Frequently Asked Questions

Organising ethics classes

How many children do we need to form an ethics class?

Our classes are taught using a ‘community of inquiry’ with between 6 and 22 children. Experience has taught us that more than 22 children in this format is not viable in a 30 minute lesson as active participation is a critical component of the lesson. Classes with too many children invariably result in little or no participation from the bulk of the class.

The school said I can’t hold my class because there isn’t a supervising teacher available.

The Department of Education’s Special Education in Ethics Implementation Procedure summarises as follows:

Class teachers are not required to attend classes in special education in ethics, but may, with the agreement of the teacher of special education in ethics, assist with behaviour management or remain in the classroom.

Does Primary Ethics have resources for special needs children?

We do not currently have specific resources for children with special needs however they are not excluded from our classes. The school will work with the ethics teacher to make sure any additional information or resources (such as a teacher’s aide or special equipment) are made available for the class.

Can we group different years together in one class?

Our curriculum is written and approved for children in the same learning stages as they are taught the standard curriculum. Early stage one is kindergarten only; stage one is years 1 and 2; stage two 2 is years 3 and 4, and stage three is years 5 and 6.Classes may be composed of children from the same stage but in different years – for example a stage 3 class may include both year 5 and 6 students. Unfortunately if the minimum class size cannot be met within a single stage, the class cannot be formed.

Are ethics classes available for remote students or students in small schools?

Primary Ethics is keen to offer online ethics classes for remote students or for students in smaller schools where numbers are too low to form a class across an educational stage. This possibility will be funding dependant and we are keen to talk to organisations or potential sponsors who could assist us in making this a reality.

What happens when there are too many children for the classes available?

The maximum number of students permitted in a class is 22. Where a new class cannot be created to accommodate the children on a waiting list – either because they are in different stages or there is no classroom to hold the class in – the children on the wait will be supervised by school staff to do other meaningful activities or may be enrolled in a scripture group.Where a new class is formed and children on a wait list must be selected, it is on a first in first served basis. Note that the exception is that the children of volunteers may be prioritised for a place.

Who takes responsibility for making sure the children in the ethics classes have permission to be there?

This is the responsibility of the Principal or a member of the school staff delegated to coordinate SRE and SEE classes. Our Ethics Coordinators liaise directly with this staff member regarding permission notes and enrolment information.

My child is currently attending scripture. How do I arrange for them to attend ethics classes instead?

If ethics classes are already available at your school, you will need to let the school know in writing that you would like to opt your child out of their current enrolment in SRE and that you would like them to attend ethics classes. If a waiting list exists, children already opted out of scripture and our volunteers’ children will be prioritised.If your school does not yet provide ethics classes, let the school know you would like your child to attend and contact Primary Ethics.

The school said children can’t change SRE options now.

Parents have a legislated right to choose where their children spend the period per week allocated to special religious or ethics education. Sections 32, 33 and 33a of the Education Act, 1990 govern the provision of special religious and special ethics classes. The rights and responsibilities of parents/caregivers to change their child’s SRE option is clearly documented in the Department of Education’s Religious Education Implementation Procedure.

Throughout the child’s schooling, parents/caregivers have the right to enrol their child in, or object to any form of SRE at any time, without being required to state any reason. Notification of any changes to enrolment in SRE or changes in persuasion should be given to the school in writing.

You may change your preference at any time by requesting the change in writing.

Can I have a copy of the curriculum?

Our curriculum framework is available on our website, including the objectives of each topic. The lesson materials used within each topic are only available to the NSW Department of Education for review and for use by our volunteers. To assist parents in understanding and engaging with our curriculum we have developed primaryethics@home – a parent targeted newsletter which provides curriculum outlines, changes and updates as well as suggestions for extending the class topics with discussion at home.

Teaching for Primary Ethics

Can I teach ethics on a casual basis as I can’t commit to 12 months?

To ensure continuity for children and schools we do require a 12 month commitment from new volunteers. While Primary Ethics does have volunteers who teach ethics on a casual basis, they are ethics teachers who have already taught for over a year.

Can I teach at more than one school?

Yes, we have quite a few teachers who elect to teach at more than one school. We encourage our teachers to gain experience and confidence by teaching for at least two terms with a single school before expanding to others.

What support do you offer new teachers? I’ve never taught before.

We are here to help! Many of our teachers are new to managing a class full of children and we understand that it can be a bit of a culture shock. We offer plenty of support options:

  • training in behaviour management and child protection
  • access to our classroom support team
  • telephone support with our volunteering managers
  • assistance from your school
  • our discussion forums often cover many issues you might face as a teacher

Can ethics coordinators teach ethics classes?

