Ethics classes coming to Batemans Bay

Three volunteers for Batemans Bay Public School were among 12 who attended ethics teacher training held at Narooma over the weekend.

It was great to meet other like-minded and enthusiastic people,” said Heidi Thomson, who has put up her hand to coordinate the program at her children’s school next year.

Primary Ethics is a not-for-profit organisation that works with the Department of Education to offer discussion-based classes to those students who have opted out of weekly religious education classes. There are currently 500 primary schools in NSW that offer the program with the help of trained volunteers like Ms Thomson.

“The program gives students skills and practice in thinking about issues for themselves and engaging in thoughtful conversations on a huge range of topics,” Ms Thomson added.

“The teaching techniques will be useful not just in ethics classes but inmy work and family too,” she added.

Christine May from South Durras also attended the training and plans to facilitate an ethics class at Batemans Bay Public School next year.

“When I was involved with the NSW Federation P&C Associations 15 years ago we initiated discussions with NSW Department Education about the introduction of ethics classes and it’s great to now be involved on a practical level in teaching.” Ms May said.

“Ethics classes are a chance for children to learn to talk and listen to each other respectfully, even when they have quite different views. And they can learn to work together to make logical or well-reasoned decisions rather than just go along with something because of peer pressure,” she said.

Other attendees at the training came from Gerringong, Bermagui, Narooma and Pambula.

For more information about the program or becoming a volunteer visit primaryethics.com.au or email farsouthcoast-region@primaryethics.com.au

Narooma Training_16_17 November_2019

Photo (clockwise from left):
Diana Zickefoose (Surfside), Justina Legoe (Bermagui), Heidi Thomson (Long Beach), Robyn Koller (Gerringong) and Christine May (South Durras) at ethics teacher training on the weekend.

Conference 2019: Reflecting on past challenges, planning for the future

As the world grapples with major economic, political and environmental change, our hope for the future lay in the ability of our emerging leaders to make well-reasoned decisions on issues with far-reaching consequences. This was the message Dr Simon Longstaff of the Ethics Centre had for the 160 attendees at Primary Ethics State Conference held on Saturday October 26.

On a personal level, we all benefit from the ability to think critically and to reason. Education in ethics is crucial in helping us, regardless of our age or stage in life, be better equipped to tackle the various challenges we face.

Not-for-profit group Primary Ethics’ second state conference was generously hosted by Western Sydney University in Parramatta. Ethics volunteers from around the state converged to participate in a day of ideas about the work they are engaged in and the path that lay ahead.

Keynote speaker Verity Firth, head of UTS Centre for Social Justice and Inclusion and former Minister for Education, revisited the challenges leading up to achieving legislative change in 2010 that permitted ethics classes to be delivered in NSW public schools alongside special religious education classes. Almost 10 years later, Primary Ethics represents the largest ethics education movement in Australia.

So where to now? Renee Bilston from Farmhouse Montessori spoke about the benefits of ethics classes to her school under the recent partnership with Primary Ethics. Primary Ethics’ Elizabeth Allen spoke of the workplace volunteering project that has seen 14 UNSW staff trained and supported to deliver ethics classes in schools near the university’s Randwick campus, not simply to engage and contribute to local community, but as a mechanism for staff wellbeing and meaning.

Meaning was a theme developed by Mitra Gusheh, Executive Manager, Social Impact at UTS in her presentation of the study by Dr Gianni Zappalà on the outcomes of volunteering in the lives of Primary Ethics volunteers.

Curriculum author Dr Sue Knight and philosopher Kelby Mason discussed the philosophical framework behind the Primary Ethics curriculum, with Classroom Support Manager Coral Sturgess and Trainer Sophie Patterson exploring implementation of the program in the classroom and its underpinning of 21st century skills.

The value of applied ethics was reflected upon in a lunchtime screening of The Final Quarter and a talk by 13-year-old Belle, who explained how ethics classes had helped her to have conversations with people with differing views on complex topics such as climate change.

