16 Mar 2014

School resumes Christian lessons

2:24 pm on 16 March 2014

An Auckland parent who took concerns about Christian studies at a state primary school to the Human Rights Commission is outraged the lessons will again be within school hours.

An Auckland parent is outraged religious lessons will again be within school hours.

An Auckland parent is outraged religious lessons will again be within school hours. Photo: PHOTO NZ

Last month, St Heliers school decided to move the 30 minute sessions to before or after school after a group of parents claimed the lessons discriminated against non-Christian families, and should not be part of a secular school programme.

However in a letter to parents last week the school said the 'opt in' programme would be run at lunchtimes from next term.

Roy Warren, who is one of two parents who complained to the Human Rights Commission, says this is unacceptable and believes the school has broken the agreement reached after mediation.

Mr Warren says lunchtime is still within school hours and his concerns remain that the programme creates a division between pupils based on religion.

He says it feels like the school has deliberately misled not only himself but other parents, who had withdrawn complaints on the basis of the original decision.

Mr Warren says he thinks the school board and the principal are incompetent and untrustworthy as a result of how this was handled.

School board of trustees chairperson Gary Ivill says this is not a case of the school reneging on the agreement.

Mr Ivill says the Christian Education Commission, which runs the programme, had initially indicated after school sessions were possible but had since told the school they would be unable to provide enough volunteers to run the sessions.

He says the school then consulted with Human Rights Commission which was happy with the lunchtime slot as this fits within the HRC's guidelines for religious instruction.

Mr Ivill says the decision is never going to please everyone and says the programme is 'opt in' meaning parents are able to decide if they want their child to participate.

Mr Warren says he has advised the Human Rights Commission that his complaint is unresolved.

The Human Rights Commission advice about religion in schools:

http://www.hrc.co.nz/human-rights-environment/religion-in-new-zealand-schools