Our classes may only be taught by an authorised ethics teacher. The training program for our coordinators is quite different from that of our teachers and the two roles are not interchangeable. If you would like to move from being a coordinator to being a teacher or you would to teach as well as coordinate, you will need to undergo the normal recruitment process for teachers. Contact your Regional Manager to apply – you do not need to submit a new online application as if successful, your new role will be added to or will replace your existing volunteer record.

How do I get my National Crime Check done?

This may be ordered through any CrimTrac authorised provider. Primary Ethics has arranged a discounted checking service via National Crime Check.

Can I use a National Crime Check certificate that I already have?

If you are able to provide a copy of the original certificate document, it is less than 12 months old and it has a check type of ‘Healthcare and Vulnerable Persons’, we are happy to accept it. Please note that these are the only criteria under which we will accept a pre-existing certificate.

My National Crime check includes a disclosable outcome. What happens next?

You are not under any obligation to share your national crime check results with Primary Ethics. The provider does not provide your certificate to Primary Ethics but to you personally. Should you choose not to disclose your certificate to us, your employment with us as a volunteer will progress no further.

Primary Ethics is obligated to make an annual statement to the Department of Education warranting that our volunteers do not have a conviction for a violent crime, a crime against a child, sexual assault or for the provision of prohibited drugs. For this reason, we must sight any disclosable outcomes and they must be formally approved by the board.

Should you wish to have the certificate approved and to continue your application, you do not need to provide the certificate to your Ethics Coordinator or to your Regional Manager. You may submit the certificate directly to Primary Ethics.

Please direct the certificate by email to administration@primaryethics.com.au. This email is secure and is received only by our General Manager. You should include a statement about the event disclosed, providing context and an assurance that the matter will not impact your ability to volunteer.

The certificate will be stored on a secure area of our server accessible only by the General Manager and the Chief Executive Office of Primary Ethics.

The board of Primary Ethics assesses each application with a disclosable outcome on a case-by-case basis, their decision is binding and you will be advised of the result within 7 working days.

Does Primary Ethics reimburse volunteers for expenses?

Unfortunately, as a not-for-profit organisation, we have an extremely tight budget. We are unable to provide printing, copying or travel reimbursements. We deeply appreciate the capacity of our volunteers to undertake this aspect of the role at their own expense.

Can Department of Education Teachers become ethics teachers or ethics coordinators?

This is possible however full time Department of Education teachers are prohibited by the terms of their employment from volunteering during their working hours.

Can I employ or be employed by my spouse/sibling/boss/employee?

To avoid any conflict of interest and to ensure we have a rigorous recruitment process, the recruitment of related or closely associated persons is subject to specific conditions. These are outlined in our Related or Associated Persons Recruitment Policy.

Do I need to attend an interview?

All roles with Primary Ethics require an interview as part of the recruitment process. It is preferable to meet with someone face-to-face where feasible however we appreciate that this is not always possible. We are happy for your interview to take place by teleconference or Skype.

Ethics Teacher Training

What does training involve?

There are three phases of training for volunteer ethics teachers:

Phase 1: online learning introduces required knowledge components to prepare for the training workshop
Phase 2: an intensive, 2 day(9am-5pm) face to face training workshop which includes many practice opportunities
Phase 3: a one on one classroom visit to provide support and coaching

We also provide telephone assistance and ongoing access to classroom support.

The online and face to face components of training cover:

Child protection
Primary Ethics policies and requirements
Department of Education policies and requirements
Overview of the philosophical framework for the curriculum
Understanding the community of inquiry approach to learning and the role of the teacher as facilitator
How to use the lesson materials
Facilitation skills, including non-verbal communication, procedural questioning, neutral responses, managing dominant and timid group members, managing small groups and running activities
Behaviour management strategies and practice

Is training available outside of Sydney?

Regular training is held in various locations around Sydney. We also hold training in regional centres on demand once we have sufficient numbers.We make every effort to coordinate teachers in remote or rural areas so that we can run our sessions as conveniently as possible. Unfortunately we can’t always get sufficient numbers to run a session in a particular region. We are currently reviewing alternative training options for volunteers in remote areas or where there lower numbers.

If we can only offer Sydney training to a remotely located teacher, we offer billeting to help with travel costs. When you book your training, please ask about this option.

Does Primary Ethics charge for training?

Training is provided free of charge to approved volunteers.

