Edward is feeling nervous about school this year. For the first time in a long while he will be stepping back into the classroom – although this time it won’t be as a student. This year, he’s volunteered to help with Special Religious Education. 

A full-time engineer and father of three girls, he approached his employer to see if there was any flexibility to make time for teaching a Scripture class. 

“I can work from home one day a week, and I can work back later or start work earlier [on that day],” says Edward, who attends St Thomas’, Enfield and Strathfield, and was motivated by how his own Scripture teachers had blessed him as a child: “I remember… their care and dedication each week”.

After the Department of Education streamlined the SRE enrolment process with a digital system, there has been a rise in class sizes to their highest numbers in more than five years, meaning people like Edward are needed more than ever.

The new system has contributed to more accurate numbers, with 350,000 students signed up for SRE classes of all faiths across NSW – 200,000 of them in Sydney. Christian Scripture makes up two-thirds of that figure. 

“The online enrolment system has been a game changer in terms of SRE enrolment in the past 12 months,” says Andy Stevenson, the head of Ministry Support and the SRE Office at Youthworks. 

He adds that an early sign of the new system’s impact is “a 57 per cent increase in sales for the kindergarten SRE curriculum”.

Previously, families wanting their children in SRE had to opt-in via a paper enrolment form that was often handed out after the start of the school year. This relied on the students to safely transport the forms to and from the school.

The new system smooths out the process by allowing parents to select faith-based SRE online at the time of school enrolment. To date, almost half of State schools have set up the online system, and Mr Stevenson predicts class numbers will continue to grow as the rest of schools follow suit,

He estimates there will be close to 5000 Christian SRE classes in 2024, given that “roughly 100,000 students are in Anglican SRE [in greater Sydney]”. The Sydney Diocese has almost 1900 registered SRE teachers. 

Who will be a blessing to church and community?

The Rev Canon Craig Roberts, CEO of Youthworks, speaks of the immense value SRE offers the entire community.

“From the research of scholars Gross and Rutland into the value of SRE to contemporary society, SRE provides an effective values education, important psychological benefits to students’ mental health and wellbeing, strengthening the multicultural fabric of Australian schools and creating safe places to explore deeper questions of identity and faith,” he says. 

Edward wants people to consider if they can also be a blessing to schools and society by volunteering to teach SRE. “For me, things lined up and I needed to ask, ‘Why am I not [doing it] – and if not now, then when?’” he asks. 

“There is always a great need. If we have flexible working hours, why not use the flexibility for something that is one to two hours a week to benefit [others] and the kingdom?” 

Adds Mr Stevenson: “There’s a great opportunity [for people to teach]. If you’re a university student, if you have flexible hours, if you work from home, if you’re a mum... We need to train more SRE teachers to cover the students [and classes] we’ve got.”


Prayer points

  • Pray for SRE teachers and co-ordinators, especially those starting in 2024, to be faithful in their teaching, preparation and example to students. May they be excited about the opportunity, encouraged by the rise in student numbers, winsome as they recruit others to teach and engaging in their classrooms.
  • Pray for all parents and students in NSW public schools, for encouragement and education for Christian students and for the exploration of faith for families.
  • Pray for Youthworks as it oversees SRE across the Diocese and resources others across NSW to set up SRE correctly in every school in the state. 
  • Pray as Youthworks meets with schools to arrange enrolments and classes, runs the SRE conference for more than 2000 teachers in person and online, helps recruit and train more teachers and works with the Department of Education and Christian and other-faith SRE providers to implement policy and procedures for a stronger SRE.