Rebecca Quilliam

Rebecca Quilliam is senior reporter at the APNZ News Service office in Wellington.

No change to religious instruction policies

Critics say the Bible has no part in secular schools. Photo / Getty Images
Critics say the Bible has no part in secular schools. Photo / Getty Images

Religious instruction policies will not be altered, despite some schools making changes after complaints from parents, the Ministry of Education says.

Parents at four schools in Auckland and Palmerston North have raised concerns about Christian Religious Instruction (CRI) being taught and three of those schools have since made changes to their classes.

However, ministry spokeswoman Katrina Casey said there were no plans to change any policy around religious instruction in schools.

"Schools in New Zealand are self-governing and have the freedom to deliver the curriculum in a way that best meets the needs of their students, in consultation with their wider community.''

The ministry had received nine complaints from parents or other individuals about religious education between 2006 and 2013, Ms Casey said.

She acknowledged the ministry may not have been notified about other concerns.

"If parents have a complaint they should talk to the principal in the first instance and then, if not satisfied, raise the matter with the board of trustees.

"We would encourage any parent to try to resolve any issues with the school and board of trustees before taking further action.''

Schools involved in the complaints held religious classes during teaching hours. Pupils' parents had to choose to opt out their child if they did not want them to attend.

The Secular Education Network, which is opposed to Christian teaching during schooltime, said that meant children who did not go to the lessons would feel ostracised from their friends.

Those children were also often offered "meaningless activities'' during the classes, the group's spokesman David Hines said.

Earlier this year two Auckland parents complained to the Human Rights Commission about St Heliers School offering the classes. A third parent lodged a formal complaint with the school.

Mr Hines said since then parents with children at Auckland's Glendowie School, Palmerston North's Milson School and another Palmerston North school, which has not been named, had complained to school leaders about the classes.

The Churches Education Commission supplied teachers to the schools at the centre of the complaints.

Chief executive Simon Greening said boards of trustees needed to follow a "fair and democratic process'' when dealing with the future of the classes.

"We do not want to be in schools where our Christian values classes are not welcomed,'' he said.

"But on the other hand, we believe it is undemocratic and a loss to Kiwi kids if our classes are closed without a fair process.''

Changes made by the schools:

* St Heliers School - moved CRI classes to outside school hours;

* Milson School - moved CRI classes to outside school hours;

* Glendowie School - offering more research options, such as use of library computers, for students not attending the classes

* Unnamed Palmerston North school - consultation between board and complainant later this month.

- APNZ

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