From The SMH
The state government has rejected the recommendations of an independent report into scripture teaching in NSW schools that would have forced providers to track student enrolment numbers and let students who opt out get on with their regular class work during scripture class time.
Less than one-third of high school students are enrolled in scripture, according to a $300,000 review of Special Religious Education (SRE) released by the NSW Department of Education.
But the department has rejected making substantial changes to the teaching of scripture after sitting on the review by ARTD consultants for almost 18 months.
A recommendation to permit the majority of students who do not take scripture to get on with their class work was rejected on the basis it was against the current Religious Education Policy; along with a recommendation to give high school principals the power to opt in to SRE, which was rejected because parents currently have the right to withdraw their child from SRE in writing.
In primary schools, participation in SRE is about 71 per cent, while almost half of all principals report a decline in scripture enrolments in the past four years.
But there is no way to test those enrolment figures, which are based on a survey of principals, because the department also rejected a recommendation to keep centralised SRE enrolment figures on the basis it would not be "the best use of resources to establish an additional statewide monitoring system for attendance in SRE"
In addition, the controversial 2015 change that removed the ethics option from the school enrolment form, which was viewed by ethics advocates as a sop to Christian Democrat MP Rev Fred Nile who holds the balance of power in the upper house, will stay, against the recommendation of the review.
"I am very pleased that today the NSW Coalition government has continued its positive support for SRE, which is so beneficial to our young people today," Mr Nile said on Tuesday.
The review was a recommendation of a 2012 upper house inquiry into ethics classes in NSW schools, which recommended the department publish the number of students taking part in ethics and scripture classes, or neither, and that both types of class be reviewed in 2014-15.
Education Minister Rob Stokes conceded the review heard some "concerning anecdotes" but said "there was no widespread or systemic evidence of problems in the present system of SRE or SEE [ethics].
From my Twitter feed
UK School Standards Minister @NickGibbMP talking #education reform and sharing experiences with @NSWEducation & @DETVic teachers
We do not want to be following the lead of the UK in education EVER!