Scripture in schools is popular

Labor joins Coalition to back the teaching of religion in NSW schools

Teaching religion in schools is popular with parents in New South Wales and there are good working relationships between schools and volunteer teachers, according to new research by the McCrindle group. Special Religious Education Providers for multi-faith groups joined together to present the research to the NSW Minister for Education Rob Stokes and the Shadow minister Jihad Dib on Tuesday night.

“SRE held me together during my darkest days.” – Paul Green

“When my life and family were cracking apart, the only stable thing my life was SRE,” said Paul  Green of the Christian Democrats who compered the night.”It held me together during my darkest days.” The stats were almost as compelling as his personal experiences.

The research shows that more than 70 per cent of primary and 30 per cent of secondary school students attend Special Religious Education (SRE) in NSW. There are 101 SRE providers representing 29 faith groups, but 86 per cent of the network of providers is Christian.

Parent satisfaction is high:

•   More than 8 of 10 parents are satisfied with SRE.

•   More than 9 of 10 parents understand their right to withdraw students.

•   More than 7 of 10 support enrolment continuing from the previous year.

The volunteer network is healthy:

•   Practically all volunteers have Working With Children checks.

•   95 per cent have been given authorised materials.

•   83 per cent say the complaints process works well.

•   96 per cent of principals point to good working relationships with SRE providers.

The key messages to the politicians from the multi-faith SRE providers is that SRE is an extensive, popular and effective programme. It builds student well-being and tolerance in schools around diverse communities and promotes multiculturalism through joint celebrations of different faith groups.

“Ever since 1848, there has been bipartisan recognition of this foundation religious freedom and inclusion,” Education Minister Rob Stokes reminded the gathering. “To provide instruction in the tenets of faith to young people is very important. Currently there are over 11,000 volunteers who provide this expression of love.”

“The things that bind us give us our moral compass.” – Jihad Dib

Jihad Dib, the Shadow Minister attended the meeting, despite having begun his Ramadan fast. “Australia is 24 and a half million stories that make our great Australian story and public education is at the centre,” he said. “The things that bind us give us our moral compass.

“There is a place in public education for SRE and Ethics – they all provide nourishment to the soul.”

Dib told the story of how he started a cooking project while headmaster of a largely Muslim school to bring different different religions in contact. “There was I, a Muslim person, working with the Jewish Board of Deputies. We’d have the cooking in Punchbowl on month and in Bondi the next.”

“Is there a place for SRE in public schools? Absolutely.” – Jihad Dib

“Minister Stokes says this is a bipartisan agreement. And so it is and must be. Is there a place for SRE in public schools? Absolutely.” Just like the ‘kaizen’, the Japanese system for continuous improvement, Dib suggested we need to look to improve SRE.

Speaking for the SRE providers, Bishop Peter Ingham of Wollongong announced a new multi-faith group called ‘All faith SRE’ had been set up as a result of an inquiry last year into SRE, to support providers by sharing resources such as policy development. It has been set up with representatives of all major faiths, with funds from major donors.

“I thank you for your endorsement and support of SRE,” Ingham told Rob Stokes, Jihad Dib, and Paul Green.