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Pages tagged "save our scripture"
NSW Government legislates ethics classes in competition with Scripture
· December 02, 2010 11:00 AM
The NSW Government yesterday pushed legislation through both houses of parliament which is
aimed at ensuring
that ethics classes are run in competition with Scripture classes in NSW schools even if the Opposition wins the election next March.
The move followed on from the NSW Opposition’s announcement on November 23 that they would scrap the St James Ethics Centre’s secular ethics classes if they won office – a decision which was welcomed by the ACL.
NSW Education Minister Verity Firth introduced the amendment to the Education Act which takes the policy decision about whether ethics classes should be held out of the hands of future Ministers by specifying in legislation that schools are able to offer ethics classes to students who opt out of Scripture.
This was a cynical response which effectively tries to disenfranchise the many concerned community members who might choose to vote for a change on this issue. However the NSW Opposition appears to be maintaining its resolve to remove the ethics classes at the end of next year (allowing any classes already in place at the election to see out the school year).
ACL is not opposed to the idea of children being taught ethics in schools but we have strong reservations about the ethics syllabus and are concerned that the ethics classes – something all children should be able to attend – are to be run in competition with Scripture classes.
Weighing up the merits of ‘non-judgemental’ ethics classes
· December 01, 2010 11:00 AM
What is the point of a “non-judgemental” ethics course? That’s the question posed by ACL’s NSW Director David Hutt writing on the
With the NSW Government moving to legislate ethics classes in competition with Scripture classes in NSW primary schools, David says it is time to ask some more probing questions about the merit of a non-judgemental approach to ethics.
For example, who will be funding the course? How will St James guarantee its volunteer teachers won’t just be teaching their own brand of ethics? Given that teachers who participated in the trial believed there were no “right or wrong” answers, how will Dr Longstaff (the head of the St James Ethics Centre) guarantee we won’t just be teaching kids moral relativism? Click
to read the full article.
Ethics, Kids and People Behaving Badly
· November 24, 2010 11:00 AM
“It has taken the faiths thousands of years, the persecutions of millions of their followers, the creation of some of the most beautiful literature, art and music in the world, to have their beliefs and traditions so accepted as a part of our society that now, in New South Wales, faiths from Islam to Christianity to Judaism are allowed to go into public schools and give up to an hour of special religious instruction – except it’s usually 30 minutes – once a week.
It has taken one man with a somewhat laidback attitude to ethics –“non-judgemental” – just seven years to be on the verge of getting his brand of ethical instruction into schools, to be taught at the same time as SRE.”
So writes journalist Shelley Gare in a recent post on her blog for the Sydney Institute. It’s an insightful piece where Shelley raises a number of pertinent questions about the ethics classes which the NSW Government has this week announced will be rolled out to primary schools across the State from the start of next year.
The questions include: Where’s the funding coming from? What will be done about the moral relativism which has already surfaced in the trial classes? And what will happen when other ethics providers start claiming their right to teach their versions of ethics in classrooms.
NSW Opposition yesterday announced
that they would scrap the St James Ethics Centre’s secular ethics classes if they win the March 2011 state election. Nonetheless, the Government’s plan is still to get the classes underway prior to the election. Shelley’s blog post, which can be read by clicking
, makes the point: “Can’t we just have ethics classes taught by properly trained teachers in school time?”
ACL congratulates NSW Opposition for policy on Special Religious Education
· November 23, 2010 11:00 AM
The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) today congratulated the NSW Opposition for making a stand to protect Special Religious Education Classes (SRE).
ACL’s NSW Director David Hutt welcomed the announcement by the NSW Opposition that they will scrap the St James Ethics Centre’s secular ethics classes if they win the March 2011 state election.
“I would like to congratulate the NSW Opposition for showing leadership on this issue,” Mr Hutt said. “This decision guarantees a bright future for SRE – an important part of the NSW education system.
“Of course no one is opposed to the idea of children being taught ethics in schools however the St James Ethics Centre’s proposal was unworkable and put ethics classes – something all children should be able to attend – in competition with SRE. This meant that children attending SRE would be unable to attend both SRE and ethics classes.
“However we also have very strong reservations about the ethics syllabus. We note the Education Minister had to intervene on the eve of the trial and remove controversial material about terrorist hijackings and designer babies from the Year 5 and 6 syllabus. Many schools also banned lessons on graffiti,” he said.
“ACL welcomes today’s announcement by the Opposition. There is now a clear choice for voters on this issue in the lead up to the March election.”
NSW Opposition urged to safeguard Scripture classes if they win office
· November 23, 2010 11:00 AM
NSW Government’s decision
to roll-out ethics classes in primary schools next year actively discriminates against children of faith who will not be able to attend both special religious education (SRE) and ethics classes and also risks undermining a system of teaching SRE which has operated effectively for more than a century, the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) said today.
ACL today expressed deep concern about Cabinet’s decision and urged the Opposition to reverse this decision and safeguard the special place of SRE in NSW schools if it wins office next March.
“If ethics classes are to be taught in NSW schools then they should be rolled out for all children – and be based on a program which conforms to community standards,” ACL NSW Director David Hutt said.
