The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) today urged the NSW Government to undertake a genuine consultation process over proposed ethics classes in schools.
ACL NSW Director David Hutt today said there is widespread community concern that the NSW Government has already made up its mind on the introduction of ethics classes in the Special Religious Education (SRE) time slot despite valid concerns about whether the classes would compete with SRE for enrolments and whether the course material conformed to community standards on ethics.
“The Education Minister has said that she will consult over the report before deciding whether ethics classes will go ahead and we urge her to ensure that consultation is genuine and not just part of a rubber stamping process,” he said.
“We are not against the introduction of ethics classes but we are very concerned that the classes are to be run in direct competition with SRE classes – meaning students have to choose between the two and SRE students will be forced to forgo ethics teaching.
“Nothing in the evaluation of the trial
has allayed those concerns. On the contrary the report reveals that a roll-out of ethics classes will draw heavily on the resources of principals and the Education Department – thereby putting SRE classes on an unequal footing.”
Mr Hutt said that a staggering 50,000 people signed a petition tabled in the NSW Parliament in June which called on the NSW Government to protect the place of SRE in schools and reschedule the proposed ethics classes to another time slot.
“The Save Our Scripture petition sent a clear message to NSW parliamentarians about the need to safeguard the special place of SRE in NSW schools and we urge the NSW Government to respond to those concerns,” Mr Hutt said.
“The Government should not be discriminating against children of faith who will not be able to attend both SRE and ethics but instead should ensure that the classes are run at separate times.”
Mr Hutt said there also remained concerns about some of the course content.
“Already, in the brief 10 week trial, the Education Minister has had to intervene and remove inappropriate course content about terrorism and designer babies. If the first ten lessons are so controversial that the Minister had to step in and re-write them, what are the next lot of lessons going to look like? Rather than rushing to change a system that has existed for more than 100 years, the NSW Government should be carefully weighing up all relevant concerns.”
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