existing process for partial state funding of new buildings "takes account of projected growth, not just current enrolments" in the area.
Labour's Education Minister Chris Hipkins says Labour has "no plans to change the current policy settings for private schools or integrated schools".
King's College (3): Iain Lees-Galloway, Tim Macindoe, Nicola Willis
Corran School: Nikki Kaye
Dilworth School: Jami-Lee Ross
Samuel Marsden Collegiate: Nicola Wilis
St Cuthbert's College: Eugenie Sage
St Kentigern College: David Clark
St Margaret's College: Nicky Wagner
St Stephen's School (Tipene): Shane Jones
St Bede's College (4): Gerry Brownlee, David Carter, Matt Doocey, Damien O'Connor
St Patrick's College, Wellington: Paul Eagle, Greg O'Connor
Whanganui Collegiate: Andrew Bayly, Ian McKelvie
Bethlehem College: Kiritapu Allan
Campion College, Gisborne: Jo Luxton
Catholic Cathedral College, Christchurch: Megan Woods
Chanel College, Masterton: Kieran McAnulty
Erskine College: Maggie Barry
Hutt International Boys' School: Chris Bishop
John McGlashan College, Dunedin: Hamish Walker
Liston College: Darroch Ball
Marist College, Auckland: Agnes Loheni
Moreau College, Dunedin (now merged into Kavanagh College): Clare Curran
Pompallier College, Whangārei: Simon O'Connor
Rathkeale College, Masterton: Lawrence Yule
Sacred Heart College, New Plymouth: Deborah Russell
Sacred Heart College, Whanganui: Harete Hipango
St Catherine's College, Wellington: Ruth Dyson
St John's College, Hamilton: David Bennett
St Mary's High School, Greymouth: Maureen Pugh
St Paul's High School, Dunedin (now merged into Kavanagh College): Michael Woodhouse
Villa Maria College, Christchurch: Jan Tinetti
Waikato Diocesan School: Nanaia Mahuta
Wesley College, Pukekohe: Todd McClay
Auckland Girls' Grammar (4): Golriz Ghahraman, Poto Williams, Kiritapu Allan (2 years), Jenny Salesa (a few months)
Auckland Grammar (3): Paul Goldsmith, David Seymour, Scott Simpson
Rangitoto College (3): Amy Adams, Erica Stanford, Louise Upston
Bay of Islands College (2): Kelvin Davis, Willow-Jean Prime
Hamilton Boys' High School (2): Shane Reti, Jamie Strange
Matamata College (2): Judith Collins, Tim van der Molen
Napier Boys' High School (2): Clayton Mitchell, Stuart Nash
New Plymouth Boys' High School (2): Andrew Little, Jonathan Young
Okaihau College, Northland (2): Matt King, Angie Warren-Clark
Onslow College, Wellington (2): Tamati Coffey, Trevor Mallard
Pakuranga College (2): Jami-Lee Ross, Michael Wood
Wellington College (2): Alastair Scott, Rino Tirikatene
Whangārei Boys' High School (2): Peeni Henare, Winston Peters
Avonside Girls' High School: Ginny Andersen
Christchurch Boys' High School: Andrew Fallloon
Colenso College, Napier (now William Colenso College): Anne Tolley
Dargaville High School: Winston Peters
Ellesmere College, Leeston: Mark Patterson
Epsom Girls' Grammar: Chloe Swarbrick
Freyberg High School, Palmerston North: Jacqui Dean
Gisborne Boys' High School: Gareth Hughes
Hāwera High School: Jonathan Young
Henderson High School: Alfred Ngaro
Hillary College (now Sir Edmund Hillary Collegiate): Aupito William Sio
Hillmorton High School, Christchurch: Kris Faafoi
Howick College: Dan Bidois
Hutt Valley Memorial College: Chris Hipkins
Karamu High School, Hastings: Meka Whaitiri
Kelston Boys' High School: Chris Penk
King's High School, Dunedin: Grant Robertson
Long Bay College: Tracey Martin
Mana College, Porirua: Brett Hudson
Māngere College: Willie Jackson
Manurewa High School: Simeon Brown
Massey High School: Kiritapu Allan (3 months)
Methven High School (now Mt Hutt College): Stuart Smith
Morrinsville College: Jacinda Ardern
Naenae College, Lower Hutt: Marama Davidson
New Plymouth Girls' High School: Carmel Sepuloni
Northland College: Marama Davidson
Onehunga High School: Anahila Kanongata'a-Suisuiki
Ōpunake High School: Barbara Kuriger
Otago Boys' High School: David Parker
Paeroa College: Denise Lee
Papanui High School: Rino Tirikatene
Queen Elizabeth College, Palmerston North: Jacqui Dean
Queen's High School, Dunedin: Sarah Dowie
Rangiora High School: Nick Smith
Rotorua Boys' High School: Fletcher Tabuteau
Rotorua Girls' High School: Jenny Marcroft
Rutherford College, Te Atatū: Simon Bridges
Shirley Boys' High School, Christchurch: Duncan Webb
Southland Girls' High School: Jan Logie
Spotswood College, New Plymouth: Liz Craig
Taihape College: Adrian Rurawhe
Tararua College, Pahiatua: Ron Mark
Tauhara College, Taupō: Todd McClay
Taupō-nui-a-Tia College: Louisa Wall
Tauranga Boys' College: Todd Muller
Waiopehu College, Levin: Nathan Guy
Wellington High School: James Shaw
Westlake Boys' High School: Phil Twyford
Whanganui Girls' College: Joanne Hayes
Schooling entirely overseas
Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi, Paulo Garcia, Julie Anne Genter, Raymond Huo, Melissa Lee, Marja Lubeck, Parmjeet Parmar, Priyanca Radhakrishnan, Jian Yang.
