Students: various

When can the parent of a child or a young adult ask to be released from tuition on religious or cultural grounds, or to be exempted from the sexuality education component of the health curriculum?

Religious or cultural beliefs

The parent of a student under the age of sixteen, or the student themselves if sixteen or older, may ask a principal of a state school to be released from classes due to religious or cultural beliefs.

The parent or young adult must give a minimum of 24 hours notice in writing prior to the relevant class.

Education Act 1989 section 25A – Legislation website

The principal must be satisfied that the beliefs are sincerely held and that the student will receive adequate supervision whether within or outside the school while released from tuition. Further, the principal should take all reasonable steps to ascertain the student’s view on the matter.

If, after considering the student's age, maturity, and any views the student has expressed, the principal thinks it would be inappropriate to release the student, s/he may decide not to grant release.

However, this does not alter the situation that religious instruction or observances are not compulsory in any state primary school and pupils may not be required to be involved if a parent has given notice in writing of their objection to such observances and instruction.

Education Act 1989 section 79 – Legislation website

Guide for schools

Religion in schools – Human Rights Commission website

Sexuality education

A parent of a student enrolled at any state school may ask the principal in writing to ensure that the student is excluded from tuition related to sexuality education.

Where such a request has been received, the principal must ensure that the student is excluded from the relevant tuition and the student is otherwise supervised during that tuition.

There is no requirement to shield the excluded student at any other time, for example, if a question is raised about sexuality education in a class outside of the specified part of the health curriculum relating to sexuality education.

There is no requirement here for the principal to regard or obtain the student’s opinion regardless of the student's age, maturity, and ability to formulate and express views, and any views the student has expressed.

Education Act 1989 section 25AA – Legislation website

You can seek more specific information or advice from the NZSTA help desk about your situation.

Updated: October 2011

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