Secular Secondary Education

At present, state primary schools are required to provide teaching "entirely of a secular character", and legislation requires that any religious instruction or observance be offered entirely outside school time (though the school can close for this purpose), with no pupil required to attend.

These rules do not apply to state secondary schools. As a result, the freedom of religion of their pupils is at the whim of school staff and boards of trustees.

Further reading
The Human Rights Commission has a FAQ on Religion in New Zealand Schools

Relevant legislation
s77 - 81 of the Education Act 1964

  • s77 governs opening hours, and requires that teaching in state primary schools "shall be entirely of a secular character"
  • s78 permits schools to close for the purpose of religious instruction
  • s78A allows the Minister to approve religious instruction in schools of a special character where it is desired by a majority of parents (though such instruction must still be delivered in a manner consistent with the BORA and HRA, meaning that students can still opt out)
  • s79 ensures that attendance at religious observances is not compulsory
  • s80 allows teachers to be freed from school duties to perform religious instruction
  • s81 limits the previous sections only to state primary schools

Potential changes
Amend those sections to make them apply to state secondary schools as well as primary schools. There may also be a need to amend the interpretation clause.


  • Given the trouble the Ministry of Education's guideline son religion in state secondary schools caused a few years back, this will cause significant opposition among the religious community, despite protecting everyone's freedom of religion.

Education (Freedom of Religion) Amendment Bill

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