In 2019, 45,000 children participated in weekly ethics classes in 500 schools across the state thanks to the contributions by donors and a team of 2800 trained volunteers.
For more information on the program and volunteering opportunities visit primaryethics.com.au

Verity Firth conference presentation

Keynote speaker Verity Firth

Building knowledge and capacity for action on climate change

Worldwide, children are making an impact as they enter into conversations and take action on climate change.

Schools, too, are playing an important role in providing access to facts and building knowledge about our environment and the impact of human behaviour.

In NSW, students start learning about the environment in kindergarten, with specific content included in the k-10 geography and the k-6 science and technology syllabuses. There are also opportunities to learn about sustainability in all NSW syllabuses in line with the requirements of the Australian Curriculum.

We must also to look to our First Peoples for guidance and knowledge regarding responsible stewardship of our earth. Cultural knowledge is a vastly under-appreciated resource, and we could all learn much more from generations of experience of sustainable land management if we listen. In doing so, we also have an opportunity to create a more just and sustainable world.

A vital and unifying aspect of achieving change is the capacity to talk, plan and take action alongside others who have differing points of view or experience from your own. Talking together allows us to challenge long-held beliefs that may be rooted in inaccuracy, to bring fresh ideas into the conversation, and to consider how choices we make, whether personally or at a policy level, impacts others and our environment.

“How to talk about climate change (without losing friends)” was a talk given last month by year 7 student Belle at her local climate action meeting.

In her talk, Belle emphasises the importance of engaging in conversation, and particularly in respectful disagreement, with others.

Continue reading

2019 Volunteer of the Year Awards

The Centre for Volunteering Awards were established 12 years ago to recognise the incredible amount of volunteering that occurs across NSW and the importance of volunteering to our communities. This year a massive 123 000 people were nominated, with awards presented at ceremonies across the state.

Local representatives of government , including Mayors and Members of Parliament attend the ceremonies to acknowledge the valuable contributions of volunteers. Without volunteers and the organisations they work with, a lot of services simply wouldn’t be available.

Volunteering also fosters caring, connected local communities. The awards receive a lot of attention and also raise the profile of the organisations involved.

Its really important that we recognize the great work of our Primary Ethics volunteers, 450 of whom were nominated this year from across our regions.

The awards are a wonderful way for volunteers to meet up and for us to attend and acknowledge the contribution they make to their schools on behalf of Primary Ethics. They also provide an opportunity for volunteeers to see what other great work is being done in their local area and to feel a part of a larger fraternity of volunteers and organisations.

Volunteers don’t do their work for a reward or public recognition, but its important that we thank them and they feel appreciated. The ceremonies provide a great opportunity for us to all the volunteers doing amazing work in the community. Continue reading

Complaint demonstrates overall success of ethics program

It takes a village to raise a child – and many of those who enrich our children’s lives do so as volunteers.

P&C committees, canteen, reading groups, garden club, uniform shop, sport coaches, Scouts, Guides, playgroups – volunteers make a huge contribution to children’s lives and are being celebrated in Volunteer of the Year Award ceremonies held this month around the state.

“Yes we are volunteers, but we take this role very seriously,” said Suzan Fayle, who has facilitated ethics classes for the past six years at Orange Grove Public School.

Ms Fayle is one of 2800 Primary Ethics volunteers who help 45,000 students each week to think for themselves and develop the skills to disagree respectfully with others. Lessons based on philosophical ethics give children skills in critical thinking and ethical reasoning.

The children who complained about the teacher at Dulwich Hill Public School (“Ethics teacher stood down for saying Stolen Generations due to bad parents”, Sydney Morning Herald, September 9) used just those skills, and should be commended. Continue reading

The Diversity Project

Primary Ethics has embarked on a project to ensure that our curriculum is inclusive of the diversity in our target audience – NSW school students.

In order to make sound, best-practice adjustments, we are undertaking a project with the following phases:

Phase 1 Research best-practice and scope the diversity review.
This phase is now complete.

Phase 2 Review lesson materials to gain a full understanding of current state of curriculum.
This phase is now underway and we’re asking for assistance.

Phase 3 Determine appropriate changes and update lesson materials.
This will commence when Phase 2 has been completed.

