Frequently Asked Questions

On this page you’ll find answers to frequently asked questions about:

School staff may also like to refer to our information for schools page.

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 8 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.

Does there need to be a supervising teacher in every ethics class?

It’s not a requirement that every ethics class needs a supervising teacher. The Department of Education’s Special Education in Ethics Procedures summarises as follows:

Class teachers are not required to attend classes in SEE, but may, with the agreement of the teacher of SEE or at the request of the principal, remain in the classroom to assist with and monitor student behaviour. This is at the discretion of the principal and should be negotiated with the SEE provider.

Does Primary Ethics have resources for special needs children?

We do not currently have specific resources for children with special needs, however the school is encouraged to work with the ethics teacher to make sure any additional information or resources (such as a teacher’s aide or special equipment) is 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.

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 dependent and we are keen to talk to organisations or potential sponsors who could assist us in making this a reality. If you are from a remote or small school, do contact us to talk this over.

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

The maximum number of students permitted in a class is 22. Children may be put on a  waitlist until an additional ethics class can be formed (this can depend on getting more volunteers) and they will take part in alternative meaningful activities in the meantime.

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.

The Department of Education has developed a participation letter which lists all SEE and SRE options on the same form. This should be provided to all students upon enrolment, regardless of whether ethics teachers and rooms are yet to be allocated.

My child is currently attending special religious education. 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 there is a place available, your child will be placed straight into an ethics class, otherwise they will be placed in alternative meaningful activities. If your school does not yet provide ethics classes, let the school know you would like your child to attend and contact Primary Ethics.

Can you only change your child’s SRE/SEE option at the beginning of the year?

Actually, you may change your preference at any time by requesting the change in writing. See this excerpt from Special Education in Ethics Procedures:

A parent/caregiver may at any time notify the school in writing that they do not wish their child to attend SRE/SEE or to change their nomination. Students are to continue in the same arrangement as the previous year, unless a parent/caregiver has requested a change.

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.

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?

The principal is to inform the school community on enrolment as well as via the school website and school newsletter if ethics is available at the school. If there is a change to the program – such as a new class – this should also be communicated via the same channels.

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

Principals support SRE and SEE by making adequate facilities available, 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.

Are ethics classes available in high schools?

Yes, we are now running programs in a small number of secondary schools. Please email for more information.

What activities do children who are not engaged in SRE or SEE do in this time?

This is from the Department of Education’s Frequently Asked Questions:

Schools determine the Alternative Meaningful Activities and include their plan for Alternative Meaningful Activities in general information to parents/caregivers on their school website and in other forms of communication.

Would Primary Ethics classes still take place if SRE is removed from schools?

Currently, SEE can be offered at schools even if SRE is not. However, if at sometime in the future, the legislated requirement to hold regular SRE classes during school time changes, Primary Ethics would offer alternative delivery methods to NSW schools.

Volunteering 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 ask for a commitment to the end of the current year and preferably for 12 months 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 two schools. If you’re considering  teaching at more than two schools, contact us to discuss.

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
  • our discussion forums and private Facebook group often cover many issues you might face as a teacher.

Can ethics coordinators teach ethics classes?

An ethics coordinator can undergo both ethics teacher and ethics coordinator training if they’d like to volunteer in a combined role. Discuss with your hiring manager to see if it would suit your situation.

How do I get my National Crime Check done?

Primary Ethics has arranged a discounted checking service via National Crime Check. A link to the application form is provided as part of the volunteer induction process.

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.

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

For part time or casual teachers this is possible, however full time Department of Education teachers are not allowed by the terms of their employment to volunteer during their working hours.

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 phone or online.

Ethics Teacher training

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.

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.

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. We receive no government funding.

Does Primary Ethics charge schools for classes?

There is no cost to schools, families or children. The provision of classes costs Primary Ethics approximately $25 per annum per child. This is funded through the generosity of individual and organisational donors.

Can I donate to Primary Ethics?

We would be most grateful if you did! It costs Primary Ethics approximately $25 per child per annum to provide ethics classes. We would welcome your support.

Are there employed staff at Primary Ethics?

Yes, you can meet our staff here.

Can I help in another capacity?

There are numerous volunteer roles available at Primary Ethics – teaching ethics, coordinating a school or supporting and mentoring teachers. We also seek people with experience in database programming and management, PR and fundraising, event management and general office administration.