READ THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE HERE (9 March 2014 by Konrad Marshall)
Victoria’s major provider of religious instruction has been temporarily barred from delivering lessons at a Surf Coast primary school, following recent revelations in The Sunday Age that inappropriate ”biblezines” were given to students.
Torquay College principal Pam Kinsman confirmed last week that the weekly 30-minute religious lessons by chaplaincy organisation Access Ministries would be suspended throughout term one, pending the outcome of an inquiry.
The Education Department has launched a formal investigation to determine how 17 copies of the magazine Refuel 2 – which intersperses New Testament text with such dating advice as ”How to attract godly girls” – was given to students.
”The department is taking this matter very seriously,” said a spokesperson. ”An external organisation is actively investigating a range of matters and will table a report for the department’s and minister’s consideration in April.”
”Our agreed curriculum teaches the basic beliefs of the Christian faith and does not stray into areas of sexuality at all,” she said. ”We are extremely disappointed that this has occurred and will continue to investigate how it happened.”
Ms Kinsman has been principal of Torquay College for 15 years, during which time Access Ministries has consistently delivered religious instruction to roughly half of all students in grades three through six without any problems.
However, after contact from concerned parents and discussions with the Education Department, Ms Kinsman felt compelled to address the issue in a school newsletter explaining the decision to suspend religious instruction.
”We will wait until we are advised by DEECD that we must offer Access Ministries the opportunity to begin classes this year,” she wrote. ”All parents will be sent a letter at this time giving you the choice to opt in for your children to attend the classes.”
The attention comes at a difficult time for Access Ministries, following reports that the popularity of religious instruction in state schools has nosedived. Between 2011 and 2013, the number of students enrolled fell from 130,100 to 92,808. Elwood Primary School was the latest to drop religious education, informing parents on Wednesday that the school would no longer offer the service on ”organisational grounds”, after too few students expressed an interest and staffing became an issue.
Meanwhile, Bayswater North Primary School overstepped the mark in its support for religious instruction.
The school published a newsletter claiming that the Education Department has ”every confidence” in the ”very educationally sound curriculum” of Access Ministries.
The promotion earned a slap on the wrist from the department, as the materials are not based on the Victorian curriculum nor are they approved by the department. The school published a retraction for parents online.
”The statement that the Access Ministries syllabus is based on Victorian essential learning standards is incorrect,” read the advice. ”It is the responsibility of schools to review materials by providers who deliver extra-curricular programs in schools.”