“The Government should not be discriminating against children of faith who will not be able to attend both SRE and ethics but should run the ethics classes with the aid of professionals at a separate time within the general curriculum.”
Mr Hutt said the ACL also has deep reservations about not only how the St James Ethics Centre is going to recruit the large numbers of volunteers needed to run the ethics classes, but also the ability of the volunteers to effectively teach something as philosophically complex as ethics.
“For over 100 years, thousands of volunteers have given of their time to teach SRE in NSW schools each week – with successive governments safeguarding the role of SRE by not allowing other classes to be run in competition with it,” he said.
“It is extremely disappointing to see the NSW Government forgoing that role and we call on the NSW Opposition to reverse their decision if they come to office next year.”
Roll-out of NSW ethics classes a “hot button” issue for Christians
· November 22, 2010 11:00 AM
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
ACL calls for consultation on ethics classes
· October 20, 2010 11:00 AM
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.”
Media Contact: Glynis Quinlan on 0408 875 979
ACL Monthly Newsletter – October 2010
· September 30, 2010 10:00 AM
ACL’s latest monthly newsletter, which includes Jim Wallace’s column, is out now. This month’s newsletter features a special report on ‘Make it Count Victoria’, as well as articles on euthanasia, our new Tasmania Director, special religious education and more.
to read the ACL Monthly newsletter for October 2010.
Battle of ethics classes not over
· September 22, 2010 10:00 AM
Yesterday nearly two hundred volunteer SRE teachers and religious leaders crammed into the NSW Department of Education and Training’s reception hall for a celebration of Special Religious Education. Christians, Jews, Muslims and Hindus joined together to celebrate SRE and to thank the many volunteers who teach scripture classes.
The inter-faith event, organised by ICCOREIS and ACL was hosted by the DET and the Education Minister, Verity Firth.
SRE has been getting a lot of bad press as a result of the debate surrounding ethics classes. In light of recent attacks on SRE by some proponents of the ethics classes including Greens MLC John Kaye, it was fitting to celebrate the wonderful work of volunteer SRE teachers.
These are wonderful people who are committed to their faith and committed to providing a well rounded education to children in our community. It was really important for the Minister to meet just some of the thousands and thousands people who are involved in providing SRE across NSW.
We have a wonderful spirit of volunteerism in this country but it is hard to think of any other volunteer movement that could compete with SRE in terms of its scope and longevity. SRE truly is one of the glories of the NSW education system.
Addressing the gathering, Minister Firth said children have an important “right” to receive religious education at school.
She said that while the government was exploring the option of an ethics class as an alternative for children who opt out of SRE, the NSW Government remained committed to SRE and had no plans to remove SRE from schools. This is the same commitment the Opposition gave to ACL in June.
Speakers at the event included:
Richard Quadrio – NSW Council of Churches
Ann Maree Whenman – ICCOREIS
Khaled Sukkarieh – Islamic Council of NSW
Yair Miller – Jewish Board of Deputies
Cardinal George Pell
Verity Firth – Education Minister
David Hutt – ACL NSW Director
Bishop Ray Smith – representing Youthworks
Anglican Archbishop Peter Jensen, who was in Melbourne for the Anglican Synod, sent a video message thanking SRE volunteers for their commitment and dedication.
NSW Opposition Leader committed to school scripture
· September 14, 2010 10:00 AM
ACL has cautiously welcomed recent comments by NSW Opposition Leader Barry O’Farrell that he does not personally support the NSW Government’s trialled ethics classes. Speaking on ABC’s Stateline programme last Friday, Mr O’Farrell said he would not commit a Coalition Government to supporting the ethics classes.
Mr O’Farrell said
that, “I don't favour ethics classes being an alternative to special religious education classes”.
follow up interview
, Mr O’Farrell clarified that he was expressing his personal views on the subject and that this did not necessarily reflect Liberal/National Party policy.
Mr O’Farrell said the Coalition would wait until the government’s review of the trial ethics classes had been released before making a judgement about whether to proceed with a state-wide roll out. This is certainly encouraging news.
As reported in ACL’s E-News several months back, the Coalition has given ACL a written guarantee that if elected, a Coalition Government would not make any changes to the sections of the NSW Education Act that allow for Special Religious Education (SRE) classes – guaranteeing their future under an O’Farrell Government.
ACL is concerned however that the review of the ethics classes will not be independent. Mr O’Farrell has expressed a similar concern saying that documents obtained by the Coalition under Freedom of Information law reveal serious concerns about how the trial and the review have been conducted.
The NSW Government conducted a 10-week trial of secular ethics classes for students who opt-out of scripture in Term 2 this year. The curriculum, developed by the St James Ethics Centre in consultation with NSW Federation of Parents and Citizens Associations, was trialled in 10 schools.
ACL supports the teaching of ethics in NSW public schools but believes classes should not be scheduled in competition with SRE. Children should have the opportunity to study both SRE and ethics instead of being forced to choose one or the other.
ACL will continue to make the case to both the Government and the Opposition that the current arrangements for teaching SRE in public schools do not need to be changed. Supporters can also inform their elected members on this issue through our ‘
Save our Scripture
’ campaign at
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