Red Beach School will no longer offer the Values in Action (VIA) religious instruction programme at its school.
The programme was controversial with one former Red Beach parent, Jeff McClintock, taking the school to court for not seeking his consent before putting his daughter into the VIA classes.
Mr McClintock describes the content of VIA as “similar to church Sunday School, including Bible readings and songs of praise”.
He says children were put in the programme by default, with or without parents’ consent.
“Christian instruction and observances behind parents’ backs is offensive to many people, especially families of other religions,” Mr McClintock says.
Following a recent policy review of its religious education, the Red Beach School board opted to drop the VIA programme, with effect from the start of the 2019 school year.
The review incorporated revised Ministry of Education guidelines on Religious Instruction, which it recently consulted the public on.
A key change in focus for the Ministry’s proposed guidelines is that parents need to opt-in to any religious programme. Formerly, all children were placed in the programmes unless parents opted out.
In a statement to parents, the Red Beach board said it believes that its Positive Behaviour for Learning programme and revised Charter (including RICH heart values, promoting Life Long Learning qualities) meet the revised guidelines.
“The demands on teachers with increasing curriculum requirements, including these new guidelines, coupled with the legislative requirements that the school must be closed during the VIA instruction, has led the board to agree to discontinue the VIA religious instruction programme,” the statement said.
The board consulted with the parent community and teaching staff before making its decision.
It also provided an opportunity for the VIA leadership to present their programme to the board at a recent meeting.
Red Beach Board of Trustees chair Andrew Short and principal Julie Hepburn were unavailable for comment. A spokesperson for the Life in Focus Trust, which runs the VIA programme, would not comment other than to say that the organisation respects the school’s right to make the decision to cancel the instruction.