AEC statement on ethics classes
Anglican Diocese of Sydney
Ethics classes objections remain but AEC will not seek to overturn legislation
The Sydney Morning Herald of 21st July 2011 reported Sydney Diocese as ‘backing’ ethics classes. In a story quoting Anglican Education Commission Executive Director Bryan Cowling, the paper said the Diocese had ‘reversed its position’.
This is incorrect. The Diocese of Sydney, along with the other providers of SRE (Christian, Jewish, Buddhist and Moslem) campaigned against the legislation in order to protect the opportunity for parents to choose to have their children participate in SRE.
The substantive diocesan position remains that ethics should not have been placed in direct competition with Special Religious Education. There is concern about the legislation rushed through in the dying days of the previous government. There are other issues that the churches, individually and jointly, have taken up with the Education Department.
However, in a spirit of co-operation and to minimise disruption to students, the AEC and the diocese will not seek the overturning of the classes midway through the school year.
Since the enactment of the legislation, the Anglican Education Commission and other providers have worked with the Department of Education and Communities on the revision and enhancement of the Department’s Religious Education Policy and the Guidelines for schools in implementing both SRE and SEE (Special Ethics Education).
There has been a new focus of understanding of the vital role which SRE plays in the education system and sites such as ‘whysre.com.au’ from Anglican Youthworks is giving parents clear information about their choices and the educational and spiritual value of Special Religious Education courses. In the vast majority of cases, the students attending the ethics lessons have been non-SRE attenders.
In the Commission’s view, the current arrangements must be allowed testing and fine-tuning and it would be most unhelpful if they were disrupted so early in the life of the new legislation. It is for this reason that the AEC favours the maintenance of the current arrangements. Only after the new arrangements have been in place for 12-24 months would there be any advantage in conducting a review of the legislation.
Dr Bryan Cowling, Executive Director, Anglican Education Commission