The advent of Christian Dutch immigrants, whose homeland had not secularised education to the same degree, brought a challenge and the beginning of an awareness to some evangelical Christians that they had neglected the education of their children. The first of a new breed of Christian schools was begun by a group of concerned evangelicals and people with a Reformed tradition in Christchurch in 1964. This was Middleton Grange School. Its motto, ‘In Thy light we see Light’ encapsulated their idea to once again view all of education in the light of the Word of God. Two other schools began in the 60s.
In 1976, Rob Wheeler, a leader of the now called New Life stream of Pentecostal churches had observed Accelerated Christian Education schools in USA, and saw this as a way to re-establish Christian schooling in NZ as a means to protect their children from rampant humanism in state schools. He and Dr Donald Howard the founder of ACE toured NZ to encourage the idea. In the late 70s about 20 schools using ACE were set up by local churches around NZ. Most of these schools are still going and have grown in size. Some do not now use the ACE curriculum as their main tool of instruction, while some other schools have found ACE material to be an excellent tool to achieve their purposes.
Associations set up by Dutch Reformed believers have established and run various schools around the country. Their well thought through philosophy has been a source of wisdom for others in the Christian school movement.
In the last 25 years many more schools have been established so that now there are nearly 90 schools in NZ with a Biblical Christian distinctive. In these schools there are over 13000 students. Added to this, there are an estimated 4000 children being home schooled for Christian reasons.
The 90s also saw the opportunity to establish Christian teacher education establishments. Two began in 1993, namely MASTERS Institute which is now based in Henderson in Auckland as the school of Education of Laidlaw College, and Bethlehem Tertiary Institute in Tauranga.
The 90s also saw the move by about half of the Christian schools in NZ to become integrated with the state. Thus these schools became state schools with a special clearly defined Christian character. (This integration agreement is established with the ‘crown’ not the government of the day.) This move caused some tension within the movement given that it was birthed out of a move away from the state system.
A feature of many of these schools is that they are not denominational schools – they have no special connection with any particular church, but schools with a clearly defined Biblical Christian character.