Newsletter – April 2016

Welcome to our newsletter for April 2016!

It’s been a fantastic start to 2016 for Primary Ethics…

This month we’re highlighting the role of Regional Managers and introducing you to Alison Jones, Regional Manager for Parramatta. We’ve upgraded our learning management systems and on the 18th April we will be welcoming aboard our new CEO, Leonie Johnson.

A Message from the Chair

Bruce Hogan - Chair

With autumn school holidays here, 2016 is well and truly marching along. This year the new enrolment form created quite a challenge in getting ethics classes up and running. The new form excludes ethics as an option. Allocating children to SRE, ethics or “meaningful activities” has become unnecessarily complex – particularly for any parents wanting ethics classes for their child.

I look forward to the day when the enrolment form will provide all parents with a simple choice of SRE, ethics or neither – and for the days of the NSW government deliberately making it complex and difficult for parents to choose ethics for their children to come to an end.

We began this year with ethics classes in 411 schools, teaching around 34,000 children each week. This is only possible through the extraordinary generosity, commitment and skill of more than 2,500 volunteer teachers, coordinators and regional managers. I would like to express a special appreciation to all returning teachers. It is an extraordinary gift to teach year after year. And I want to acknowledge and make welcome all new teachers. I can promise that you will experience a most wonderful journey with the children.

Our classroom ethics teachers are the face of Primary Ethics for children and many parents. However, in order to make ethics lessons available to an ever increasing number of children requires excellent school coordination. It’s important to acknowledge that we can’t achieve ethics classes in each school from kindergarten all the way to Year 6 without highly committed and well supported ethics coordinators.

Being an ethics coordinator is a challenging role often requiring deft management of the relationship with school principals, teachers and parents as well as the capacity to attract and inspire people to volunteer to teach our classes. From feedback we have received we realise that it is time to increase the support we give to both coordinators and regional managers and we are currently preparing plans to strengthen their critical roles.

Dr Sue Knight began writing lessons for Years 5 and 6 in 2011 and completed the final lessons in 2015. This herculean five year task of writing a structured and comprehensive curriculum in ethics for children is an achievement of the highest order.

Having completed a total of seven years of lessons across four stages of delivery, we are now in a position to carefully consider all the lesson feedback we have received, both good and bad, and to apply ourselves to making what we have even better. I am very excited to say that this process of review has begun and that over the next two years every lesson will be reviewed both in terms of content, format and instructional clarity. Our curriculum is going to be better than ever.

Finally, I just want to remind everyone that our new CEO, Leonie Johnson, takes up the reins on 18 April. We are all looking forward to her official start. In the meantime she has been busy touching base with staff, continuing her contribution to the curriculum review process and making herself available for various background briefings. Personally, I am excited about the next chapter in Primary Ethics’ development under Leonie’s leadership.

Bruce Hogan AM – Chair

Regional Managers – a linchpin role

Good foundations are created by great Regional Managers

Success in a new or emerging region relies on a strong local champion in the form of a volunteer Regional Manager. Fledgling regions in particular benefit from having a dedicated regional manager in place, who can speak with volunteers (or potential volunteers) personally, and is in touch with the local community.

Regional Managers initially recruit and then work with Ethics Coordinators to provide information and support to the schools, interested parents and the wider local community. It is a lynch-pin role and essential to the successful establishment of Primary Ethics classes in a new school.

Rob Harden, Primary Ethics Volunteer Manager says there is a significant and very positive change when a region has an effective and motivated Regional Manager.

“Experience tells us that without a ‘champion’, regions often fail to thrive.  Essentially, without a skilled and motivated Regional Manager we struggle to recruit good Ethics Coordinators, without the Coordinators we struggle to find Ethics Teachers – it is a snowball effect,” says Rob Harden.

As more NSW families and schools request ethics classes for their children there is an increasing need for new Regional Managers to take the lead in both greenfield and established regions.

This is a pivotal and skilled volunteer management role offering challenges, variety and job satisfaction.

The new Primary Ethics Learning Centre is here!!

The Janison software upgrade is complete.  As with all software changes it was not without its bumps and challenges, so we would like to sincerely thank all our volunteers for their understanding and patience.  The feedback for the Learning Centre has been very positive.

  • Easier to navigate
  • People are now able to update their own records
  • Volunteer compliance is now confirmed at 100%, reducing the workload for Coordinators and Regional Managers, and managing a significant organisational risk
  • Resources are easier to find and access
  • As part of the upgrade, many of the resources underwent a refresh and update, including online training and curriculum.

