Last year, I wrote about some parents who were complaining about religious instruction at Wellsford School. They carried out a survey, which was ridiculously biased toward continuance of the religious instruction classes. Three of the four questions favoured continuing the classes in some form and the only question that was against them also required the respondent to say that they felt “strongly” against the classes.
It’s this sort of blatant manipulation displayed by the board of trustees at Wellsford School that leaves me aghast when writing about religious instruction. These same people try to tell us with a straight face that they are promoting “values”. Do you think “dishonest” is too strong a word?
I emailed the Principal, Dave Bradley, who initially replied. However, once he found out that I was well informed, had ample evidence against religious instruction and asked difficult questions… there was no further answer.
Betsy Tipping was the parent who complained to the school and was supported by a group of parents who preferred to remain anonymous, such is the social coercion caused by religious instruction. Betsy ended up moving her son to another school that did not have religious instruction. She shouldn’t have to do this.
The Rodney Times interviewed Betsy in August 2018. You can watch a video of the interview and red the report here.
Below are the results of an informal survey carried out by the parents who disagreed with the religious instruction classes and some of the comments that were submitted.
Q1: Which group do you most identify with?
Parent of a student/s at Wellsford School – 85% (35)
Teacher at Wellsford School (none)
Member of the Wellsford School Community – 15% (6)
Total 41 responses
Q2: Should Religious Instruction (currently known as the “Life Choices” program) be continued at Wellsford School?
Yes – 27% (11)
No – 56% (23)
Undecided – 17% (7)
Total 41 responses
Q3: Were you aware that while the “Life Choices” program is being run, school is officially “closed”?
Yes – 20% (8)
No – 80% (33)
Total 41 responses
Q4: If the Board of Trustees decides this is an important part of our students education and schooling, what changes (if any) should be made?
(Respondents were able to select multiple options to this answer)
None, I’m happy with how it is run – 27% (11)
Move to an “opt in” format – 54% (22)
Change the timing to before school or at lunch time – 49% (20)
Change the venue from classrooms (e.g move to the hall) – 37% (15)
Change the provider from the current Churches Education Commission to someone else – 12% (5)
Replace the “religious instruction” run by an outside organisation with school-run “religious education” – 24% (10)
Total 41 responses
Q5: If the Board changed our current Religious Instruction to an “opt in” format would you send your child/ren?
Yes – 22% (9)
No 68% (28)
Undecided 10% (4)
Total 41 responses
Comments from Parents on Religious Instruction at Wellsford School
Though we are not religious parents and don’t follow it at home, we have not had any issues with our kids attending the class and will always leave the choice to attend the classes up to them.
I always find this particular attitude to choice about religion a little odd. It’s like a claim to some moral high ground. It’s also not even factual, as the “choice” is Christianity or nothing. What about Islam? Judaism? Scientology? The Flying Spaghetti Monster…
I feel that this issue has been brewing for a long time. With our community becoming more diverse our educators should be delivering an equally diverse approach to “religion”. The information that schools must be officially closed during this time raises even more concerns for me. Who is responsible for the care of our children? Who is covering the cost to have these non employed teachers use the state owned and funded facilities to promote their views? Has there been police vetting done before these people are allowed to be in control of a room of vulnerable children without supervision (remember the teachers aren’t doing the job during this time) Many more issues are raised when you look deeper this. I will be ensuring that my child will never be “attending” any of these “classes”
All very good questions!
Religious instruction is an outdated practise that I don’t believe has a role to play in the modern day, state run school system. Parents NEED the opportunity to make an informed decision and they can only do this if they are provided with all relevant information. Peer reviewed research, particularly tangata whenua based models, talk about families and communities being intrinsic to a child’s success in education. I believe by taking away informed choice for parents, this could damage a vital strength in a child’s educational journey. A value system such as Christianity, is best left for families to teach in their home. It is not the school’s place to advocate for this.
I think that is the key question that should be asked. How is it appropriate for a secular state school to promote a religion?
Religion is a personal choice, not an essential life tool. The ten commandments are just some of the social skills which are probably the most important focus for any school… and these are not for religion to solely claim…
Given that the first three commandments are all about worshipping god and there’s nothing not enslaving or raping people, I think we can safely say we have created far superior morality than can be found in the bible!
