Prayer is “not a religious thing” says headmaster

Kelston Intermediate principal Phil Gordon says the prayers (karakia) said at his school are “not a religious thing but a cultural thing.”

Prime Minister, John Key says teachers in schools should be able to opt-out of delivering a karakia in schools if they wanted to.

Maori Affairs Minster, Pita Sharples. says because there are a lot of Maori and Pasifika whanau whose children attend Kelston Intermediate. The school’s culture should reflect the community, and the whanau who send their children to the school.

“It is absolutely fitting that karakia be used in the school, as it is a vital part of our lifestyle and it is also consistent with the New Zealand Curriculum.”

Dr Sharples said if individual teachers had an issue with leading students through karakia, then it should be worked through between the school and families.

A ministry of education spokesperson says while state primary schools were required to be secular this didn’t preclude teaching about religion. He added, however that a 2009 document produced by the Human Rights Commission advised teachers and principals to avoid leading pupils in prayer.

They were responding to concern expressed by some of the teachers at the school about karakia (prayers) being recited in the classroom.

The school recites a karakia at the start of its weekly assembly and in classrooms before lessons begin.

Staff lead the prayer, which asks for the day to be blessed, help with work and to have a good week.

The NZEI, the primary teachers’ union, has been asked to address concerns that have been expressed.



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