Consultation on guidelines on religious instruction for primary and intermediate schools

Not all schools or kura allow religious instruction. For those that do, we want to make the rights of children, their parents, caregivers, family and whānau clear, and ensure school boards know what their legal obligations are and how to meet them when it comes to allowing religious instruction to take place at a school.

That’s why we’ve developed draft guidelines for state primary and intermediate schools me ngā kura on religious instruction.

We’d like to hear what you think about the draft guidelines on religious instruction in State primary and intermediate schools me ngā kura. Consultation closes on 7 December 2018.

Draft guidelines, who they apply to, and how to make a submission

The draft guidelines are not designed to limit a board’s choice as to whether it decides to close its school to allow religious instruction to take place. Our education law requires that teaching in State primary schools, intermediate schools me ngā kura must be secular (non-religious) while the school is open.

Religious education

Religious education, when children are taught about different cultures, customs and religions in a neutral way, may be taught as part of the New Zealand Curriculum (NZC) or Te Marautanga o Aotearoa (TMOA) and is often undertaken as part of other subjects, such as social studies or Tikanga-ā-Iwi. The NZC and TMOA are taught in State schools by registered teachers with current practicing certificates.

Religious instruction and observances

Our education law also gives boards of trustees of State schools me ngā kura a choice about whether or not to close their school or kura to allow religious instruction or observance under some conditions.

Religious instruction is when a particular religion or faith is taught or given preference. Religious observances are the things that are done to practice a religion, such as singing hymns or saying prayers. Religious instruction and religious observances are not part of the New Zealand Curriculum or Te Marautanga o Aotearoa.

Schools can close for religious instruction or religious observances to take place at any time, including during normal school hours, for up to 60 minutes per week and no more than 20 hours in a school year. Religious instruction must be led by board-approved voluntary instructors who are not school staff members. Religious observances can be led by a person that the board of trustees thinks is appropriate.

New Zealand’s human rights laws give all people in New Zealand the right to be free from discrimination based on their religious or non-religious beliefs. What this means in practice is that boards who choose to close their school for religious instruction or religious observances to take place must do so in a way that protects the rights of their diverse students, and their parents, caregivers, family and whānau

You have the right to withdraw your child from any religious instruction programmes or religious observances.

If you have concerns about religious instruction or observances in your child’s school at the moment, it’s important to talk to your child’s teacher first. If you still have questions or concerns, talk to the principal or contact your school’s board of trustees. If this does not address your concerns, please contact your local Ministry of Education office.

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