Department putting itself in ‘dangerous position’

by James Reid26 Nov 2015

Victoria’s government has handed down new rules for Special Religious Instruction (SRI) in state schools, including moving the classes to outside school hours and placing limits on certain materials and themes.

Among the new rules put in place to improve how the classes are taught, students will be allowed to make Christmas decorations and sing carols in class but not sing hymns or read holy books like the Bible and the Qu’ran.

Victoria’s largest provider of Special Religious Instruction (SRI) in state schools has slammed the government’s changes to the classes as “confusing” and “dangerous”.

“The Education Department is placing itself in the very dangerous position of making theological judgements,” Rob Ward, general manager of communications and development at Access Ministries, told The Educator.

“Some of the material that has been provided to schools says students are allowed to sing carols but not hymns. When does a carol become a hymn and a hymn become a carol?

“I have trouble picking the difference and I’ve been going to church for 45 years.”

Ward referred to the song Come all ye faithful – which is based on a Biblical text – as an example.

“It’s a carol, but it’s also a hymn. One can see how these guidelines will be very confusing for schools,” he said.

“We’ve all heard of the law of unintended consequences. It seems like anything with a religious connection becomes SRI, and I’m not sure that was a Minister’s intention.

“It’s almost as if the department is making this up as they go along. We’ve been getting lots of calls from teachers and principals saying they have no idea what the guidelines mean.”

Ward added that given the impact the changes have on SRI in the state’s schools “one could suspect that there is an ideological agenda” at play.

He also questioned how the classes, which as of January will be moved outside school hours, will be supervised.

“Even in these new guidelines there is a recognition that schools may need to hire casual relief teachers to supervise SRI during lunchtime, but there’s no budget for this,” Ward said.

“The government made the announcement in a rush before consulting anyone about it, and it has taken three months for them to release the guidelines. It’s a dog’s breakfast.

“By pushing SRI out of the mainstream classroom the government is sending a clear message to people of faith that faith is irrelevant.”


  • by Jayel 26/11/2015 12:13:37 PM

    If the department were sending a message that faith is irrelevant, they would not be bringing in studies of multiple religions as part of the curriculum that *all* children learn. This is simply misplaced hysteria because of an erroneous sense of entitlement to curriculum learning time. The fact is that divisive and doctrinal SRI has been replaced by inclusive education about some of the religions that make up our community. It was overdue and is now much welcomed.

  • by Chuan 26/11/2015 12:39:22 PM

    By taking devotional religious instruction out of compulsory class time, and replacing it with General Religious Education about several religions, the government is not saying that religion is irrelevant, but that a) education *about* religions is important; and b) recognising that it is indefensible to lose class time of up to 4 school days a year to a resource-wasting program that has become a notorious scandal factory.

    Faith formation can and does occur perfectly well all over the world without intruding on students' learning time. Victorian SRI enrolments have fallen by 80% in 4 years, and less than 9% of Victorian primary schoolchildren now participate in it. Keep in mind that when SRI is scheduled during classroom hours, nobody is allowed to be taught the regular curriculum, even if they aren't doing SRI.

    Why should ACCESS have the right to bench all non-SRI kids?

    Remember, the situation until last year was that if any outside religious group approached a school to deliver SRI, principals were forced to axe 4 annual days of teaching time to accommodate minimally trained SRI volunteers.

    Does ACCESS support the right of principals to determine whether SRI runs at their schools?

    The changes to SRI policy are welcomed by State school parents like myself, who object to their children being religiously segregated, and who think that the learning time of *all* students is too valuable to be given over to outside evangelists.

  • by Peter 26/11/2015 1:39:47 PM

    Unfortunately, the world is full of narrow minded people. Why is it, that in the past 20 plus years, the rates of problems like: crime, suicide, rape, unwanted pregnancy, bashings, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, etc have all skyrocketed? Would it be because we all EVOLVED and we are the GODS of our own universe? Lately, all I hear in the media is that we need to do something about domestic violence. WHY? I don't know anyone who is experiencing this. Are you sure it's happening? Is it really a problem? Yes, I know... it's definitely happening and IS a problem. WHY? Heck it's obvious. You give kids free choice for everything they do! We don't say to 13 year olds, you should NOT have sex until marriage. We say, go for it, but use a condom. We do this with everything in life. Yes, son/daughter, I know you are only 10, but you can watch those M rated videos. No problem. They won't do you any harm! NO, I'm not a Christian, but I am all for our children learning about the Christian faith. Just because we hear of all the horrible stories from the past, that SO CALLED Christians abused children, does NOT mean we should abandon this belief system that has created MASSIVE amounts of positive things in our society over the years. If you don't agree, that's fine. But don't expect people to respect or care for you in this world. Our laws would not even exist if it were not for our Christian heritage.

    Finally, what if God really is real. Would you not want your children to at least have some chance of knowing him before he is manipulated into believing the religion of Evolution? By the way, why is Evolution still being taught in our public schools? It IS a RELIGION. There are no IFS, BUTS or MAYBEEEEEES. Evolution IS a religion, and it is time we KICKED IT OUT of schools too. Let's at least be consistent. Oh, and if you are so foolish to think that evolution is a science, you were educated by POORLY INFORMED educators, just like me and most of our society. The bible is much more closely related to science, than evolution by a mile, but it is hard for most people to see that because most of us are so gullible that we believe all the lies we were taught.

    So, to sum up. I don't mind if we get SRE (Religion) out of our schools, but lets be consistent and remove Evolution too. NOW!