Religious Instruction in Queensland public schools

 

Overwhelmingly, the majority of complaints we receive from parents and guardians are in relation to students being placed in religious instruction by default—thus disregarding the distinct opt-in / opt-out instructions they have provided within their student enrolment application. This practice is common across the state, as are occurrences of parents and guardians being incorrectly informed that all students must attend religious instruction unless being opted-out in writing. In many cases, parents and guardians are forced to repeat this illegitimate process at the commencement of each new school year.

This bypassing of strict state legislative provisions regarding religious instruction placement results in an extremely disproportionate number of predominantly ineligible students attending religious instruction—thus creating a conspicuous, faux minority of non-attendees. Instances—usually at the commencement of a school year—when principals have undertaken to correctly allocate students to religious instruction in strict accordance with the OneSchool database have resulted in a startling reversal of RI attendee to non-attendee ratios.

Religious instruction in Queensland public schools is conducted on an ‘opt-in’ basis. The sole method by which eligibility for religious instruction placement is determined is via information provided within the standard Application for Student Enrolment form:

The above process, which should be regarded as a binding contract, enforces what is stated within the Queensland Education (General Provisions) Act 2006, and the Queensland Education (General Provisions) Regulation 2006:

29.  Students to attend religious instruction

(1) The principal of a State school must not allow a student to attend religious instruction given by a minister of religion or an accredited representative other than the denomination or society of which the student is a member, unless the student’s parent has given written consent.

OneSchool electronic database statistics current at July 2015 reveal that on a statewide basis, approximately 26% of the Queensland state school student population (P-12) are eligible for religious instruction without—as the Education Act states—’the student’s parent having given written consent’.

By having either left the ‘Religion’ question space blank, entered ‘no religion’, or anything other than one of the “denominations or societies” providing volunteer religious instructors to the school, the remaining approximately 76% of Queensland public school students have effectively been ‘opted-out’ of all religious instruction.

The current religious instruction placement flowchart below clearly describes this path to placement or non-placement into religious instruction:

The wording below the enrolment application ‘Religion’ question provides parents and guardians with an accurate and clear indication of how the supplied information will lead to placement or non-placement into religious instruction. Education Queensland provides or authorises no religious instruction placement ‘permission’ documents or processes other than the enrolment application. We are aware though, that at school level there is widespread use of unofficial ‘made-up’ permission forms. Attempts to recruit attendees to ‘confessional’ single faith external volunteer provided religious instruction via any unauthorised documentation or processes could well be construed as ‘coercion’ under Article 18.3 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights:

“The freedom from coercion to have or to adopt a religion or belief..”

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