Religion has always played a valued part in the education provided by NSW government schools. The NSW Public Instruction Act of 1880 set down the pattern of teaching that exists to this day, based on a dual system of secular instruction (which includes general religious education) and special religious education.
Public schools exist to support parents in the education and development of their children. As a society, we want an education system that does more than just equip children academically. We’ve recognised that things like music, drama, or sport (and a whole variety of other things) are valuable in helping young people develop into mature, society-contributing adults. Religious education fits into this category, possessing educational and cultural value that contributes to the holistic development of our children.
NSW is a diverse, multicultural community and SRE reflects that diversity. It doesn’t trivialise religion or different beliefs. Instead, it celebrates diversity and gives students the opportunity to understand and explore the world from a genuine faith perspective.
The times for SRE lessons are to be fixed by negotiation between the principal of the school and the approved religious providers who will run the program. Lessons must be at least 30 minutes per week, with a maximum of one hour per week.
We would often talk about (our religious beliefs) with friends from different groups. We would be challenged to consider what is being told in "places of worship" versus our actual encounters of what it means to believe particular things in our schools and in our community ... thus the designated SRE time taught both intrinsic motivation to learn about yourself, and gave voice to students who would want to question the theologies they have grown up with.Matthew