The work of SRE teachers is supported by new report

If you listen to some reports in the media, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Australians were a completely secular bunch who have turned their backs on religion and Christian values. The opposite is true, according to new independent research released in May 2018.

The McCrindle Research “Survey of values, education and faith in Australia”, conducted using best practice methods, found that almost 99 per cent of people believe it is important to teach values to Australian school students.

Importantly, despite the fact that a large percentage of those surveyed did not identify with any religion or spiritual belief, 84 per cent believe that Christian heritage has been influential in shaping the values that we teach children, with almost 60 per cent believing this was “very” or “somewhat” influential.

The research also showed that parents overwhelmingly want the choice of faith-based values education, with only 16 per cent of those surveyed opposed to giving parents/carers a choice. This confirms what has been evidenced by the provision of Special Religious Education.

It also validates the wonderful work done by thousands of SRE volunteers in public schools throughout NSW and the ACT, affirming the work of many churches here in the Hunter and across the state which recruit, train and support SRE teachers in local primary and secondary schools. Work was recognised in the 2015 SEE and SRE Review report that acknowledged the contribution SRE Providers have been making to NSW Public Education for over 100 years.

The eleven Catholic dioceses who are members of the Catholic Conference for Religious Education in State School (CCRESS) work alongside other churches and faith groups with the NSW Department of Education to ensure that Special Religious Education in public schools is something that parents and carers can choose for their children with confidence.

In co-operation with the Inter Church Commission for Religious Education in Schools (ICCOREIS) and the All Faiths Special Religious Education Group, (AFSRE) best practice support frameworks, networks and resources have been developed to ensure that SRE is celebrated as an essential strength of public schooling for years to come. Every two years, excellence in this field of SRE is acknowledged at a NSW Parliamentary celebration (18 October 2018).

Spokesperson for Christian Special Religious Education (SRE), Murray Norman, says the survey figures represent majority Australian thinking and “endorse the importance of spirituality and programs like SRE within education.

“The overwhelming majority of families want to choose the faith-based values to be taught to children, which is exactly what SRE does,” he said. Importantly, he revealed that when able to choose, most parents choose SRE, with current figures showing 71 per cent of primary school children attending weekly lessons.

“We are aware of a minority voice that seeks to remove any form of spirituality and faith from

NSW schools, and remove the choice families currently have, but that’s out of step with the values and wishes of Australian parents.”

He explained that SRE supports the Australian Government’s values for Australian schooling,

saying, “it is clear that Australians recognise the Christian and faith foundation of these

values,” while the NSW Department of Education framework says, “spiritual wellbeing relates to our sense of meaning and purpose.”

Families across the state must clearly recognise the importance of this aspect of their children’s education with around 430,000 students attending SRE classes across NSW with hundreds of school communities being served by local churches and faith groups. For example, there are over 100 Catholic volunteers attending 203 government primary schools in the Hunter and North school regions.

The Hunter Christian SRE committee supports these efforts with recognised training and reliable advice. Professional publishers produce high quality SRE programs with manuals and workbooks available for teachers and students at no cost to the schools. All this goes to ensure the quality of what is delivered to the students in NSW public schools.

Contrary to popular myth, SRE is provided free to families across New South Wales by authorised and trained instructors who are committed to the students they serve. It is these families that drive the provision by their choice for their children to participate.

Rather than religious fanatics, the organisations that support this largely volunteer workforce work closely with each other and the NSW Department of Education to maintain a high standard.


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Jude Hennessy

Jude Hennessy is the Director of Parish Services, Confraternity of Christian Doctrine and Evangelisation, for the Catholic Diocese of Wollongong.

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