What is SRE?
Special Religious Education (SRE) in NSW Government schools
What is Special Religious Education (SRE)?
Special Religious Education (also known as ‘scripture’) is instruction in the beliefs and practices of a religious persuasion by paid or volunteer representatives of that persuasion.
There is no minimal participation rate under which SRE is dropped at school level. Any NSW public school approached by a SRE provider must accommodate their wish to deliver SRE. This means that SRE can run with the participation of a few students while hundreds of other students are to be given no instruction.
SRE is not the same as General Religious Education (GRE) which is education about the world’s major religions. GRE is taught by NSW Department of Education teachers using curriculum and lesson materials approved and authorised by the NSW Department of Education.
Who provides SRE?
SRE is delivered by religious organisations approved by the NSW Minister for Education to be ‘SRE providers’. There are over 100 SRE providers in NSW.
The list of approved SRE providers can be found on the Department’s ‘Curriculum’ page under ‘Religion and Ethics’:
SRE providers may be local churches (e.g. Bathurst Evangelical Church), larger church organisations
(e.g. the Anglican Diocese of Newcastle), or other organisations (e.g. the NSW Board of Jewish Education).
SRE cannot be taught by on-duty professional teachers employed by the NSW Department of Education.
‘SRE instructors’ are not approved by the NSW Department of Education. The people entering NSW Government school classrooms to deliver SRE are approved and authorised by SRE providers only.
In order to employ SRE instructors, various SRE providers may group together to form a ‘combined arrangement’. These ‘combined arrangements’ may be associations, incorporations or SRE boards.
It is important to note that associations, incorporations or SRE boards representing a ‘combined arrangement’ are not SRE providers.
Each member church or denomination of the combined arrangement must, however, be an approved SRE provider.
Combined arrangements can make it hard to find who to deal with to get information because one or more of the member churches may authorise the SRE instructor/s and others may authorise the SRE curriculum.
Principals must be able to tell you how to contact the local representative of the SRE provider.
What happens during SRE?
During SRE, the NSW Department of Education suspends its own curriculum and formal school activities and students are divided up according to the beliefs of their parents/caregivers and placed in either a SRE class, an ethics class (if available) or in Alternative Meaningful Activities (AMA; also known as ‘non-scripture’ or ‘non-special religious education’ or ‘non-SRE’).
Between 20 and 40 hours (3-6 school days) a year are allocated to SRE, during which time students in AMA are not allowed to receive any formal curriculum education.
During this time, students in SRE are exposed to lessons which the Minister for Education and the Department of Education have no control over.
Once approval has been given to a SRE provider to deliver SRE, the provider has sole responsibility for developing the materials delivered by its instructors.
A class teacher does not need to be present during SRE.