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Religious body pressures school kids, say parents

Sep 15th, 2008 | By | Category: Latest News, News

WHEN Hataitai mum Anne Hare’s eldest child came home from school, Anne checked her school bag for the usual homework and notices – and pulled out what looked like a birthday invitation.

It was an invitation and consent form for her child to join Supakidz.

Anne asked her child what it was all about and was told: “I’m not a super kid, mum.”

The invitation referred to Scripture Union Primary Activities – Supakidz for short – a religion-based club run by the Scripture Union National Office.

It promotes educational values with a Christian basis on Wednesday lunchtimes at Hataitai School, as well as in eight other Wellington primary schools and 30 nationwide.

Anne Hare was shocked that her child felt she was not a super kid because of the family’s non-religious choice: “Children will think those kids have gone (to Supakidz), they’re Supakidz, what am I?”

She and husband Chris want their children to make their own decision about religion when they are ready and not be pushed into it by a religious organisation that appeared to operate on peer pressure.

At lunchtime on Wednesdays, the instructors come around the playground asking who the Supakidz are, says Anne Hare. The club thus creates separation between the children and is destroying social circles within the community. She is not the only parent to feel this way, she says.

“We want our children to be part of a community that is inclusive rather than exclusive,” says Chris Hare.

However, Hataitai School principal Karyn Gray denies the club segregates the children and says the name is just a brand name.

SupaKidz is run by an international organisation, and is also known by many people as just Supa, she says.

The school decided they were comfortable with the material and “would disagree it was segregating”.

Hilary Hague, the director of children and families at the scripture union, says they are aware of parents’ concerns about the name and are in discussions over whether to change it.

She says it is not certain if they will change the name and if they did it would be a lengthy process.

Under the Education Act 1964, schools are allowed to have optional religious programmes that do not exceed 60 minutes in teaching and are outside class hours. They must be given by volunteers and approved by the school committee.

The Ministry of Education notes in a religious instruction fact sheet that schools may teach about religion, but they may not encourage or presuppose religious belief.

Chris Hare says he saw a cloth banner (pictured above) – that promotes the club and is visible to all students – hanging in a hallway at Hataitai School.

Karyn Gray responded by saying the banner is about friendship and does not promote SupaKidz.

Anne Hare suggested to the school board of trustees that they change the name of the club, but her submission was rejected.

John Minto, national chairman of the Quality Public Education Coalition, was approached by the Hares and he wrote to Hataitai board of trustees expressing concern that the religious club is promoted to the children and the title implies those not in the programme are not “super kids”.

Lyall Bay, another school that offers the club to students, has chosen to change the name: “A parent suggested all kids are super and we agreed with that,” says Lyall Bay principal Dennis Thompson.

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  1. Well researched and both sides of argument given.As regards allowing religion taught in schools to a seperate
    group it appears to have the effect of segregation and could provide a basis for hostility between rival groups.
    I would suggest there is plenty of opportunity at weekends for instruction at religious venues
    where children attend.Eveyone should be free to follow their religious beliefs are but not to
    foister their beliefs on a captive audience which this SUPAKIDS appears to do

  2. Having helped at SupaKidz at Hataitai school for the last 3 years, I find it unfortunate the number of misconceptions in the above article. It is unfortunate when one chooses an affirming name for a group, the (incorrect) assumption is that those who don’t attend don’t have that property. I am not sure many children have had identity crises because they don’t eat weetbix (Kiwi kids …).
    Firstly, the reason Anne Hare’s child came home with an invitation and enrollment form is being a ‘religious’ programme we need parent’s consent before allowing their child to attend. The only people we give invitations to are those who come at lunchtime and ask if they can come, which Anne’s daughter must have done. Any child who has their parent’s permission is welcome to attend (Segregation?). We agree that anyone should be free to follow and explore religious beliefs, and are happy to provide a chance for those kids who come along to find out some of the Christian Narrative.
    The school has a copy of all the material we present, before it is presented, and the emphasis is equally placed on biblical content and teaching core values from the Ministry of Education curriculum.
    Secondly, the banner. As Karyn Gray correctly points out, the banner is a series of statements about friendship, which the kids who attend Supakidz spent the whole term working on, eg. Good Friends Help One Another. I personally would be disappointed to think that a class or other group of students at school would be unable to display their (excellent) work to everyone, when it has such a good message (at another school I help at I have had many conversations with children about their abstract art work that is on display).
    Lastly, and this is more to Stanley than Sarah, one of the myths in contemporary society is “only” christians or muslims have religious beliefs. Atheists and Agnositcs also have religious beliefs, namely about their disbelief in a God, or their ignorance about such matters. Anne Hare has claimed to have a ‘non-religious’ household. The fact of the matter is Anne and Chris ARE raising their children in a belief system, I am sure they are doing a fine job, but they and people like Stanley are deluded if they think that their children aren’t being taught about religion and belief systems by their own behaviour and stated views.

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