Media Release

The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) today urged the NSW Government not to rubber-stamp the roll-out of ethics classes in competition with Scripture classes – saying this is a “hot button” issue for the Christian constituency.

“Cabinet needs to understand the depth of concern in the Christian constituency and in the community generally about the introduction of ethics classes in the Special Religious Education (SRE) time-slot – undermining a system that has worked effectively for more than 100 years,” ACL NSW Director David Hutt said.

“ACL supports the teaching of ethics and values in schools but we are very concerned that ethics classes are to be run in direct competition with SRE classes in primary schools – meaning students have to choose between the two and SRE students will be forced to forgo ethics teaching,” he said.

“There are also valid questions about whether the course material for ethics classes conforms to community standards on ethics. For example, I think most parents would be shocked to learn the St James Ethics Centre’s ethics classes don’t actually teach the difference between right and wrong. In fact some Principals involved in the trial expressed concern that there seemed to be no right or wrong answers in the course.”

Mr Hutt said that SRE represents one of the largest volunteer efforts in NSW, with an estimated 12,000 volunteer teachers giving up their time each week across the state to teach SRE.

“Earlier this year ACL collected over 50,000 signatures on a petition which called on the NSW Government to protect the place of SRE in schools and reschedule the proposed ethics classes to another time slot.”

Mr Hutt said he will be writing to churches that participated in the petition, thanking them for their hard work and informing them of any developments on the issue.

Facts about Education Minister Verity Firth’s trial ethics classes

• The classes were rejected by 1 in 3 non-SRE students.

• There were not enough volunteers to staff ten schools for a ten week trial. The shortfall had to be made up by teachers from the DET.

• The Education Minister was forced to intervene at the last minute and removed controversial course content on terrorist hijackings and designer babies from the Year 5-6 classes.

• A number of principals involved in the trial were concerned the classes contained no ‘right or wrong’ answers.

• A report into the trial found that a roll-out of ethics classes will draw heavily on the resources of the Education Department.

Media Contact: Glynis Quinlan on 0408 875 979