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Parents split over religion classes in primary school

29 Apr 2013 02:08 pm

Warkworth Primary School plans to remind parents they are able to withdraw their children from religious education classes, following a survey of their views.

The survey showed an even split between parents who support religious instruction and those who don’t.

Principal Cynthia Holden says a letter was received from a parent requesting their child be withdrawn from the programme, which triggered the school to carry out the survey.

Of those who responded to the survey, 102 parents said the school should keep providing religious instruction. Exactly the same number said it shouldn’t. Four said they didn’t mind and six said it should, as long as all religions were covered.

Have-your-sayHave your say: Should religion be taught in schools? Add your comments below.



Ms Holden says it is clear that religious instruction is “a sensitive issue that people hold dear to their hearts one way or the other” and the school will continue to provide the classes.

She says the Churches Education Commission programme includes competencies which link to the New Zealand curriculum such as relating to others, thinking, participating and contributing. “For some children this may be the only opportunity their spiritual wellbeing is developed.”

However, it will remind parents although religious education is not part of the NZ curriculum and they can withdraw their children.

The Education Act allows school boards to decide whether to include religious instruction. If they do, up to half-an-hour of school time can be used each week, although the school is officially deemed closed during that time. Any volunteer approved by the school board can teach the subject and parents may exclude their children by writing a letter to the school principal.

Warkworth Primary offers the classes for Year 3 pupils and higher. A small number of children attend a different class teaching the principles of the Jehovah’s Witness faith.

Wellsford School also has religious instruction classes during school time. Matakana School runs them during lunchtime on an opt-in basis, but the subject isn’t included at Leigh or Mangawhai Beach schools.

New Zealand Association of Rationalists and Humanists secretary Judy de Leeuwe says it should be up to parents to teach religion, but if it is taught, all religions should be covered to allow children to make decisions for themselves.

“New Zealand is made up of all sorts of different people, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews and those with no religion – so if you only teach a Christian point of view it’s not fair on the others.”

The group also believes religion shouldn’t be taught until Year 7, and it should only operate during lunchtimes on an opt-in basis.

“What we really want to be doing is teaching kids maths, English and science. Let’s leave religion to the churches, temples and monasteries.”

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Have your Say

Should religion be taught in schools?

Click 'share your comments' to have your say.

Lisa says ...
Religious Instruction is a personal issue and should not be decided by State schools. If people want their children to be instructed in religion there are plenty of opportunities outside of school hours and without discriminating against those who do not attend.
It's time we acted like it is 2013 (not 1964) and repealed sections 78-80 of the Education Act.
Jeff McClintock says ...
Our family's religious beliefs (or lack of) are very personal, but our state schools are not respecting that.
My friend's child was told her parents would "burn in hell" because they were not Christian, imagine the stress that causes a child. Having a choice to opt out is really no consolation because now the other kids bully her, telling her she'll burn in hell.
NZ has human rights laws that say the government has no business judging us because of our beliefs, we have privacy laws that for the same reason saying we shouldn't have to reveal our religion to state agencies. Yet the Bible in Schools program forces us to choose between having a unqualified local Church goer convert our Children to a different religion, or have our kids identified as 'different' in front of teachers, parents, local fundamentalist, and other kids. How is this even legal anymore!

Schools often claim Bible class is 'overwhelmingly supported' - this is misinformation - ask them what the alternative is! My daughter was stood up and sent to the corner of another class, isolated from her friends. Little better than punishment.

When one North Island recently school offered a REAL choice (Bible class or environmental studies) a full 70% of pupils suddenly dropped Bible class. It really is that unpopular when there's a REAL choice on offer.

Lets have a UN-BIASED survey, Instead of Bible-or-nothing , I DARE you ask: Bible - or more Maths, Reading and Writing!
Jill Davis says ...
Please, do not subject parents and children at a state primary school to the divisiveness of religion. It is all a waste of time and energy. The aims of the Churches Education Commission are actually undermined by the practice of separating children on the basis of religion, that is, those who have given their hearts to Jesus - and the rest who are unsaved sinners. This sort of thing only encourages conformity out of fear, and is not of sound personal value. The general tone of decency and responsibility, as exemplified by the regular teachers at any school, is what matters.
Eddie Riggs says ...
Religion in schools? wow - what is this the puritanical dark ages? I thought NZ had got past this years ago. How about the schools focus on getting the kids up to scratch with actual life skills...you know English, Maths etc, and leave it up to the religious entities to educate their flocks themselves.