Schools that offer Religious Education reviewed this topic in the fourth term last year. It was reviewed by staff, board, and parents, and it is great to see ever increasing numbers of parents engaging with policy reviews. Good on you schools that advertise and encourage the review process to parents! As usual, we urge all principals and boards to read their implementation feedback and consider whether you need to take any action.
The overwhelming theme was that religious education is valuable if it is an objective study of all of the world’s religions (and atheism and agnosticism), but has dubious value when it concentrates on one religion. I’ve made a separate blog entry about this and there’s a lot to discuss about it.
There were plenty of other themes too. To broadly summarise the rest of the feedback:
The happy reviewers like that:
• the children enjoy the programme and talk about it when they get home, and the programme enhances the special times of Easter and Christmas.
• the children learn about the bible, and gain a broad awareness and appreciation of the values that are applicable in every day life and which the country holds dear.
• the programme teaches children about religion and equips them to decide about their own beliefs later in life.
• every child has the opportunity for religious education and think the current default opportunity (that you have to opt out of it, not opt in to it) is valuable.
• the programme fosters a strong and caring school community and that the religious education teachers do a great job implementing the policy and the programme.
Concerned reviewers feel that:
• the programme is inappropriate and outdated and has no place in a secular state school.
• they don’t have the opportunity to see what is being taught and should be invited to attend sessions.
• they have never been offered the opportunity to opt in or out, and only knew the programme was running after talking to other parents. It should be discussed at enrolment and parents regularly surveyed about it.
• the opt-out system doesn’t work because children see the others who have opted-in having a good time, getting stuff (stickers, nametags, etc), and feel “punished” to not be part of it. Alternative supervision is often unsuitable.
• the programme takes up valuable class time, and could be arranged by parents outside school hours.
We don’t intend to change our generic topic but if boards/principals want to change any of the content, let us know and we will action it. There were many school specific feedback comments which should be addressed by the individual schools concerned and some recurring themes to consider. You might consider linking to a document that summarises the programme so parents know what is being taught; and maybe clarifying that it is a non-denominational christian programme.