Religious instruction (SRE) in NSW public schools

 

The majority of SRE complaints received from NSW are in relation to students being placed into confessional religious instruction against their parents’/caregivers’ wishes. In September 2015, the NSW Department of Education enacted a new SRE placement process. Below is a succinct outline of this opt-in process which, if adhered to, should result in no students being inappropriately placed in single-faith religious instruction.

Within the current ‘Application to enrol in a NSW Government school’ document is a section addressing SRE placement:

 

 

Below is a flowchart describing how the provided enrolment application information is used to correctly place, or not place students into confessional single faith religious instruction (SRE), special education in ethics (SEE).

 

As described within the above flowchart, information provided within the NSW enrolment application can lead to four outcomes:


  1. The parent/caregiver has indicated a religious persuasion available on the enrolment form:
    Student engages in nominated SRE program


  2. The parent/caregiver has written ‘no religion’ on the enrolment form:
    Student engages in meaningful activities during SRE time
    OR:
    If Special Ethics Education is established principal to provide information about SEE and how to enrol to the parent/caregiver


  3. The parent/caregiver has left religious persuasion blank on enrolment form:
    Principal to send letter to the parent/caregiver detailing the options available at the school and/or the opportunity for the parent/caregiver to withdraw their child from SRE
    THEN:
    Parent/caregiver returns letter nominating religious persuasion student engages in nominated SRE program
    OR:
    Parent/caregiver returns letter withdrawing from SRE student engages in meaningful activities during SRE time
    IF PARENT/CAREGIVER CHOOSES THE ABOVE ‘WITHDRAWING’ OPTION:
    If Special Ethics Education is established principal to provide information about SEE and how to enrol to the parent/caregiver


  4. The parent/caregiver has indicated a religious persuasion not available on the enrolment form:
    Principal to send letter to the parent/caregiver detailing the options available at the school and/or the opportunity for the parent/caregiver to withdraw their child from SRE
    THEN:
    Parent/caregiver returns letter nominating religious persuasion student engages in nominated SRE program
    OR:
    Parent/caregiver returns letter withdrawing from SRE student engages in meaningful activities during SRE time

Below is a template of the letter described above:

This process would appear to be paradoxical, in that a parent/caregiver who “has indicated a religious persuasion not available on the enrolment form” is compelled via the SRE preference form to either convert to, and receive confessional religious instruction from one of the faith options listed on the same form; or ‘withdraw’ from confessional religious instruction in a faith other than their own. It would not be unreasonable to consider this aspect of the religious instruction placement process as a form of proselytising.

However, ambiguous as it may be, this process, from enrolment form to preference form, if carried out according to the above flowchart does enable parents/caregivers to permanently exclude students from confessional religious instruction, as stated within the flowchart’s accompanying text, throughout their term of enrolment at the school:

“Students are to continue in the same arrangements each year, unless a parent/caregiver has requested a change”

Should you have any concerns in relation to all of the above, please contact us, or phone 0478 030 705 should the matter be urgent.