Thousands ask Government to retain current RSE guidelines in schools and kura

Our open letter to the Minister of Education, sent the day after Pink Shirt Day
Found in: News / Statements
Date: 19 May 2024

This morning the Minister of Education, Erica Stanford, received an open letter signed by thousands of New Zealanders. The open letter asks the Government to retain current relationships and sexuality education (RSE) guidelines in schools and kura, rather than removing and replacing them. 

Penned by the Mental Health Foundation (the MHF), the open letter was co-signed by 175 schools, organisations and community groups, and a further 4,105 individuals. Today’s send date is notable as the first working day after Pink Shirt Day, a day which focuses on reducing bullying by celebrating diversity in all its forms. 

MHF chief executive Shaun Robinson says the MHF has received a strong, positive response from schools, organisations, community groups and individuals to their open letter. 

“Many want the current guidelines to stay and can’t see why the Government is spending scarce time and money on removing, reviewing and replacing them. Why is the Government intending to make the guidelines less inclusive, when we already have one of the worst bullying rates in the OECD?” he says. 

“We really hope the Minister and government will listen to what the many schools, organisations, community groups and individuals who signed our open letter have to say, and invest time and money into supporting young people’s mental health instead.” 

The intention to remove and replace the current RSE guidelines is in NZ First and National’s coalition agreement, which agrees to “refocus the [school] curriculum on academic achievement and not ideology.” 

Former NZ First MP Tracey Martin introduced the current RSE guidelines as the Associate Minister of Education four years ago, in response to calls to end bullying, violence and child abuse. 

“I have faith that Minister Stanford has the best interests of all students and their wellbeing at the forefront of her decisions regarding the curriculum,” Ms Martin says. 

“I encourage her to direct the Ministry to include the voice of ākonga [students] as an affected party, and the Mental Health Foundation as one of the peak bodies invited to be part of the review."