King's College (2): Mike Fuge (Contact Energy), Simon Woodhams (Property for Industry)
Dilworth School: Aaron Hockley (Vital Healthcare Property Trust)
Scots College, Wellington: Mark Peterson (NZX)
St Andrew's College, Christchurch: Gordon MacLeod (Ryman Healthcare)
St Cuthbert's College: Antonia Watson (ANZ Bank)
John McGlashan College, Dunedin: Jeff Greenslade (Heartland Bank)
St John's College, Hamilton: Greg Foran (Air NZ)
St John's College, Hastings: Greg Foran (Air NZ)
Auckland Grammar (3): Leon Clement (Synlait), Adrian Littlewood (Auckland Airport), Philip Littlewood (Stride Property and Investore Property)
Birkdale College (now Birkenhead College): Peter Mence (Argosy Property)
Christchurch Boys' High School: Miles Hurrell (Fonterra)
Colenso College, Napier (now William Colenso College): Grant Webster (Tourism Holdings Ltd)
Dannevirke High School: Simon Mackenzie (Vector)
Hastings Boys' High School: Neal Barclay (Meridian Energy)
Hillcrest High School, Hamilton: Greg Foran (Air NZ)
Hutt Valley Memorial College: Marko Bogoievski (Infratil)
James Hargest High School, Invercargill: Andy Borland (Scales Corporation)
Kelston Boys' High School: Earl Gasparich (Oceania Healthcare)
Mana College, Porirua: Glen Sowry (Metlifecare)
Manurewa High School: Mike Bennetts (Z Energy)
Nelson College: Kimbal Riley (Vista Group)
Ōrewa College: Scott Pritchard (Precinct Properties)
Otago Boys' High School: David Mair (Skellerup)
Ōtāhuhu College: Lewis Gradon (Fisher & Paykel Healthcare)
Papakura High School: John Dakin (Goodman Property)
Rongotai College, Wellington: Julian Cook (Summerset)
Rotorua Boys' High School: Mark Troughear (Freightways)
Tamatea High School, Napier: Mark Cairns (Port of Tauranga)
Tikipunga High School, Whangārei: Bruce Gordon (Pushpay)
Timaru Boys' High School: Don Braid (Mainfreight)
Wellington College: David McLean (Westpac Bank)
Westlake Girls' High School: Jolie Hodson (Spark)
Schooling entirely overseas
Geoffrey Babidge (A2 Milk), John Callity (Ebos), Russel Creedy (Restaurant Brands), Marc England (Genesis Energy), Vince Hawksworth (Mercury Energy), Naomi James (NZ Refining), Volker Kuntzsch (Sanford), Clive Mackenzie (Kiwi Property), Bill McDonald (Arvida Property), David Prentice (Trustpower), JB Rousselot (Chorus), Xavier Simonet (Kathmandu), James Spence (Gentrack), Graeme Stephens (SkyCity), Martin Stewart (Sky TV), Ross Taylor (Fletcher Building).
Christ's College: Joe Moody
Dilworth School: Angus Ta'avao
King's College: Josh Ioane
St Andrew's College, Christchurch: Richie Mo'unga
St Kentigern College: Kieran Read
Francis Douglas Memorial College, New Plymouth (4): Beauden Barrett, Jordie Barrett, Scott Barrett, Liam Coltman
Lindisfarne College, Hastings: George Bridge
St Peter's College, Epsom: Patrick Tuipulotu
Wesley College, Pukekohe: Nepo Laulala
Christchurch Boys' High School (3): Anton Lienert-Brown, Brodie Retallick, Matt Todd
Feilding High School (3): Aaron Smith, Codie Taylor, Samuel Whitelock
Mt Albert Grammar (2): Jack Goodhue, Sonny Bill Williams
Auckland Grammar: Rieko Ioane
Cambridge High School: Luke Jacobson
Hamilton Boys' High School: Sevu Reece
Horowhenua College: Codie Taylor
Kaiapoi High School: Matt Todd
Kelston Boys' High School: Aaron Smith
King's High School, Dunedin: Ben Smith
Mana College, Porirua: TJ Perenara
Māngere College: Ofa Tu'ungafasi
Marlborough Boys' College: Atu Moli
Napier Boys' High School: Brad Weber
Riccarton High School: Richie Mo'unga
Rongotai College, Wellington: Ardie Savea
Rosehill College, Papakura: Kieran Read
Shirley Boys' High School, Christchurch: Ryan Crotty
Tauranga Boys' College: Sam Cane
Wellington College: Dane Coles
Schooling entirely overseas