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

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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.

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Primary Ethics News | April 2019

Welcome to our first Supporter News for 2019.
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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.


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.


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


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


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 


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


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.

New Role: eLearning developer (contract)

Develop two online courses to support volunteers in the delivery of ethics education to children.

About Primary Ethics

We are an independent not-for-profit organisation delivering an engaging, age-appropriate, interconnected philosophical ethics curriculum to children in Kindergarten to Year 6. We provide this free of charge via a network of trained and accredited volunteer teachers. Ethics classes have been enthusiastically adopted in over 500 schools in NSW and we take pride in our reputation as an effective and well-regarded education provider within the public school system.

Based in Potts Point, we currently have a staff of 9 (7.5FTE) managing approaching 2500 volunteer teachers, coordinators and regional managers across NSW.

Role Description

Design and develop two short online CPD courses for our volunteer ethics coordinators, using content provided by our subject matter experts.

Courses are to be developed using Articulate Storyline software, which will be available on a PC in our office in Potts Point. Continue reading

PrimaryEthics@Home for Parents and Carers | October 2018

Welcome to term 4, and to PrimaryEthics@Home! This October edition covers a selection of topics taught in ethics classes in terms 3 and 4.

Visit the parents and carers hub for more about the program.


Intentions and knowledge: what might a whale know?

This topic begins with a humorous Norwegian folk tale that builds on previous discussions about the difference between doing something ‘on purpose’, and doing something ‘by accident’. Intention and knowledge form the basis of our discussion about the story of Kio’s Grandfather, who, when at sea, was saved by a whale. Did the whale, Kio wonders, really know what he was doing? …read more

Making things up, being cross and hurting someone

One reason we use meerkats rather than (human) children to explore motives and behaviour is to avoid any awkward situation that can arise if children recognise the described behaviour as fitting that of one or more members of the class. Another reason is that meerkats have complex social structures and communication, and in thinking about ethical issues, it is important that children understand the ways in which they are similar to and different from others – not just to other humans, but to animals as well…read more


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Two new P/T roles to grow & sustain ethics education program

Primary Ethics is currently recruiting for two new part-time paid job opportunities within Primary Ethics to support our mission to support children to develop skills in ethical reasoning, critical thinking and respectful discussion. Applications for both roles close at 5:00pm on Friday, August 31, 2018.

Fundraising Manager (Part Time)

Quote Hallie, 8

Primary Ethics seeks to appoint a fundraising manager to drive growth in several areas to support operations and drive towards financial sustainability.

An experienced and visionary manager is needed for this key operational role, which is integral to our volunteer engagement and community awareness effort.

View the position description: Fundraising Manager

Community Development Manager (Part Time/Contract)

Primary Ethics is about to begin a project to develop approaches to increase awareness of our program in the greater south-west Sydney metropolitan zone. Overall Primary Ethics has a low presence in public primary schools in the region when compared to other areas of Greater Sydney. We seek a contract community development program manager to lead the project.

View the position description: Community Development Manager

Meet some Primary Ethics volunteers

Newcastle volunteers help shape the future of ethics education

How do we help children make wise decisions in their lives today, while equipping them to be responsible leaders for tomorrow? That was one of the questions posed at the Primary Ethics conference held at the University of Newcastle on Saturday, where 60 volunteers met to workshop strategies for making ethics education available to more students in local primary schools.

Another focus of the day was to support volunteers’ professional development in their roles as facilitators and organisers of ethics classes.

Volunteers came from right across Greater Newcastle, the Central Coast, Taree and as far afield as Coffs Harbour. Some are parents, grandparents or carers of primary school aged children. Others are community-minded volunteers who have a love of learning and wish to make a big impact with an hour or two they have available to volunteer each week. Continue reading

Boost for Classroom Support

We’re delighted that Coral Sturgess has accepted the role of Classroom Support manager.

Coral, who has been a Classroom Support Team (CST) member for over 2 years, is also one of our teacher trainers, and has a wealth of experience as a high school teacher and executive, a teacher trainer for the Department of Education, and a university lecturer. Coral also teaches Primary Ethics at Woodport PS.

CoralSturgess 2018

Coral will be leading our effort to build the CST to support our ever-growing number of volunteer teachers.

Coral takes the reins from Roger Reidy, who has led the team for 6 years in an entirely voluntary capacity. For some time now Roger has been concerned that he was not able to devote the time needed to run the Classroom Support Team the way it now needs to be run. Looking for a solution to ensure the team had the support required, Roger met with me to propose that this could become a part-time employee role.

Our Board of Directors supported the proposal and approved appointing a two-day per week employee to head up the CST.  This will be a great benefit to Primary Ethics and to members of the Classroom Support Team.  Roger will remain a member of the team and looks forward to playing a part as a team member going forward, and in supporting Coral where needed.

We particularly want to thank Roger for his efforts in establishing and leading the CST, and for his commitment to continue to support our work.

We’re confident all our volunteers will welcome Coral’s efforts to give our teachers the support they deserve.

Evan Hannah CEO

& the Primary Ethics team

Smiling child with missing tooth

Ethics classes at school: Guest post

by Sandra Henri, ethics teacher

For those of you not familiar with Ethics Classes at your local public school, let me rave about them for minute. Ethics is offered as one of the scripture options, yet don’t let this fool you into thinking its a religious vs non-religious thing.

Ethics is actually about teaching critical thinking skills, in a thought provoking, non-judgement way. Each week, moral stories are discussed, and students are encouraged to consider ‘why’ they hold this opinion, and to see the story from various angles. We have a strict rule that there are to be no put-downs, and differences of opinion will be respected. This gives students an opportunity to speak out against the crowd, and think more deeply about why they might choose to act in a particular way. It teaches children to make decisions based on their own inner moral code, rather than blindly following social norms. We rarely reach a conclusion in these classes, the aim is to cultivate the thinking process.

Some examples of topics include;

  • How do we display friendship?
  • Do we stereotype without realising it?
  • Would you share with your friends vs people you don’t know?
  • Should animals be kept in captivity?
  • What is inner and outer beauty, which do you value more?
  • How can we be a conscious consumer?

Read more about ethics classes here.

I believe critical thinking is an invaluable life skill, that I wish was part of the regular curriculum! It is super rewarding hearing their wisdom expressed with so much conviction (and cuteness), and it feels like you are helping grow little activists. If you have time, I can highly recommend becoming a volunteer ethics teacher, or at the very least, jump on this free resource and get your kids involved.

Ethics classes at school first appeared on Sandra’s blog Less Stuff More Meaning.