Khandallah School BOT Respond to Feedback on Clubs Policy

Sally Barton winning kids for Jesus
Sally Barton winning kids for Jesus
Tweet by the local CEC representative to Khandallah School #winningkidsforJesus

The Khandallah School Board of Trustees has released feedback to parents on the 47 submissions made to them. It seems that the submissions were overwhelmingly about religious instruction provided by Arise Church using the Churches Education Commission (now Launchpad) syllabus.

I think that there are some important points to note in their response that parents need to be wary of.

1. They state that they “…will monitor progress on the current Ministry of Education consultation on Guidelines for Religious Instruction”.

These guidelines are completely irrelevant unless they already consider Religious Instruction to be an appropriate activity at Khandallah School. There are board members with a strong Christian bias that would love to see their church “winning kids for Jesus”. I suggest that the principles of secular education should be adhered to and the board should reject the promotion of any religious views (including atheism) within the school.

 2. They didn’t like what they heard so they want a vote.

“While feedback was that submitters did not feel religious instruction was appropriate it needs to be remembered that a structured consultation on religious instruction might yield a different answer.”

The quote below sounds like the pro-religious instruction board members are looking for a different way in. They have asked for feedback and they didn’t like that it was mostly against religious instruction. There is a widely held view that a vote is inherently fair and respectful and should determine the next course of action. This is bollocks. If a majority of parents voted to promote National party politics at the school, that would not be acceptable either. The “structured consultation” they are suggesting would be a vote about religious instruction. This does not determine what is right, moral or ethical. It determines what is popular. They will try to win by “mob rule” when they fail at presenting a reasonable argument.

3. The reasons given in support of religious instruction are fatally flawed.

Feedback on the clubs policy in favour of religious instruction included arguments that simply don’t stand up to scrutiny. I’ll go through them one by one and explain why.

  • Feel the club supports choice
    Parents with children at the school chose a secular state school. Not a religious one. They maintain the option to go to church on Sundays or to teach religious faith at home. No one is trying to remove those options. If secular schools do not remain secular, what “choice” do non-religious parents have? It is actually Christian evangelists that are trying to remove choice for non-Christian parents.
  • Feels a religious club will nurture children spiritually
    This is another self-absorbed point of view. What is “spiritual” is different for everyone. Spirituality does not necessarily mean Christianity or any other religion.
  • Wants the club because they are Christians
    /facepalm – at least they are honest about their bias. Khandallah is a secular (non-religious) school. You already have a Christian club. It’s called “church”.
  • Including religious clubs supports diversity
    This comment is the most ridiculous, as religious clubs do exactly the opposite. Not allowing promotion of religious faith (secular schooling) allows diversity. Promoting Christianity is trying to eradicate diversity and make everyone the same.
  • Need to not exclude religious clubs in deference to ‘hidden curriculum’ that underlies the NZ curriculum
    I’m not entirely sure what conspiracy theory this comment refers to but I suspect they are suggesting an anti-Christian or left wing agenda??? It could also be someone with fundamental Christian beliefs that have issues with some of the science taught in schools, particularly evolution. If you think evolution is “just a theory”, read this.

4. Those against religious instruction seem to have no agenda.

One thing that stood out to me what the difference between the pro and against comments. The “against” comments were all concerns about the principles underlying the inclusion of religious instruction. Is it reasonable? Do teachers have the time? What about peer pressure? Evangelism? Secular schooling? None of the comments seem to be from anyone wanting to promote a different religion or worldview. They mostly want to protect the rights children have to a secular education.

5. They strongly emphasised the legal right to promote religion at lunchtime.

“…school is understood to be ‘closed for instruction’ at lunchtime. This legal status allows for clubs to run and for religious instruction to be undertaken…”

Parents are right to be concerned about this. It seems to be a case of lining up justification for a religious agenda. It bears repeating that there is no requirement for religious instruction to be in any secular state school. Something being legal does not necessarily make it ethical. For example, denying the right to marriage for gay people was legal until recently but it was never ethical.

6. Do they want to redefine “evangelism”?

“…ensure that definitions of ‘evangelise’ were well understood…”

This seems disingenuous to me. I’ve repeatedly seen claims by the CEC that religious instruction is not evangelism but this is nonsense. Religious instruction is not teaching about religion, it is encouraging religious faith. There is no unbiased critical examination of the beliefs presented and there is plenty of evidence to show that the Churches Education Commission and the churches that enable the bible classes are intent on the indoctrination of Christian faith. One of my favourite quotes from the CEC is by their National Director, Stephanie Sewell, who said in a Radio Rhema interview that she would like churches to “own your local primary school”Listen to the interview here. You can also see more quotes about evangelism in schools here.

Here is the full newsletter sent out to parents from the Khandallah School Board of Trustees…

Clubs Policy – Feedback to Parents

December 2018

The Khandallah School Board of Trustees would like to thank parents and the school community for their time in submitting on the Clubs Policy and for your patience in letting us consider the submissions received. We think this has been a valuable exercise that has moved forward our understanding of the concerns of our community. We also hope that the discussion has built awareness within our community not only in respect of the context in which the Board operates but also in respect of the concerns of other community members regarding religious clubs in our schools.

Based on the feedback received the following decisions have been taken:

  • The Board will incorporate feedback on the Clubs Policy in response to the submissions.
  • We will monitor progress on the current Ministry of Education consultation on Guidelines for Religious Instruction and, once these are released, we will review the Clubs Policy against these guidelines.
  • Due to the current ongoing pay negotiation – where workload is a core issue – the Board will not consider additional activities that increase the workload of teachers (such as the supervision of clubs) until this negotiation is completed.
  • The Board will release the Religious Instruction Policy for consultation in term 1 2019.