How can it be called life choices when only one religion has been taught? Children should not be ‘removed’ from class for this during school learning time to be sent to the library. Family choices like religion should be done in your family time, the weekend, after/before school.
Now you’re just letting facts get in the way of religious privilege!
As a public school this should not even be an issue. Why is my child’s education time being wasted on this irrelevant religious content? And if the school is “closed” while this is happening, why have I not been informed?
That’s a good question. In a primary school that goes to year 8, a child can miss up to 6 weeks of real teaching before they get to high school due to RI classes. There’s no requirement for the school to tell you they are actually closed. Most parents around the country are not aware of this because (in my opinion), schools who promote religious instruction are not honest enough to tell them.
I am happy for my children to learn about God as I believe in God. However, I don’t agree with disguising it under a ‘Values Program’ and simply don’t agree with it cutting into educational time. School is for an education. Religion is very personal and schools should not be influencing our children with one belief. Educate the kids on all beliefs or non at all. It is cruel to remove children from the classroom because it is time to learn about religion. If this extra curricular activity must stick around then ask all kids to opt in and go to meet in the library. There’s a church on every corner of this town. We are hardly lacking in Religious activity, advice and education. The principal’s beliefs should not affect the running of the school.
I think that’s a very fair view and would expect more Christians to think this way! The only point I’d make is that the classes do not teach “about” religion, they are teaching faith. That is why it is religious instruction in Christianity and not Religious Education about all religions.
Just remove from school full stop as I believe that it’s not an important part of the school educational program not prepare the kids for future real life situations. I feel religion is a choice a person should make as an adult where they have an understanding about the particular religion they choose & the commitment involved.
The reason the evangelists are trying to access children is due to the very point you raise. The kids do not have the knowledge, status or maturity to question what they are being taught and are more easily indoctrinated.
Don’t believe in god much but there are some really good teachings about how to treat people in the world. Morals to live by for life. I don’t go to church so good for a short time at school they can be involved. Keep it going.
I don’t think that anyone would have a problem with a real class teaching values, ethics and some critical thinking and philosophy. However, these classes use values teaching as a disguise for indoctrination of Christian faith.
I strongly feel that Religious Instruction does not belong in any secular school and that it should not interfere with the children’s education time. I do think teaching values to the students is important however there are other ways to do this without using out of date and biased bible stories.
Good point. I doubt that the bible teachers would be there if they couldn’t promote their religious faith.
I believe this should not be done in school time if at all. And why is this an opt out when anything else that our kids take part in have to opt in. And if we are going to expose religion it should be all religions that our awesome school/country have, not just the Christian one. I’m not impressed that my children tell me god made them, I MADE THEM!!!
Hopefully more parents will come to realise that this is a battle for your children’s minds.
The ones who want to go to ‘life choices program’ should leave the class room instead of the other way around so that the children not attending can continue with their school work
Yes they should but this won’t happen. The evangelicals are ok with all the kids equally falling behind in the school curriculum but they wouldn’t want their kids falling behind yours!
I definitely agree that religious instruction should be a separate thing from school either before school or at lunchtime as I would much prefer my kids were learning during this time rather than wasting it on other people’s religious beliefs… if you are teaching one religion you should be teaching them all.
I agree with the sentiment but the reality is that if you allow evangelists into the school, they are looking to lure kids into the classes. I’ve heard many complaints about lollies, playground recruitment and “bring a friend” promotions. They need to be totally removed.
The only reason I have not “opted out” of the current scheme is because I didn’t want my child to have to be “removed” from the classroom and feel left out. I feel the recent survey conducted by the school was very suggestive of the fact the school wanted the parents to choose to keep the status quo and I felt pressured to keep my children in the program for those reasons instead of actually wanting them to be part of what is being taught.
I really feel for you. Unfortunately, the school admin don’t care that parents feel this way, even though they have been told. Feeling coerced is definitely the biggest obstacle to getting more parents to opt their children out of religious instruction. Not sure how this fits in with “values teaching”.