Newsletter February 2021

Primary Ethics News | February 2021

Farewell Maria | High School Pilot | EVIE | Curriculum update | COVID-19 guidelines | Join the Classroom Support team | Training 

Thank you for your efforts in getting ethics classes up and running at your schools this year, and welcome to those volunteers who are joining us for the first time. Our schools could not have ethics classes without you!

Farewell to our volunteering manager Maria McCarthy

After 10 years, our Volunteering Manager Maria McCarthy has decided it’s time to leave Primary Ethics. We will miss her energy and passion – and of course her deep knowledge of our people and history. We wish Maria well in her new venture and our board of directors and staff thank her for everything she has done for Primary Ethics.

High School Pilot

On Tuesday 16 February, Primary Ethics delivered the very first secondary school ethics lessons as part of the pilot at Fort Street High School. Two classes of Year 7 students and their respective ethics teachers considered the question “Should pets, pests and farm animals be treated differently from each other and why do you think that?”  in a discussion focusing on ethical questions and how they are different from other types of questions. In the lead-up to these first classes, a number of experienced volunteer ethics teachers and an ethics coordinator completed the additional day of training, as well as a site induction. Over the coming weeks, participating volunteers will share their experiences with the High School Pilot team and provide valuable feedback that will pave the way for other volunteers in high schools.

In Term 2, two more schools will commence ethics lessons for Year 7 students. If you are available on a Wednesday afternoon at 2.30pm and would like to be involved in the pilot at James Ruse Agricultural High School, or are available on a Friday morning at 9am and would like to participate in the pilot at Katoomba High School, please send an email to Fiona Branscombe.

EVIE – Classes, lessons and post-class reporting

We acknowledge that this time of transition to EVIE has been frustrating for some of you at times, while satisfying for others. We are working on doing things better. Thank you for your patience and for sharing your experiences and ideas to help us improve our volunteer portal.

One of the new features in EVIE is that all volunteer teachers will receive an email after their lesson each week with a link to complete a post-class report. We’d really appreciate it if you could do this. It means that we are finally able to see the health of our program across the state. This will aid enormously with ensuring resources are allocated to areas that need them and helps us to secure funding by showing how the program is developing.

It’s very straightforward and will be quick to complete. There are just 3 simple questions for you to answer:

  1. Did you teach the lesson? Y/N
  2. How did it go? – Choice of 4 ‘smiley’ faces
  3. How many students attended? – enter the approximate number if you don’t know exactly

If you receive a reminder and you did not teach a class, just answer “no” to the first question. When setting up classes, ethics coordinators can mark any relevant dates as “No lesson” to stop those reminders.

Thanks to all our wonderful teachers who have already submitted their post-class reports. It’s exciting for us to see these numbers grow as more of you submit your reports. (We know that the total number of students will be around 45,000 as that was our last audited figure prior to COVID-19.)

Remember, ethics teachers and coordinators can find assistance on how to use EVIE in our How-to guides (fact sheets and videos) by going to the ‘Help and Support’ tab and clicking on the green button “How-to Guides and Videos” at the bottom of the screen.

Curriculum update

We have made substantial updates to the Early Stage 1 (Kindergarten) lesson materials over the holiday break in response to feedback and suggestions from teachers. These updates include more physical activities to break up the “sitting still” time, less repetition of stories and restructuring some topics to create a more logical flow. There are several new scenarios to clarify the different aspects being explored and a couple of topics have had name changes. We’ve also made headway in reducing printing costs by replacing some of the photos with line-drawings, and re-using existing characters in later topics so that teachers have fewer images to print.

We recommend that teachers holding old materials now dispose of them, as combining some new with some old materials will become confusing for students. There is still work to do on these topics, but in the meantime we’d love to hear your feedback on the newer versions. If you’d like to, you’ll be able to post your feedback in EVIE as part of your post-class reporting when you indicate you have completed a topic.

COVID-19 guidelines

For our new teachers and volunteers returning from “rain check” please be aware that there are COVID-19 guidelines for volunteers in schools that the Department of Education introduced in Term 3 of last year. Our COVID-19 FAQ page has all the latest information and we suggest you take a look.

The main points for you to be aware of are:

  • Volunteers will be required to sign an External Visitors Form or scan a QR code to sign in each time they visit the school to confirm that they are symptom-free.
  • If you have cold/flu symptoms you must not visit a school, inform the school of your absence as you normally would, and get tested for COVID-19.

Join the Classroom Support Team (CST)

We aim to increase our team membership from 12 to 20 members to meet the needs of our growing community of ethics teachers. Are you, or do you know, someone who is:

  • looking for an opportunity to support our volunteer ethics teachers
  • wanting to use/develop your coaching and feedback skills
  • looking to support Primary Ethics in a volunteering role which offers flexibility and variety?

Then being a Primary Ethics CST member could be the opportunity you have been searching for! For more information have a look at our CST page  or email Coral Sturgess our CST manager.


We have New Teacher Training places available for a number of online courses and some face-to-face workshops in Sydney. View all upcoming training on our training dates page.

All teachers are encouraged to complete our Teaching Skills Refresher course. Here’s what one of our teachers had to say:

‘I have been teaching ethics for many years, so I didn’t think I’d need to do it, but I’m glad I did. It confirmed that I was on the right track, but the tips and videos gave me more ideas. It was all very useful, but I particularly liked the tips on how to develop a respectful learning relationship with the students without being authoritarian.’

To access the course, click on the ‘My Training’ tile in EVIE, find the course, and select ‘click to launch’.

Thanks so much for everything you bring to Primary Ethics.

The Primary Ethics team
T (02) 8068 7752