• Susie O’Brien
  • From:Herald Sun
  • May 25, 2011 12:00AM
  • TRAINING: The Australian Education Union has moved a motion suggesting the volunteer religious education scheme in schools should be scrapped and broad religious education included through the curriculum. Source: The Daily Telegraph

    RELIGIOUS education instructors in state schools are required to do less than one day’s training before they teach hundreds of children.

    The volunteers, organised through the Access Ministries, pay just $15, attend a six-hour training session, and get a note from their minister in order to become accredited to teach Christian Religious Education classes.

    They have to complete an assignment and get a Working with Children’s check, and they can teach as many hours a week as needed in state primary schools.

    In comparison, most classroom teachers have undertaken a three or four-year degree course.

    The volunteers are supervised by classroom teachers and instruct according to a mandated syllabus, which includes topics such as “God created all of the world”.

    It comes amid increasing unrest about the way Christian religious education is taught in Victoria.

    Challenges are underway at both VCAT and the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Tribunal.

    And the Australian Education Union has moved a motion suggesting the scheme should be scrapped and broad religious education included through the curriculum.

    At Epping Primary School, only 16 per cent of students attending the classes.

    At issue is what to do with those who have opted out because teachers are not allowed to proceed with normal classes.

    Assistant Principal Ed Heskett said he was not anti-religion or anti-Christianity.

    “We welcome all students but we don’t believe there is a place in our school curriculum for CRE,” he said.

    “We would welcome it outside of school hours, however, and believe there should be an opt-in rather than an opt-out choice in place,” he said.

    The issue was discussed at the Epping Primary School council meeting last night, primarily to inform councilors of the AEU motion.

    Gail McHardy, executive director of Parents Victoria, said her organisation would welcome a review of the CRE teaching policy.

    “The issue for us is that one organisation is the sole provider of the classes, and the opt-out clause because not all parents who opt in are fully informed,” she said.

    “Our members are either very very pro, or very very against.”

    Education Minister Martin Dixon said he had received many emails on both sides, but did not intend to make any changes to the system at this stage.

    Denise Nicholls, director of Religious Education at Access Ministries, said there had been no drop off in student numbers.

    “As yet, Access still hasn’t received any formal complaints from parents or schools but we welcome the complaints of any parents whose had a problem with CRE,” she said.

    “Many of the CR educators are former teachers themselves, so they understand the importance of parents, and students being able to share their views.”