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  • David Hines

NZ state schools spill the beans on their religious programmes: RI, RO, Christian karakia and health

For years, members of the Secular Education Network have been trying to find out what kind of religious programmes their schools have been running. I'm in the middle of doing a survey to find out, and I will also be publishing the individual results from every state primary and secondary school.

The survey will spill the beans of three main kinds of programme:

  1. Christian religious instruction, also known as Bible in Schools, which has been around since 1877, but is slowly losing support and only 20% of schools are still using it. And since last year it has been using an Opt-In system. A Ministry of Education leader asked me four weeks ago whether this is solving parent objections? I was about to launch a survey of schools, so I included that question in my survey. The answer is that it is meeting the objections of some parents, but not all.

  2. Religious observances in school assemblies are becoming more popular, and they still use an opt-out system, so do parents know they have a right to opt their children out? My survey shows that some of them don't, so why why didn't the government make this an opt-in issue as well?

  3. Karakia are growing in popularity, and a few hundred schools are using Christian karakia. Should that be allowed in secular schools? The government is not sure whether karakia are religious or not, but this is not a mystery to the schools in my survey. They quite cheerfully tell me whether their karakia are Christian, and about a fifth of them are.

  4. Christian health lessons are the latest form of religion in schools. It's not just the religious side of Christianity I'm concerned about. The Bible in Schools group Launchpad advertised on its website that they are also including health lessons as part of their Religious Instruction. This probably includes telling the children to have traditional male and female roles. So I've asked the schools to send some sample Christian health lessons, and I'll publish them as well.

If you want to know which schools are running these programmes, hit the link at the foot of this page!

It gives you the replies from each school.

It will also tell you which schools haven't answered the survey yet

Don't give your school a hard time if they haven't answered yet. They still have a week to go (as at November 12). But some of them have blocked their spam filters and some haven't given their contact info to the Ministry of Education. The survey shows gaps like that. You might like to tell your school to check their spam filters, because they are, intentionally or not/ hiding information that the public has a right to know.

Isn't this a terrible time to ask schools to do a survey?

Yes it is, and I've apologised to the schools for adding to their workload just three weeks before they had to cope with the hassles of getting back into business after a Covid lockdown. I pointed out that the timing was created by the Ministry of Education. It's about to issue a report on introducing religious education, so I believe we the public need to know what's going now, so we can comment on what could happen next.

But I relented and made it easier to do the survey by making some questions optional, and I won't be pushing the deadline. About 480 schools have found the two minutes it takes to do the survey, but there are another 1300 to go.

Navigating your way round the results

There are about 30 columns of information and 1800 schools, in an Excel file. To find the school you want, search for its name:

  1. Put the cursor in the chart

  2. Do Ctr-F to open the search window

  3. In the "Find what" Box type part of the school name

  4. Don't tick the box which says "match entire cell contents"

  5. Click the "Find next" button. There may be several cells with that word, so click the Find button again till you get to the right one.

  6. The title bar and the left two columns are frozen, so use the slider at the bottom of the screen if you want to spool across to the right-hand columns, and you will still be able to see the titles and the school name.

The schools are sorted under regions, and are in alphabetical order within each region

Here's the link


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