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Ethics Class Option for Non-SRE Students

15 December 2010 No Comment

After several years of lobbying, a 10 week trial, an independent review and much deliberation time, the NSW parliament passed an amendment to the Education Act 1990 which now allows schools to host ‘special education in ethics’ classes as an option for those children whose parents do not wish for them to attend a Special Religious Education (SRE/Scripture) class.

These ethics classes can happen from Term 1, 2011 but will only happen where there is sufficient interest from the school community and sufficient suitable volunteers to adequately coordinate and teach ethics classes. SRE classes will remain the primary options and ethics classes will only be on offer for those who have ‘opted out’ of SRE. The group responsible for coordinating the ethics curriculum, volunteer training and other administration across the state is ‘Primary Ethics’ a company founded by St James Ethics Centre.

Last week a communication was sent out to primary school principals from Brian Elliot in the Department of Education and Training (DET) outlining what is required in order for a school to include an ethics class as an option for non-SRE students in the SRE time slot in 2011.

Here is a summary of these requirements from the DET.

  • The principal of a school must consult with the community if there is interest in ethics classes for next year.
  • There must be interest from at least 20 parents and 2 volunteers who are willing to train as ethic class teachers. If there is this sufficient support, the principal contacts the ‘Primary Ethics’ group, established by St James Ethics Centre to deal with queries, coordination and requirements for ethics classes.
  • Until any new course material is approved, the only material which can be taught is that which made up the pilot lessons, taking into account the pilot evaluation recommendation to cover each lesson unit over two weeks instead of one. Thus there is 20 weeks of approved course material for ethics classes.
  • Currently the Ethics Classes can only be offered to years 5 & 6. However there is plans for a roll out for all primary school age levels in the future.
  • The SRE liaison officers will not have responsibility for overseeing/monitoring ethics classes.
  • The legislation directs that the ethics classes must take place at the same time as SRE – the timetabling of SRE is negotiated by the SRE providers and ethics providers must accept what has been negotiated by SRE providers.
  • The schools most likely to introduce ethics classes in Term 1 are the 10 school involved in the trial and those schools whose P&C has already discussed and voted for ethics classes in their school. See a list of P&Cs which voted in favour of ethics classes (at 15th Dec 2010).


Below are links to statements and articles from ICCOREIS, the Department of Education and Training, and ‘Primary Ethics’ which contain further information about the ethics classes, the assured place of SRE, and preparations for 2011.

Statement from the Chairperson of ICCOREIS Ann Maree Whenman


DET News Articles

Education Act 1990 Ammendment



Further Information from ‘Primary Ethics’


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