Research supports growth of ethics classes in South West Sydney Schools

The six-month research phase of South West Sydney Schools Project (SWSSP) has concluded. It’s the first location-specific project of Primary Ethics to increase the awareness of and engagement with our ethics program across south west Sydney.

It has been generously funded by the Fred Archer Charitable Trust, through Perpetual Impact.

We’d like to thank Rebecca Iliffe for coordinating the project, and Riley Stewart who assisted with data collection.

We’d also like to acknowledge the many Primary Ethics volunteers across the project area who generously contributed with their ideas and time – particularly those who helped bring their team together to contribute. They include regional managers Marbecc Webb and Dick Harfield, and ethics coordinators Bet Turgut, Catherine Maher, Christy Nguy, Elizabeth Rowlings, Leanda Lazarevic, Lylian Francis, Michelle Stack, and Rebecca Wise.

The Implementation Plan reflects the discussions with people held across the area who engaged and shared their thoughts and ideas.  While not a definitive survey or study it has, with widespread support, delved deeply into three agreed themes. These are:

  1. the communities and those who live, work and go to school locally
  2. the schools themselves
  3. and the volunteers who generously give time and expertise.

There are 42 recommendations, some strategic which may result in significant change. Others, also with transformation potential, can be more readily adopted.  Below is an early preview of some of the more significant recommendations to be considered by Primary Ethics for presentation to the board:

  • To use Local Government Area boundaries for improved management and help foster authentic school clusters with nearby schools
  • To simplify words used to describe the program and offer better website accessibility
  • To introduce a sustainability rating for all schools with or seeking to start a Primary Ethics Program, allowing better volunteer support
  • To establish a strategic SWSSP Working Group of people who know their communities and local interests to support and assist Development Coordinators to improve awareness and engagement with Primary Ethics
  • In areas with significantly lower volunteer availability, to engage Development Coordinators, a paid part-time casual locally based position for each of the seven local government areas across the SWSSP to support new schools
  • To amend the current ethics coordinator position by removing the requirement to interview potential teachers and instead to have a focus on building and retaining the teaching team
  • To consider options to support volunteers by funding the supply of teaching resources to deliver lessons, (such as printing colour images), meeting the cost of compliance requirements for new teachers, and funding of small hospitality/ community engagement activities to encourage a collegiate sense of local knowledge and expertise
  • To better utilise existing school systems for parent/ carer and community engagement including regular reporting to P&C Committees
  • To encourage more volunteers with specific recruitment strategies including
    • develop a differentiated recruitment strategy for parents/ carers, community and locally based workplaces (particularly larger employers)
    • the ability to see an ethics class in progress (subject to a Working with Children Check and school approval) before attending full training
    • developing a Recruitment Workshop to support potential volunteers as a group complete the preparatory steps as a group and offer an alternative entry into volunteering through aptitude testing
    • Offer locally based training in smaller groups (i.e. within the SWSSP Area)
  • Review the curriculum and delivery (including the trial of audio recordings of lessons) to
    • assist volunteer recruitment
    • maintain intellectual quality and ensure the relevance of selected stories and scenarios across all stages
  • Assist teachers to develop their own skills, trialling new approaches to encourage student participation and putting in place a locally-delivered annual professional development program

Progress has already been made on some recommendations. As part of a pilot program, Camden, Campbelltown and Wollondilly now have their own Development Coordinator and three Team Leaders are being interviewed.

Enrolment forms have been translated and are now accessible for families where more than 1 per cent of the population speaks that language.  That’s 23 foreign language translations across the SWSSP area and 30 languages in total are now publicly available on the Primary Ethics website.

Current schools have been assessed against the baseline and preferred sustainability rating, and seven (of 18) currently meet the baseline measure.  A further two schools will meet the baseline sustainability measure in Camden and Campbelltown once the Team Leaders are appointed.  The next stage of the SWSSP will be developed once the results of the pilot program are assessed.