Learning Centre Trouble Shooting and How-To Videos

To assist new users of the Learning Centre, we have created a series of short ‘How to’ videos.

These videos have been a huge success, particularly with new volunteers and we will be adding to this resource regularly. The current topics available via the Trouble Shooting module on your Learning Centre desk top are:

  • NATIONAL CRIME CHECK – Errors, Troubleshooting and How to Upload
  • CURRICULUM – Errors, Troubleshooting and How to Enrol
  • 2-DAY TRAINING WORKSHOP – Prerequisites and How to book in

Meet Alison Jones – Parramatta Regional Manager

Alison Jones - Regional Manager

The Parramatta region has 11 active schools with 4 new schools coming on board this year – Parramatta, Parramatta West, Parramatta East and Widemere Public Schools.

Alison’s background

HR Professional and in a past life trained in the UK to be a primary school teacher.

Why did you volunteer for Primary Ethics?

I was on a ‘career break’ and was looking for an interesting volunteer role. Primary Ethics appealed because of the nature of the organisation and because the role required an interesting level of skill and experience.

Alison’s ‘Office’

Max Brenner in Parramatta is my favourite Primary Ethics ‘office’. It is a popular and convenient choice with the locals: great chocolate and coffee, good parking, and next to a train station.

We asked Alison to list the essential skills and strategies needed to be a successful Primary Ethics Regional Manager

  • Excellent organisational skills
  • Be a good people manager – it’s all about the people!
  • Keep people motivated – always follow up on opportunities and conversations
  • Be a good listener – people need to be supported and heard
  • Ask lots of questions – I interact with many different people, from different backgrounds, with different lives. You need to ask a LOT of questions to better understand their individual circumstances.
  • Make life easy for your schools and you will get their ongoing support. Be helpful, approachable and proactive: develop a good relationship with the Principal, teachers, administration and parents. I help everyone work together; I champion ethics classes for families but I also try to understand the schools space and challenges.
  • Be especially supportive and proactive with “newbies”: keep in touch with new volunteers, ask questions and provide support where required. Without regular contact there is a risk a new Volunteer Teacher can feel isolated – especially in a new school.

Short and Curly Podcast on ABC Radio

ABC Radio has produced a podcast series addressing ethical issues, designed especially for children. Short and Curly is hosted by ABC 3’s Carl Smith and Molly Daniels from the upcoming Tomorrow When the War Began television series and features Dr Matt Beard from the Ethics Centre. It is designed to get families talking about what they think and why.

Those of you familiar with the Primary Ethics curriculum may recognise similar topics and questions to those addressed in the podcasts. These engaging podcasts could keep things interesting for families embarking on long car trips these holidays.

Short and Curly Podcast – Season One

1. Can you trust a robot?

2. Is stealing music or jokes really stealing?

3. Should chimps have the same rights as kids?

4. Is it ever okay to fight back against a bully?

5. Can competitive sport be truly fair?

From the classroom … in Sawtell Public School

‘From a professional development point of view, teaching ethics is the best thing I have done. Every week, it makes me think. It has changed the way I think about things, about people and situations. I’m less judgmental and more mindful.’

Carol Malcolm –  Ethics Teacher Sawtell Public School

…and what do her students say?

‘I like that everyone gets to share what they think.’

‘I like how it really makes me think, unlike any other class at school.’

‘It makes you think, and it’s fun to do it and listen to all the things.’

‘Everyone gets to say something.’

‘It’s fun. You all get to say what you think.’

‘You get to learn new things, every time.’

‘It’s really cool because I see things in a way I hadn’t thought about it before.’

Workplace Giving – how does it happen?

What is work place giving? It is a system of charitable giving where employees can make small, regular donations through their pre-tax pay. Many employers enhance the collective impact of their workplace giving program through donation matching, workplace fundraising, volunteering, skill sharing and in-kind support. If you would like to make Primary Ethics your workplace giving recipient, please talk to your employer about setting up a program or accessing an existing one. Primary Ethics is registered for giving with the work place giving platforms good2give andBenevity. Contact us to arrange contributions via other providers.


Primary Ethics … where are we now?

At the time of this report, Primary Ethics is teaching 35,000 studentsacross NSW thanks to 2,380 wonderful volunteers.

We are teaching in 411 schools with another 44 about to start.

Over 25% of our volunteers teach multiple classes or coordinate multiple schools and another 50 offer their time in multiple roles.

We are extremely fortunate at Primary Ethics – our volunteers are of a very high calibre and are committed and capable people. We are extremely grateful to all our volunteers for their generous and ongoing contribution of their time and their energy. Each year their efforts result in a wonderful learning opportunity for the children in their communities.