Red Beach School, which has featured in national headlines for years over issues with religious instruction classes culminating in a high court case against them, have finally dropped the divisive classes in favour of a secular school charter and a values class without religious content. Jeff McClintock, who initiated a complaint about the school’s policies around religious instruction after he found his daughter sitting alone in a corner while the rest of the class received a bible lesson, eventually ended up taking the school to court after his daughter was repeatedly put into religious instruction classes without his consent.
Secular state primary schools throughout New Zealand have been considered a “mission field” by Christian evangelicals for decades. The Churches Education Commission, who provides most of the classes put the call out for church members to get elected to boards of trustees and influence schools into promoting Christian faith through their Christian Religious Education (Bible in Schools) programme.
The Secular Education Network is taking a case to the High Court in 2019 where Jeff McClintock will be giving evidence.
Red Beach School repeatedly denied that their Values In Action programme was religious instruction, despite the significant religious content. At a recent board of trustees last week, Values In Action publicly presented their case but the board then decided to go into committee to discuss the issue privately. While you can read the statement below regarding their decision to end religious instruction classes, we can’t know the details of their discussion.
Note that the reference to the new programme meeting the “revised guidelines around religious instruction” is a red herring. The new programme is a non-religious values programme approved by the Ministry of Education and therefore is not relevant to religious instruction at all.
Congratulations go to all the SEN members involved in taking action against religious instruction in primary schools and in particular to Jeff McClintock and his partner Lisa Reynolds who put up with years of financial and emotional stress to fight for fair treatment of their daughter and all NZ state school children. This is something that our own Human Rights Commission, politicians and education sector bodies should have done on their behalf.
Policy review of Religious Instruction & Religious Education in Red Beach School
In accordance with our review process, the board has completed a review of Religious Instruction and Religious Education at Red Beach School.
It was timely as it has incorporated the recent changes to Ministry of Education guidelines on Religious Instruction and Religious Education.
The board consulted with the parent community and teaching staff during this term. We have received feedback from the school docs review process as well as feedback directly to the board. We also held a parent consultation meeting to answer questions and gather further feedback/views on the VIA programme.
The board also provided an opportunity for the VIA leadership to present their programme to the board at a recent board meeting.
After considerable deliberation the board believes that the PB4L programme and the schools’ revised Charter (including RICH heart values, promoting Life Long Learning qualities) meets the revised guidelines around religious education.
The demands on teachers with increasing curriculum requirements, including these new guidelines, coupled with the legislative requirements that the school must be closed during the VIA instruction, has led the board to agree to discontinue the VIA religious instruction programme. This will take effect from the beginning of 2019.
Thank you to all who took time to attend the meeting, present via email their views or articulate thoughts directly to the board.
We would like to thank Susan Ralston and her VIA team for their service to the school, students and community.
Red Beach School Board of Trustees