Another school is closing its door on religious instruction while the secular education network now has a date set for the Auckland High Court to hear its case against school-based religious instruction.
Pillans Point School recently reviewed the Cool Bananas, religious instruction programme which is offered to students.
The school announced the news in its weekly newsletter disclosing it would discontinue the service in the new year.
The school was not alone, however, as most schools around the Tauranga area concluded they did not offer religious instruction in schools when asked by the Bay of Plenty Times.
Pillans Point did not respond when asked questions by the Bay of Plenty Times but stated the decision was based on two key factors in the public newsletter.
One being the school's mission statement and the other the fact that the school recently reviewed the inclusive education policy which states, "Inclusive education is where all students are engaged in their learning and achieve by being present, participating, learning, and belonging ...".
The school's mission statement: "At Pillans Point School relationships are at our core. Teaching and learning is inclusive, interactive, and meets the developmental needs and stages of all children
The newsletter states, "Cool Bananas was deemed to not be inclusive as it excludes some children being present, participating, learning and belonging due to theirs or their family's religious or non-religious beliefs."
In 1994 Cool Bananas started as a lunchtime large group presentation programme that was soon invited into the school schedule as an alternative to the Bible in Schools programme.
The programme had a greater focus on core values, however, was inspired by the Bible, executive co-ordinator Kyle Keogh said.
But the values were chosen based on an understanding they were widely accepted values that most world views would agree are good for the success of a community, he said.
"These school presentations are what would be traditionally referred to as our religious education programme, though they are very far from the Bible in Schools programmes that people would understand to be associated with this label."
Keogh said the programme was designed to align with the values curriculum to support schools in delivering the "important" values but said the end goal was simply joy.
"At the end of the day, if a child misses the value we share but has their spirits lifted through the time they spend with us, that is a win."
In recent years there had been a slight decline in the schools Cool Bananas currently operated in, Keogh said.
"In the past six years I have been a part of Cool Bananas we have reduced from 18 to 16 schools.
"The reason that has been communicated to us from the schools who have discontinued Cool Bananas has been a time issue."
Of the schools that responded to questions put to them by the Bay of Plenty Times, the majority of these did not teach religion in schools.
Close to 50 schools were contacted and a small handful of those who responded, like Ōtūmoetai Primary, Fairhaven School, Brookfield and Paengaroa schools, said religious instruction was still delivered.
The Secular Education Network recently announced a date had been set to appeal to the High Court for a ruling that these classes are discriminatory and contrary to the Bill of Rights Act, and school time should be reserved for professionally taught education.
Spokesman Mark Honeychurch said primary schools were not the place for religious instruction.
"But we've always had this loophole in the law that enables church members to come in and talk to our children about Christianity; about God, Jesus, Heaven and Hell.
"While we are not opposed to neutral education about religions and non-religious views, we, along with many New Zealanders, believe that schools are for teaching, not preaching," he said.
The Education Act 1964 required teaching in schools to be secular but this law also gave boards of trustees of state primary schools a choice about whether or not to close their school to allow religious instruction under some conditions.
Ministry of Education guidelines released this year recommended boards of trustees get signed consent before allowing a student to participate in religious instruction.
This was the first piece of published guidance for boards, Ministry of Education deputy secretary of education system policy Dr Andrea Schöllmann said.
"This may seem like a significant departure for boards of trustees which have presumed that allowing religious instruction on an 'opt-out' basis met all of their obligations.
"However, an opt-out process may risk children being placed in religious instruction without their parents' full and informed consent, which may be inconsistent with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990."