FIRIS CLAIMS VICTORY!
August 21, 2015

Victorian Minister for Education James Merlino has announced that Special Religious Instruction (SRI) will be removed from school hours in 2016. SRI will be taken out of class-time and treated as an elective.

Instead, children in Victorian public schools will be taught about the major religions which make up our multicultural community, together with secular humanism and ethics – by class teachers as part of the official curriculum.

This is the prize we have been working for since FIRIS formed in 2011. And today the dream is a reality! FIRIS is grateful to the thousands of parent supporters. CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL!

AIMS OF FIRIS

  • Maintain an inclusive school curriculum that does not require any student to withdraw from class on account of different religious beliefs, or none.
  • Formally cease the practice of volunteer-run Religious Instruction (SRI/SRE) during school hours.
  • Follow an objective, fair and balanced comparative syllabus for education about religions and beliefs.
  • Treat all religious organisations who wish to use the school facilities outside of the school day with transparent and equitable policies.

FIRIS is a parent-driven grassroots effort.  

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Fairness In Religions In School

FIRIS representatives Darrin Morgan, Naomi Taper, Craig MacDonald and a concerned parent in front of a Tom Roberts portrait of Sir Henry Parkes following today's meeting with a member of the NSW Parliament. A major focus of the discussion was the Queensland Department of Education and Training's review of the Connect SRE curriculum, also used in NSW Government schools. FIRIS thanks Queensland Parents for Secular State Schools for their hard work in exposing the content and intent of the Connect materials. The findings of the report raise even greater concerns in NSW where there is a seemingly deliberate lack of robust risk management strategies protecting the rights of all students/parents/caregivers. ... See MoreSee Less

5 days ago

Julia EmHope it was a constructive meeting - you all look happy enough! ;-)5 days ago

Kevena UnwinGood stuff. Well done4 days ago

Phillipa ToiaThanks for representing all concerned parents.4 days ago

Carolyn KerrCongratulations Darrin3 days ago

Fairness In Religions In School

Fairness In Religions In School shared Queensland Parents for Secular State Schools's post. ... See MoreSee Less

Since its release on Thursday, we have been going over the content of the department's review of the Connect Religious Instruction program with a fine tooth comb. There is much to query and, quite frankly, some elements that we find hard to comprehend, leaving us to wonder just how the department is going to handle an ever more unworkable situation. The issue of proselytising is the most intractable, so we will look at this in detail in subsequent posts. But first, one of the most puzzling things is the following statement by reviewers on page 4: “As many of the examples cited by the Windsor State School principal could not be located by reviewers in the current Connect materials, the Department contacted the publisher of the Connect materials for assistance in locating the references. The publisher advised that these references were in relation to superseded Connect manuals.” As noted in the review, there are different editions of instructor manuals floating around out there, with no mechanism to monitor who is using what – it’s Rafferty’s Rules. QPSSS has the current version of both the B and C cycles of Connect, as well as the superseded version of the C cycle manual the publisher refers to and from which they imply the examples were drawn. We have also obtained a list of the examples provided to the department by the principal of Windsor State School, so we set about doing our own cross-checking exercise to see how many of the cited examples had apparently disappeared from one version to the next. Please refer to the comparative table for actual examples of the ‘before’ and ‘after’ versions of the Connect C cycle, lower and upper primary manuals. Changes are highlighted in red. There was one example given from the B cycle, but the edition hasn’t been upgraded for the last few years, so that is the same. It is: Lesson 13 P130 Word of caution: “Be careful not to jump too quickly to our lack of trust in God’s goodness and faithfulness. This is an application for Christians. Most of these children are not yet Christians and, therefore, haven’t yet discovered God’s goodness and faithfulness for themselves. What they need to understand first of all is God’s character- that he is faithful and good.” The overriding aim of the Connect program, found on Page 2 of each manual was also cited. This is unchanged: “The overriding aim of this curriculum is to present the heart of God’s message of salvation in a clear and attractive manner. For maximum effect this will require thinking beyond the immediate lesson to ways of linking interested students to church-run children’s and youth activities, so they can experience Christian community and learn more about the Christian faith.” Including the above two examples we counted from the B and C cycle manuals: - 39 examples of proselytising were provided to the department by Windsor’s principal - 26 of these were the same in the previous version and the current version - 2 were completely removed. - 11 were subject to changes ranging from very minor to moderate, and largely made the soliciting indirect rather than direct, or used passive rather than active language. (It is important to remember that soliciting children to change their religious affiliation doesn’t need to be responded to or successful for it to constitute proselytising.) Most of the changes did little to render the intent of the original examples any different and, indeed, if preceding and following material in the relevant lesson is taken into account, it is clear the content remains coercive and proselytises. Perhaps this is why the reviewers used the following phrasing: “It seems that substantial work has gone into removing THE PERCEPTION [our emphasis] of proselytising from the publications (for example, through the preface added to the whole class concluding prayers which provide the option to participate).” It is curious, however, that to represent this impression they chose the rider that now appears over the Concluding prayer conducted at the end of each lesson. This rider has the instructor say: “This is how Christians talk to God. If you would like to pray with me please join me. If you don’t then please lower your head so we don’t get distracted while praying this short prayer.” ...umm, well, sure, they are giving children the option to not *say* the prayer, but they’re still telling them to assume the ‘prayer position’ anyway. What’s wrong with asking them to just sit quietly? And if the children praying have their heads down, and probably eyes closed as well, how can a non-participating child distract them? And of course the children still get to hear the prayer anyway but in any event proselytising doesn't have to be verbal and frequently isn't. How much difference do you think that rider makes when a child is asked to bow their head anyway before hearing this prayer said out loud? "Dear God, when we think about what you have done for us through Jesus, we are amazed. You are a great God who loves us and sent his Son to die for us, even though we deserve to be punished for all the things we do wrong. We pray for each of us here, that you would help us to follow you so that we may live with you forever in heaven. Amen." (C2, Upper Primary, Lesson 11) We wonder why the publisher singles out the concluding prayer for a rider when instructors are supposed to follow the grounding instructions in the manuals - "Ground what you say so the students are told where a statement comes from: for example 'Many Christians believe…" - Maybe because those instructions are stuck right at the end of the 200 or so page manuals and not followed anyway? Seems it's all about perception! We are not sure why the reviewers were unable to find ‘many examples’ when there is only a few differences between the previous and current manuals. What we are sure about, is that the issue of proselytising is even more so now a major headache for the department given the conflicting and incompatible statements about the matter expressed in the review, and the incredibly poor standard of informed consent surrounding RI permissions. We will explore these further in later posts.

5 days ago

Kay Clarke'even though we deserve to be punished for all the things we do wrong" This one clause is reason for alarm bells to ring. Psychologically damaging or don't the department care? Great work Queensland Parents.5 days ago

Fairness In Religions In SchoolFIRIS representatives and concerned parents are off to visit a member of the NSW Parliament today. The implications of the Queensland report for SRE in NSW Government schools will be the focus of our discussion. Thank you Queensland Parents for Secular State Schools.5 days ago