We want to incorporate best-practice inclusion and representation into our lessons and we plan to achieve this by modifying existing lessons where required, altering the characters and stories to provide positive diverse representation both within each topic and across the full curriculum.

A review of academic literature as part of Phase 1 shows that it is appropriate to consider Primary Ethics curriculum as children’s literature in the context of child development. It also shows the curriculum to be a legitimate and appropriate mechanism through which to represent diversity to primary school-aged children. Continue reading

Why pilot ethics classes for year 7 students?

High schoolPrimary Ethics is the single approved provider of special education in ethics (SEE) to NSW Department of Education public schools.

While our primary focus is primary schools, we’ve fielded many requests over the years from high school principals, parents and students themselves, who have sought a secular alternative to Special Religious Education that helps young people to make sense of the world. Requests also came from former minister and shadow In those early years, it was not possible for us to act on those requests.

2020 will mark the 10th anniversary of Primary Ethics’ establishment, and we’re pleased that next year we will be able to offer high school communities the opportunity to participate in a pilot ethics program for year 7 students.

An ethics program for year 7 students will:

  • support students to develop skills in critical thinking, respectful discussion and ethical reasoning – skills which are transferable to the key learning areas of the secondary curriculum
  • support students in making the transition from primary to secondary school,
  • assist with development of interpersonal and decision-making skills as well as the consideration of ethical dilemmas that can loom large in the adolescence years
  • give choice to families by providing a high quality and valued secular alternative to SRE
  • promote lifelong interest and learning through providing a foundation in philosophical ethics that may assist students to undertake philosophy as a secondary elective or as part of a tertiary course of study

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Primary Ethics News | April 2019

Welcome to our first Supporter News for 2019.
Cover image

In this quarterly update we launch the 2018 Annual Report, the Diversity Project, and complete our research into South West Sydney Schools. Our 2019 Conference Date has also been locked in for Saturday 26 October – save the date!

We have translated information on ethics classes into 33 languages – click through to read or share.

Plus, Primary Ethics is on the move!

Read our April News here.

Primary Ethics News | December 2018

Welcome to our December Supporter News. View the full edition here.

HIGHLIGHTS

Dear Supporter,

Welcome to the final Quarterly Supporters’ Newsletter for 2018.  It’s been a big few months and we’ve some significant news to share.

CHANGE IN ENROLMENT PROCESS IS HERE

We are thrilled to say that at the end of November, the Minister for Education, Rob Stokes, signed off on a new enrolment process that removes the added barriers that parents of children seeking ethics classes have been forced for years to endure.

The steps to enrol a child into ethics have effectively been reduced from three into one.  Read more

WELCOME TO OUR FOUR NEW DIRECTORS

4 new directors 2018

The Primary Ethics Board is delighted to announce the appointment of four new directors who will formally join us at our last meeting of the year next week. Please join us in welcoming:

  • Christina Erskine (Chris): General Manager, Marketing, Sydney Opera House
  • Justine Felton: Director of Social Impact, PwC
  • Amanda Morgan: General Manager Audit, NAB & Primary Ethics teacher
  • Roger Reidy: Principal of an HR consultancy and former volunteer head of the Primary Ethics Classroom Support Team.

Read more

REGIONAL CONFERENCES: REFLECTION, CONNECTION AND LEARNING

Conferences were held in Newcastle in July and Wollongong in September and provided excellent opportunities to share a range of ideas from creating quality learning environments to program development both locally and across the organisation Read more 

SOUTH WEST SYDNEY RESEARCH PROJECT

Primary Ethics South West schools project

Primary Ethics is already an option at 13 schools in south west Sydney.  In the first research project of its kind for us, currently under way, we will explore ways to assist planning for the future growth of Primary Ethics in more of the 116 schools in this diverse and rapidly growing region. Read more

PLUS

Thank you for a great year of supporting ethics education for tomorrow’s decision makers,

The Primary Ethics team.

Primary Ethics receives no government funding and relies on donors to deliver ethics education to children in NSW schools, if you are able to make a donation we would be very grateful. Thank you.