Working together to keep Scripture in schools

New South Wales School Scripture has gone online in a bid to have ready-made lessons on hand during this rapidly-changing COVID environment.

Coronavirus has already caused a significant drop in the number of Special Religious Education (SRE) teachers from all faith communities. Tight health restrictions prevent SRE teachers with any COVID-like symptoms from teaching, and many older teachers have dropped out, fearing the risk of personal infection.

For schools that are still operating in classrooms, increasingly this means a substitute SRE teacher must be called in at short notice or the lesson has to be cancelled.

Tight health restrictions prevent SRE teachers with any COVID-like symptoms from teaching, and many older teachers have dropped out, fearing the risk of personal infection.

“We’re having to find new ways of doing things to be able to teach in classrooms,” says head of Christian SRE, Murray Norman, who wants to ensure Christian SRE lessons can still go ahead in most instances.

In order to do this, Christian SRE has partnered with Bible Society Australia to develop a digital portal loaded with approved video lessons. Along with more experienced SRE teachers, newly trained and substitute teachers can use them at short notice with reduced preparation. The portal was launched at the end of August.

“The rules around SRE teachers are quite tight, and that’s why it’s become necessary to have this online portal with materials that have been approved by curriculum providers, which can be used in video format,” says Norman.

Resource providers include Anglican Youthworks, the Catholic Church, Love Out Loud Oz, NUA (from Scripture Union Ireland), Quiz Worx and the Centre for Public Christianity. The materials can be used as stand-alone lessons or in a series, Norman explains.

The digital resources will also ensure SRE lessons are delivered in a “COVID-safe” format.

“Having teachers come in and teach students about hope and about love, especially at the moment, is very important and reassuring for students.” – Murray Norman, Christian Special Religious Education

“There’s all these new rules that we’ve never had to deal with before just to make things COVID-safe,” says Norman.

These include less reliance on paper to reduce the risk of disease transmission and, of course, social distancing.

“As we’re seeing that young people can transmit the virus, people aren’t as keen to have paper and for teachers to be looking over kids’ shoulders to help them. Whereas normally in a classroom, [SRE] teachers would be helping kids to look up a passage in their Bible, at the moment that’s not encouraged because it requires close contact. ”

Noting that all educators are facing these issues, Norman says the Department of Education has been very supportive of Christian SRE (and SRE providers from other faith communities) in developing digital resources.

“We need to learn to live with COVID, and part of that is looking at new technologies and new means that can be used to help right across the school, and religious education is one of those important areas that needs to keep on going.”

“Religious education is a normal part of school. Having teachers come in and teach students about hope and about love, especially at the moment, is very important and reassuring for students.”

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