Destiny failed school scrutiny

Charter school plan turned down over ministry fears that pupils would be coerced into attending the church

New Zealand Herald/November 30, 2014

By Bevan Hurley

Destiny Church's failed attempt to set up a charter school was blocked in part because of Ministry of Education fears about students being pressured into joining the church.

The ministry found serious shortcomings with Destiny's application, revealed for the first time in documents released to the Herald on Sunday.

The ministry discovered irregularities between Destiny's claim that they were open to non-church members, as school-goers were also expected to attend the church.

In a stinging debrief delivered to church elders, the ministry wrote: "[Destiny] say they currently have an open enrolment process, but the ministry could not reconcile this with an apparent expectation that learners will attend church."

And it found the fraction of Destiny School students who weren't already church members, joined soon after they began at the school.

"[Destiny] anticipated that those students who were not church members when they joined the school were likely to join the church because of the 'relational engagement' that takes place by the school staff with their families outside of school hours."

Other "weaknesses" identified by the ministry in Destiny's charter school application included:

Reservations about Destiny's belief that "individual identity (as God's child) is more important than cultural identity".

That the school has strong Maori cultural-based learning, but does not offer anything specific for Pasifika students.

Questions over whether Destiny would provide special training for "priority learners".

It added that the Destiny School, which has been operating for over 10 years, was "well organised and managed".

Destiny was one of 36 applicants vying to be a charter school, but was declined last July. The Education Ministry documents were released to the Herald on Sunday as it decides whether to allow Destiny's private school to enter the state school system, and gain a significant boost in taxpayer funding. Katrina Casey, head of sector enablement and support, said the application process for integration of a private school into the state system was complex.

"Parents have a choice of many different types of schooling but it is not appropriate for schools that are publicly funded to try and make children accept particular religious beliefs," she said.

A decision on whether to grant Destiny state school status would be made by April next year.

Destiny officials would not comment to the Herald on Sunday.

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