Once again, we would like to thank parents and the school community for their submissions on the policy. We set out more detail on the findings below.

Summary of Clubs Policy Feedback and Outcomes

We received 47 pieces of feedback on the Clubs Policy from 34 individuals/families from the 311 families within our community. Most of these were current parents with 1 submission from a staff member and 3 pieces of feedback received from other stakeholders. This is far more than we generally receive regarding policy reviews.

Feedback was able to be broadly categorised into four key themes:

  1. Religious Instruction at Khandallah School
  2. Inclusion of Religious Clubs in the Clubs Policy
  3. Clubs Policy Administration in General
  4. How will Religious Clubs be overseen

While the consultation was not aimed at soliciting feedback on religious instruction at Khandallah Schools, many submitters took the opportunity to provide feedback on this point. While feedback was that submitters did not feel religious instruction was appropriate it needs to be remembered that a structured consultation on religious instruction might yield a different answer. This is because all parties may not have felt that this was the question at hand and did not give their views on religious instruction but rather focused on the policy. Notwithstanding this observation on the submissions, we thank submitters for this feedback. The Board currently has a draft policy in development on Religious Instruction. This will be released early in term 1 2019 for consultation.

The second key topic from the feedback was whether religious clubs should be included in the Clubs Policy. Many expressed a view that religious clubs were not acceptable. However, the structure of the consultation may have not directly elicited responses in support of religious clubs. The comments relating to religious clubs are given below.

  • Supporting inclusion of religious clubs in the policy
    • Feel the club supports choice
    • Feels a religious club will nurture children spiritually
    • Wants the club because they are Christians
    • Including religious clubs supports diversity
    • Supports the policy
    • Need to not exclude religious clubs in deference to ‘hidden curriculum’ that underlies the NZ curriculum
  • Does not support inclusion of religious clubs in the policy
    • Should not consider religious clubs due to an objection to religious instruction in schools
    • The Clubs Policy was being used as a vehicle for the introduction of religious instruction
    • Religious clubs will exclude others, are discriminatory and may contravene the Bill of Rights Act and Human Rights Act
    • Kids can’t distinguish between a ‘school’ and ‘non-school’ activity if teacher are present and therefore may think the club material is part of the curriculum or the teacher/school endorses it
    • Peer pressure on other kids to attend
    • Teacher resources will be stretched by religious clubs

We agree that there are a number of issues to be considered as to whether religious clubs should be offered. The following points are key considerations:

  • The Ministry of Education is currently consulting on Guidelines for Religious Instruction in Schools This consultation closed on December 7 and will contribute valuable material as to how religious clubs should be managed.
  • Our staff are currently in negotiations over pay and conditions. One of the key issues is workload and supervision of a religious club at lunchtime would add to this burden. We are therefore mindful not to increase workload.

We will take into consideration these issues when approached by new clubs once the Clubs Policy is finalised.

We also had feedback on the Clubs Policy itself. These were largely discrete issues and are detailed below.

  • Processes for introducing new clubs
    • No process for organisations to be invited to run a club
    • Process required for how organisations apply to run a club
    • Align with School mission and values
    • Need more guidance on motivation of club providers (i.e. value for money) and how this issue will be assessed/managed.
    • What if children start a club? How would this be managed
    • Clarity required on ‘management’ versus board
  • Clarifying how clubs relate to the curriculum
    • All clubs should be opt-in
    • Clarify that clubs are extra-curricular activities
    • Need clear delineation between external and internal clubs.
  • Practicalities of running clubs
    • Vetting might be too onerous for all clubs (e.g. parent coaches)
    • How will club materials be assessed as good quality

These points will be incorporated into the policy as follows:

  • Review club selection procedures to ensure that processes are clear at all points
  • Provide clarification that all clubs are opt-in and review language on external and internal clubs
  • Consider whether parents should be exempt from vetting (except if their role in a club is professional) and consider guidance on ‘good quality’ materials.

Finally, we also received feedback on how a religious club should be run. Parents and the Community raised the following points:

  • Controls on Attendance
    • Policy fair because it is opt-in
  • Controls on Content
    • How will not evangelising be monitored
    • How will club materials be controlled?
    • Clubs must disclose their religious objectives (i.e. don’t hide behind values statements).
  • Controls on Providers
    • Need to have clear expectations on CEC volunteers given their perceived poor record.
    • Need a neutral supervisor to ensure compliance with rules
  • When the club could be held
    • Disingenuous to state that school is closed at lunchtime
    • No impact on school time at lunchtime.
    • Support Religious club after school
  • Commercial terms
    • Support revenue being brought in from RI club
  • Process/Policy
    • Transparency in process required
    • Clarify that both Board and Management may veto religious clubs
    • Remove reference to Hauora
    • Definitions required for ‘evangelise’ and ‘closed for instruction’

We agree that there should be transparency on process and controls on attendance for any religious club. We also note the concerns about how to control access to materials and ensure that definitions of ‘evangelise’ were well understood by volunteers and parents.

In terms of timing of the activity, many felt that it was not correct to state that the school was closed as lunchtime as their kids were still at school. It needs to be clarified that, while parents don’t take their kids home at lunchtime and teachers supervise your children, school is understood to be ‘closed for instruction’ at lunchtime. This legal status allows for clubs to run and for religious instruction to be undertaken during that time. The Board agrees that this status could be made clearer through regulation.

We think the concerns raised by parents and our community will enhance a policy on the management of clubs. We will incorporate these into the Policy. However, we will monitor the outputs of the consultation on the Guidelines for Religious Instructions currently underway by the Ministry of Education and review the Clubs Policy following the release of these Guidelines.

Kind regards

Khandallah School Board of Trustees

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