Do I need to book into training or can I just show up?

Bookings are essential. There are a number of online and compliance pre-requisites for the workshop. All of our training is copyright protected and may only be delivered to inductee teachers who have undergone our recruitment process. The training is restricted to enrolled persons only.

Schools & the Department of Education

The school said we can’t have classes until next year (or some other time in the future).

Once an Ethics Teacher has been recruited for a school, there needs to be a compelling reason for the school to reject a class. When the school is informed that a teacher or teachers are trained and ready to begin, they have an obligation to let parents know that classes are available.

The school says that my child must spend a year (or other amount of time) in supervised care/meaningful activities before he/she can start ethics classes.

If a place in a suitable class is available, your child does not have to spend any time in supervised care but instead can start ethics immediately. There is no requirement for any child to spend interim time in supervised care before starting ethics.

Can my school principal prevent ethics classes from happening at my school?

No, principals must allow time for Special Religious Education (SRE) and Special Education in Ethics (SEE) where authorised representatives of approved providers are available. Section 33A of the Education Act 1990 states ‘Special education in ethics is allowed as a secular alternative to special religious education at government schools.’The Education Act 1990 has been amended to allow special education in ethics as an option for children whose parents have withdrawn them from special religious education.

What’s the protocol for telling the school community that ethics is available?

Where an approved provider of special education in ethics advises the school that it is able to offer classes in that school during the time set aside for special religious education, the principal is to inform the school community on enrolment as well as via the school website and school newsletter. Where special education in ethics is being introduced to a school community or to a new class for the first time, parents/caregivers of students who are not attending special religious education classes are to be provided with a letter.
Parents/caregivers are advised how special education in ethics classes are organised, including details of the approved provider that will be providing special education in ethics for particular classes or year groups.Parents/caregivers are advised of any changed organisation, the availability of any new special education in ethics classes, and the options for special religious education classes.
This information is to be provided to parents/caregivers through enrolment information, the school website and the school newsletter.

I’ve been told there’s no classroom space for ethics classes. What can I do?

Principals support Special Religious Education (SRE) and Special Education in Ethics (SEE) by making adequate facilities available for the provision of SRE/SEE, including timetable provisions and learning spaces. Consultation and regular communication will assist in equitably allocating learning spaces for the delivery of SRE/SEE.Ensure that all possibilities have been explored – library, school hall, music rooms, before-and-after-school care buildings – a class may even be held outside if weather permits. At this time, classroom allocations are based on common sense and cooperation and we work with the schools to find a solution on a case by case basis.

Primary Ethics – the Organisation

Who is Primary Ethics?

We are a registered charity and the sole authorised provider of special education in ethics to the NSW Department of Education.

What is the corporate structure of Primary Ethics?

Primary Ethics Limited is a public company limited by guarantee. This is one of the most common ways of registering charitable and not-for-profit organisations.

Who funds Primary Ethics?

Primary Ethics is funded by donations from individuals and foundations. Seed funding was provided by the Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation. In November 2013, Primary Ethics established the Primary Ethics Future Trust with the specific remit to manage funds received for the benefit and continuance of Primary Ethics Ltd. The trust was absorbed back into the primary organisation in June 2016 as an investment program with the same remit as the original trust – the secure future of Primary Ethics.

Does Primary Ethics charge schools for classes?

There is no cost to schools, families or children. The provision of classes costs Primary Ethics approximately $22 per annum per child. This is funded through the generosity of individual and organisational donors. We would welcome your support.

Can I donate to Primary Ethics?

We would be most grateful if you did! It costs Primary Ethics approximately $22 per child per annum to provide ethics classes. We would welcome your support.

Are there any paid jobs at Primary Ethics?

There are currently six paid positions in the organisation. Any future paid positions will be advertised on this website as well as through regular recruitment channels. Stay informed by subscribing to our newsletter.

Can I help in another capacity?

There are numerous volunteer roles available at Primary Ethics – teaching ethics, coordinating a school or managing a district. We also seek people with experience in recruitment, database programming and management, PR and communications, fundraising, event management, and general office administration are encouraged to register their details in our skilled volunteer database.

Systems and technology

I can’t remember my learning management system login

The link for the learning management system can be found at the bottom of any page of our website. The login page has a password reset link. Please contact helpdesk@primaryethics.com.au if you have forgotten your username.

I can’t remember my recruitment database (VMS) login

Please email helpdesk@primaryethics.com.au and request a lookup. The login URL can be found here: http://vms.primaryethics.com.au/login.php