Parents need all options at once

Media Release Friday 10 March 2017 

Creating a level playing field for Ethics and Special Religious Education in NSW Schools.

Department of Education policy instructs NSW public primary schools to make available a weekly Special Religious Education (SRE) and Special Education in Ethics (SEE) timeslot.

Last December the Department of Education released its new guide for schools instructing them on how to manage enrolments in SRE and Ethics in the 2017 school year.

Below is the flowchart designed to explain how SRE and SEE enrolments should be managed. This flowchart is part of the support materials the department supplies to assist schools to comply with the Religious Education Policy and Special Education in Ethics Policy.

In 2017 it is not an easy process. Instead of the clear form that parents used to get that clearly showed them what the options were for their child; namely a scripture option, the ethics option or supervised free time, there is now a complicated process that creates confusion, effectively hides the ethics option and adds extra admin for schools.

The form was remodelled by the Department of Education in 2015 to remove the option of ethics from the enrolment form. An image of the old form is included below.

The way the new process is supposed to work is as follows:

Step 1: Parents and caregivers receive their school enrolment forms which now only gives the option to enrol in religious education..

Step 2: Parents and caregivers who have written ‘no religion’ on their school enrolment forms, have left the religion box blank, or even written ‘ethics’ in the box, must then be sent a follow up letter from the school offering their child the chance to attend Special Religious Education (SRE), in all the religious persuasions currently on offer at the school. This effectively means that even when a parent has indicated that they do not have a religion and/or that they do not want their children to take an SRE class, they are asked once again to nominate a religion.

Step 3: It is only after the parent has clarified, for the second time, that they do not wish their child to participate in SRE that a second note is sent home that asks them if they would like to enrol their child in Special Education in Ethics. In schools where an ethics program is yet to be established, parents and carers may not even be informed that there could be an ethics class if they requested it.

This revised process has created significant extra administrative burden for schools and made it very difficult for parents and carers to choose ethics as an option for their child. It also delays the start of ethics in the school year, typically ethics classes are now not commencing until weeks 5 to 7 in term one. In some instances Primary Ethics has been advised that ethics classes are being delayed until term two, despite SRE having started in term one.

Primary Ethics is the approved provider of Special Education in Ethics to the NSW Government and we would like to see the NSW school enrolment forms restored to the previous clear and transparent process. This will ensure that parents have all the information they need to make informed decisions on their child’s educational options.

End of release

Image 1:
Flowchart uploaded by the Department of Education in December 2017

Image 2: Previous enrolment form with ethics enrolment option:

Media enquiries:
Heidi McElnea, Communications Manager, Primary Ethics
02 8068 7752 or 0420 514 653

About Primary Ethics: Established in 2010, Primary Ethics provides ethics education for children in NSW public schools. Primary Ethics has developed a comprehensive volunteer teacher training program and created a structured curriculum designed for Kindy to Year 6. Now over 2500 well trained community volunteers deliver ethics classes in 440 schools. The weekly classes are conducted during the Special Religious Education/ Special Education in Ethics timeslot. Children from any religious background, or from none at all, are invited to participate. In ethics classes children learn how to think critically for themselves and respectfully discuss ethical issues. They acquire analytical and communication skills that will be of lifelong benefit to them, in both their public and private lives.