Schools Reviewing Bible Classes – New Ministry of Education Guidelines

Secular State Primary Schools around New Zealand are already reviewing their policies on religious instruction classes in the wake of clear guidelines from the Ministry of Education. While the MOE review was not about changing the law that allows religious groups into secular schools (this is outside their purview), they were able to come up with guidelines that address many of the negative effects of promoting a favoured religious view in schools that should be welcoming to children and families from all religious backgrounds.

Leamington School (Cambridge)

At Leamington School, the “Discovery Club”, which was previously referred to as a “values programme” has now been clearly explained as an “optional Bible Programme” and also shifted from normal class time to lunchtime. This complies with guideline 2, which recommends clarifying the nature of the classes and guideline 3, which suggests moving RI outside of normal teaching times to reduce the risk of discrimination. Oddly, the school still managed to sabotage their improvements by continuing to require parents to opt their children out of the classes rather than opting in. Strange, considering that this is now held at lunchtime, which means children are not required to be in the class anyway.

Scan of notice about bible programme at Leamington School

Three Kings School (Auckland)

The Secular Education Network went to distribute pamphlets outside Three Kings School last week and were pleased to find that the school was already in the process of reviewing their religious instruction policy.

After a review (begun at the end of 2018), the Three Kings School Board of Trustees intends to change the consent process for Bible in Schools. This will mean:

  • Parents should consent by opting children in to participate in Bible in Schools rather than the current model of opting out.
  • Bible in Schools will be run outside of the school day (for example, 8:30 – 8:50am) rather than during teaching hours.

This change ensures that the school is meeting the new Ministry of Education best practice guidelines for how CRE (religious instruction) should operate within state primary schools and will maximise the time available to deliver the NZ curriculum.

The Board of Trustees asked for feedback on the proposal to run an opt-in religious instruction programme before school between 8.30 and 8.50am and decided to accept feedback over a 2 week period. After June 5th, the Board will consider the feedback received, then make a final decision.

This page will be updated once the decision is released.

Patumahoe School (Pukekohe)

Patumahoe School also responded to MOE Guidelines for religious instruction before the final draft, shifting the Bible in Schools class outside of normal school hours, thereby making the class opt-in. One day, we will look back and wonder what religious people were thinking, promoting their beliefs to other people’s children and forcing parents to opt out of the lessons if they disagreed.

The Patumahoe School Board of Trustees have been discussing the implementation of the Bible in Schools education programme. This is inlight of some pending changes to religious education being considered by the Government and recent feedback from our school community.

For a number of years now our school has been providing Bible in Schools lessons for 30 minutes once a week. In line with the Education Act (1964) the school must remain closed for instruction while the programme is running and participation in the programme has been managed on an opt out basis.

We have since decided to offer Bible in Schools as an additional programme that your child has to be opted into. This means that school will not be closed for instruction during this time and classes will resume as usual. The default option now is that your child will be in class, unless you have indicated on the attached form that you would like your child to attend the Bible in Schools programme. This will take effect from Term 1 2019.

The programme is likely to run on a Thursday morning from 8.30-9.00am.


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