Religious instruction in Victorian schools axed from class time

NEWS | Kaley Payne

Friday 21 August 2015

Victorian public schools will no longer be able to run special religious instruction (SRI) classes during class time.

A statement made overnight by Victorian Education Minister James Merlino outlined that the SRI programme would be moved to either lunchtimes or before and after school from 2016, suggesting students not participating in SRI are missing out on “essential learning time.”

“The move means that teachers and students will be able to focus on core curriculum, learning the lessons and skills they need to be their best,” said the Government in a statement.

The axing of the 30-minute SRI makes way for new curriculum material for Prep through to Year 10 specifically on “respectful relationships education,” supporting students to learn “how to build healthy relationships, understand global cultures, ethics and traditions, and to prevent family violence.” The new curriculum materials follows a pilot programme across 30 state schools.

Access Ministries, the main provider of SRI in Victoria has said that the government did not consult with providers or parents on its decision to push SRI outside class times.

“Access Ministries is disappointed that the Government has made this announcement without consultation. And while we applaud all efforts to address the issue of family violence we do not believe that this needs to take place at the expense of SRI,” said Access CEO Dawn Penney.

“Nearly 30,000 children in Victoria are enrolled in Christian SRI, with many more unable to participate due to decisions by schools not the run the programme.

“The wishes of these parents to have their children introduced to the concepts of the Christian faith are being ignored and overridden by the Government.

Access Ministries says it is “urging the Government to reconsider this overly hasty decision.”

Lobby group Fairness in Religion in Schools (FIRIS) is claiming victory, having campaigned against SRI for several years.

Controversy has surrounded the SRI program in Victoria in the last four years, with changes in government seeing the addition of new requirements, including reaccreditation for volunteer SRI teachers which saw volunteer numbers drop significantly at the beginning of this year.

Access Ministries spokesperson Rob Ward told Eternity they would be seeking urgent discussions with the Education Minister.


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