Newsletter February 2020

Dear Primary Ethics supporters,

This first edition of our quarterly supporter news covers developments in the Primary Ethics program along with free tickets and discounts to the Festival of Dangerous Ideas.

It’s been a rocky start to the year, with a number of our volunteers, families and schools directly affected by fires, floods and other challenges. Ulladulla ethics coordinator Bronwyn Adcock offers her harrowing account of the bushfires here.

Understandably there will be some delay in commencing ethics classes in affected schools – we’re here to help when the time is right.

The majority of ethics classes had their first ethics class of the year this week (with some starting a week or two either side) and we wish them the very best! We’re pleased to be welcoming a number of other school communities to the program in term 1 or term 2 this year.

Schools with new ethics programs for 2020

Temora Public School, in the Riverina/South West slopes region, is one of the first new ethics programs for 2020! Students participated in their first ethics class last Friday.


Liz La Trobe and Megan Hawksworth, ethics teachers at Temora Public School

Around 20 other school communities are in the process of launching the free program to students in early 2020. These schools are spread across the state and include:

  • Buxton (McCarthur)
  • Caringbah North (Sutherland)
  • Cowan (Hawkesbury River)
  • Martins Gully (Armidale)
  • Middleton Grange (Liverpool)
  • Mt Annan (Campbelltown)
  • Rockdale (St George)
  • St Georges Basin (Shoalhaven)
  • Smalls Road (Ryde)
  • Surveyors Creek (Penrith)
  • Sylvania Heights (Sutherland)
  • Tamworth (North West)

We’ll announce the schools on our Facebook and Twitter accounts as they begin, and please spread the word if you know families and/or potential volunteers who may wish to be involved locally.

Writing the ethics curriculum for early high school

We’re thrilled to announce that the Primary Ethics curriculum for students in years 7 and 8 is currently being co-developed by Kelby Mason and Coral Sturgess.

Kelby has a university medal in philosophy from the University of Sydney, and four-fifths of a PhD from Rutgers University, currently ranked in the top three philosophy programs in the world. He has been a Charlotte Newcombe Fellow and a Fellow at the Center for Cultural Analysis, and a regular commentator on everyday ethics with Radio Australia.

Kelby Mason

“What is philosophical ethics?” Kelby explains at the 2017 Primary Ethics conference

Following over thirty years experience with the NSW Department of Education as a teacher, school executive and regional senior education consultant, Coral has since 2010 worked continuously as a lecturer and tutor in University of Newcastle’s School of Education, in a wide range of undergraduate courses in curriculum, assessment and pedagogy as well as sociology for first-year education students.

Since 2011, Kelby has been a stage 3 ethics teacher, run roughly half of our teacher training sessions and been closely involved in the pre- and post-teaching review of the primary curriculum lesson materials.

“Extending the trend of stage 3 lessons, they’ll be thinking about even more general, society-wide issues, and even more explicitly about how good ethical discussions work,” said Kelby.

“Stage 4 students will continue to keep thinking about issues that directly affect them, like the futures they might face, what sort of life to lead, and what sort of person to be.”

Coral Sturgess teaching

Coral Sturgess has a range and depth of experience in education

Coral has been a stage 3 ethics teacher at her local primary school for four years and provides classroom support to the ethics teachers on the Central Coast. She has trained over one hundred ethics teachers and, since July 2019, has been employed by Primary Ethics as the Classroom Support Team manager, leading a team of 20 volunteers.

We acknowledge the pivotal role Dr Sue Knight has played in the development of our K – 6 curriculum, and wish her well as she eases into retirement. We thank Sue for her legacy, which continues to build the critical thinking and ethical reasoning capacity of students in primary schools around the state.

An initial curriculum for years 7 and 8 will be available for piloting in high schools from term 3, 2020. Conversations are underway to determine how the stage 4 curriculum may be used in parallel streams in the community such as in Juvenile Justice, independent schools or in partnership with other educational programs.

Contact us if you’d like to be involved.

Free tix & discounts: Festival of Dangerous Ideas

68_FODI20_Primary_Ethics_EDM_800x600_v1Festival of Dangerous Ideas returns to Sydney on 3-5 April at Sydney Town Hall. The theme this year is Dangerous Realities and one of the keynote sessions will be Manufacturing Inequality with Finnish educator and author Pasi Sahlberg.

20 free tickets to this session are available for current and former Primary Ethics volunteers.

Email with

  • your name
  • contact number
  • the school or region in which you currently (or previously) volunteer

Entries close Monday 24 February.

Special offer for Primary Ethics supporters (not limited to volunteers):

15% discount on tickets for this session. Use PE2020 at checkout. Limited time only.

The latest PISA measures of international education results are shocking for Australia – our worst ever – and it’s clear that something is going wrong. The first Gonski Review of Funding for Schooling tried to ensure that differences in educational outcomes should not be because of ‘differences in wealth, income, power, or possessions’. We like to think of ourselves as an egalitarian country and home of the ‘fair go’, yet one in six Australian children live in poverty and UNICEF rates us one of the most unfair nations when it comes to childhood education. International studies show that countries with better performing school systems tend to also have fairer school systems. So, are attempts at quick fixes in schools not only failing to solve the problems, but actually manufacturing inequality in our education system?

Get yout tickets from the Festival of Dangerous Ideas website now.

New teacher training: Coming to a town near you

Mt Annan in action

Participants at new teacher training, Mt Annan, with trainer Jarrah Aubourg

We’ve held seven new teacher training sessions this year, with another 14 planned this term. These include some new venues such as Mt Annan, where a training session was held last week to cater for volunteers from Campbelltown, Camden, Wollondilly and surrounds. Other upcoming sessions include Port Macquarie, Orange, Tamworth, Girraween and Newcastle. Ethics Coordinator workshops, which are 3 1/2 hour ‘master classes’ for ethics coordinators, are also underway.

See the current list of training dates here.

If you would like to volunteer, or know of others who might enjoy being a part of Primary Ethics, visit

Thanks for your support and looking forward to a great year,

The Primary Ethics team.

If you are looking to make a meaningful financial contribution to an organisation, we are grateful for any one-off or recurring financial contribution, as donations remain our sole source of income: