Australia

Scripture is popular, despite false claims

In NSW School Scripture has high support from parents

Claims that Special Religious Education in NSW schools is unpopular made by opponents are based on  manipulated stats according to the Inter-Church Commission On Religious Education In Schools (ICCOREIS).

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When parents fill in enrolment forms about 40 per cent of parents list “no religion”, a stat highlighted in a front page SMH article. But the government’s independent review found that in NSW primary schools alone, over 70 per cent of parents elect an SRE option for their children, according to ICCOREIS spokesperson Murray Norman.

“Across NSW around 87 per cent of schools have SRE due to the high percentage of parents – around 72 per cent in primary school – opting in,” Norman explained.

“The vast majority of parents want SRE and see the value in their children attending these classes,” he said.

“Unfortunately we have small groups with agendas that will twist the facts to try and deny the majority of parents their right to choose to have their children learn about their nominated faith.”

If the parents fail to nominate a religion on the enrolment form the school will offer them another opportunity in a followup letter to select a SRE or Ethics class. There are parents who do not wish to nominate a religion on the enrolment form but who will still choose a SRE or Ethics class for their children. Scripture is a parental choice.

Norman made the point in a ABC Radio Sydney interview that the SRE providers screen their teachers who are held to the  curriculum produced by providers like Anglican Youth works and the Baptist Church’s  Godspace produce. Complaints procedures are in place to weed out rogue volunteers who produce lessons outside the guidelines.

The SRE system is transparent. Parents can check the provider’s curriculums online.

Another argument raised against SRE  – that students who don’t do scripture are made to waste time is false. “For students not participating in SRE or ethics, it’s important to note the current implementation procedures: schools are to provide meaningful activities with appropriate care and supervision”, Norman says. “These meaningful activities include reading, private study and completing homework.”

One powerful group in education debates is the Parents and Citizens Federation (P&C) who have campaigned for these students to have further opportunities. A official P&C press release says that their “annual general meeting on 26 August 2017 will include a motion urging the New South Wales Government to allow students not enrolled in special religious education (SRE) classes, may be granted access to educational opportunities that align with the curriculum.”

But the P&C release makes it clear they have not adopted an aniti-SRE stance, adding a comment from their President Susie Boyd “Some have also misconstrued this as a motion against scripture being taught in public schools at all. This is not something P&C Federation has taken a position on and there is currently no proposal for changing this.”

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