Ocean Shores P&C; Association president Laurel Cohn, with son Oliver, 7, wants to give students an alternative to attending religious classes.
Ocean Shores P&C; Association president Laurel Cohn, with son Oliver, 7, wants to give students an alternative to attending religious classes. Jay Cronan

Students lose out during religion

EVERY week, some students lose a lesson while their classmates learn about God.

At Ocean Shores Public School, students whose parents have requested that their children opt out of the weekly religious lesson, spend the hour drawing on scrap paper.

The guidelines from the NSW Department Education and Training stipulate that during religious education lessons, no formal guidance can be given and children cannot engage in other activities such as gardening.

Ocean Shores School P&C Association president Laurel Cohn doesn’t understand why students can’t learn about human rights or work in the school garden while the other students are instructed in Catholic, Jewish and Uniting Church religions.

“The issue is not what kids are allowed to do but what they are not allowed to do according to the education department,” she said.

She would like her seven-year-old son to “come away with lots of questions and enthusiasm and learn how to face issues” rather than spend the lesson “colouring in.”

NSW Federation of P&C Associations with St James Ethics Centre in Sydney, has come up with a pilot program for teaching values, like honesty, to those students not attending Religious Instruction. It has been submitted to the Minister for Education and Training Verity Firth

“There is a level of community support for an alternative to school scripture, but before the government formally introduces any pilot program to be run in NSW schools, we want to be absolutely sure that every part of the pilot - what is taught and who teaches it – is totally appropriate,” a spokesperson for the minister said.

Publicity officer for the NSW Federation of P&C Associations Helen Walton, expects a response from the minister’s department by the end of the year so they can begin the pilot program next year.

“We need an alternative to Special Religious Education and the ethics program complements what the other children are doing at the same time,” she said.

Ms Cohn urged parents and P&C Associations to sign an online petition to support the proposal at www.specialethicseducation.com.au




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