Ethics classes are run in NSW public schools by parents, grandparents and other trained volunteers from the school community. The classes are held in the Special Religious Education/ Special Education in Ethics timeslot, and exist as a valuable learning opportunity for children whose parents have opted them out of SRE.
In the lead up to Easter, we sometimes hear that it’s not fair that children in ethics class miss out on the chocolate eggs and other Easter-themed treats that are handed out in some of the religious instruction classes.
Because giving good reasons is an important skill that students are encouraged to develop in ethics class, here are four reasons why giving ethics students treats or toys is against Primary Ethics’ policy (referenced on page 6 of our Guidelines for Volunteers).
- We don’t believe children should be given any inducement which may sway a child to want to do one of the SRE/SEE options over another. The choice to participate in ethics classes (or any other option) ought to be made by the parent or carer, with the child’s input when mature enough, according to which option best supports the family’s beliefs and the child’s needs and interests; not which class gives out the most sweets or toys.
- Health and safety. Ethics teachers can’t be across every allergy or dietary restriction of each child in the class, so it’s simply not worth the gamble. Even toys, stickers and other gifts can pose a risk with sharp or small parts or adhesives that can cause injury or harm.
- Child protection works best as an integrated approach. An individual might well be giving lollies or other rewards to children from the goodness of their heart, but as a community, we also caution children about taking toys or lollies from people outside their family or friend group, or when their parent is not with them to give permission. Refraining from handing out treats protects children, our volunteers and parents from possible confusion.
- Ethics is educational, and eating chocolate is not educational (thanks to ethics student Souki, aged almost 10, for this one).
About ethics classes for children
Not-for-profit organisation Primary Ethics was established in 2010 to give every child in NSW public primary schools the option of ethics education. Primary Ethics is the sole provider authorised by the Department of Education to deliver ethics education in the SRE/SEE timeslot, although is entirely donor funded. Parents may request their child be enrolled in ethics class at any time throughout the year. All lesson materials are reviewed by the Department of Education and are designed to help children think deeply and well about ethical issues.