Welcome! Here you’ll find background information on ethics classes: a discussion-based program that strengthens thinking, reasoning and listening skills.
Background to ethics classes
Our skills based program is designed to support the important work of parents, carers and teachers by giving children the confidence and skills to talk about ethical issues with those around them, to question what they see and read, to think things through and seek and evaluate reasons.
These important life-long skills help children to make well considered decisions rather than acting out of habit or peer pressure.
Primary Ethics offers a unique program in which parent and community volunteers facilitate ethics classes and in doing so make a valuable and rewarding contribution to their local schools.
Children say they enjoy ethics classes as it is a space to:
- raise opinions without being judged
- hear and consider the opinions of others
- think things through and develop reasoning and decision making skills.
We also hear children say that ethics classes helps with self confidence, friendship building, and the ability to imagine how other people feel in certain situations.
Children regularly say the skills they develop in ethics help them to problem solve in their everyday lives.
How do I enrol my child in ethics classes?
Ethics classes are currently offered in many public primary schools in NSW. Let the school office know in writing that you would like your child to participate in ethics classes during the timeslot set aside for special religious education (SRE) and special education in ethics (SEE). You can use the ‘Translations’ form provided on this page to do so if you wish – it is available in many languages.
How do I get ethics classes started at my school?
If ethics classes are not yet available at your child’s school, please let your school know you’d like to choose ethics classes for your child, and let us know too – read more
Primary Ethics curriculum topics
Infants: Years K – 2
Ethics classes for infant years focus on developing core skills such as listening to others, taking turns to speak and giving reasons.
Primary: Years 3 – 6
Ethics classes for primary aged students have a strong focus on the development of critical thinking and discussion based skills.
See a list of all 79 curriculum topics here.
Questions to ask my child
Ethics students often say they like talking to their families about the topics they cover in ethics. In these classes, children are encouraged to be curious, ask lots of questions and think deeply about ethical issues. If you ask them what they learned in ethics class, they may have trouble coming up with a simple answer! Instead, you may find it useful to ask your children open-ended questions to help encourage discussion, such as:
- what stories did you hear in ethics class today?
- what different ideas did you hear?
- did anyone give a reason or point of view that you hadn’t thought of?
- did anyone change their mind?
Resources for parents and carers
If you’re new to the concepts behind philosophical ethics, this short video is a great place to start.
The approach taken by Primary Ethics is that ethical exploration in the classroom is best done through dialogue and discussion – a tradition of philosophical inquiry that goes right back to Socrates and which is tied to the substantive idea of living an ‘examined life’. This approach has significant social benefits. By learning to think about ethical matters together and through the give-and-take of reasoned argument, students will learn to consider other people’s points of view and to be sincere, reasonable and respectful in dealing with their differences and disagreements. Read more about the objectives.
Why be part of an ethics class?
Ethics teacher training
Our ethics teachers are trained volunteers from the local community (parents and carers, grandparents, uni students, retirees and so on) who are interviewed for the role, and if found suitable, complete:
- Working with Children Check
- National Crime Check (specific Primary Ethics check for vulnerable groups)
- Online ethics teacher training
- Annual Child Protection Training
- Online workshops in facilitation skills and classroom management
- Continual Professional Development including Classroom Support visits
Ethics teachers don’t need a teaching background, just a love of learning and rapport with children. Ethics coordinators, regional managers and classroom support team members are other roles with Primary Ethics which we are currently seeking volunteers. Find out more about becoming a Primary Ethics volunteer.
Annual Assurance to Department of Education
Each year, we complete comprehensive authorisation and annual assurance processes for the NSW Department of Education, for whom we are the single approved provider of Special Education in Ethics. The annual assurance is our guarantee to parents and carers that each of our ethics volunteers has current Child Protection measures in place and is delivering only the approved Primary Ethics curriculum. Ethics teachers do not need to develop any of their own teaching materials; these are standardised across the state and approved by the Department for age-appropriateness and alignment with Department policy.
If you have any concerns about your child’s ethics teacher regarding lessons taught or classroom management, we invite you to lodge a complaint so we can investigate and improve the experience for your child.
See our references page for scholarly articles supporting the development of thinking and reasoning skills using classes in philosophical ethics for children.