Fresh revelations of deeply inappropriate material being taught to children at unregulated and unsupervised school scripture classes requires the new Education Minister to act. He must put children first and suspend school scripture until he has released a hidden NSW government report into scripture classes and can prove that children are safe in these school classes.
A recently released Queensland review into the same material used in NSW scripture classes shows that the unvetted material encourages behaviour that put children at risk of sexual abuse, such as having ‘special friendships’ with adults and keeping secrets. It also includes animal sacrifice and teaching the New and Old Testaments as literal historic truth.
Given the ongoing risks to children we will be demanding its public release, through freedom of information, parliament and if necessary the courts. Until it is released, and parents can be assured their children are not at risk, school scripture should be suspended.
See today’s report: http://www.theherald.com.au/story/4441340/blind-faith/
Greens MP and Justice Spokesperson David Shoebridge said:
“NSW has kept the review of scripture classes secret for more than 12 months while deliberating what to do with it. Meanwhile children are at risk.
“Not only do parents deserve access to this information, but what we do know already suggests these classes should be immediately suspended.
“The Queensland review confirms that the materials currently being used in NSW public schools are putting children directly at risk of child sexual abuse.
“Church leaders are now on the record saying this content is completely out of date and inappropriate.
“It’s time for the NSW Government to listen to the justified concerns about what is being taught to children, rather than any conservative religious elements within their own cabinet.
“We have now lodged a freedom of information application for the secret review, and will pursue its release vigorously through the Parliament and the courts if need be.
“We are calling on Rob Stokes as the new Education Minister to protect the children in his care and urgently suspend scripture classes in public schools,” Mr Shoebridge said.
Summary of issues:
– Includes references to concepts including animal sacrifice and ‘wasting money on women’ which were deemed inappropriate for use in primary schools
– Includes a lesson for children aged 7-9 about a man born blind, which asked: “Was it a punishment from God because his parents or someone else had done something wrong?”
– The materials has content that was found ‘may encourage undesirable child safe behaviours, such as the keeping and intentional hiding of secrets and the formation of ‘special friendships’ with adults’
– No scripture material is either checked or approved by the NSW Department of Education. This is a disturbing fact known to very few parents or even school principals
– a Catholic scripture teacher was removed from a school after being observed taking a brooch of two little feet into a class to show children “that was the size of an unborn baby’s feet”
– much of the scripture material used in NSW is produced by the Anglican Diocese of Sydney’s Youthworks. It is based on evangelical Christian teaching that the Bible, both New and Old Testaments, is historic fact
– Rod Bower from the Newcastle Anglican Diocese said scripture in public schools is “an echo from a bygone era and now needs to be reconsidered”.
– Bishop Stuart from the Newcastle Maitland Diocese identified the materials as out of date, saying: “It is appropriate for the current forms of religious education to be reviewed. Australian society continues to change and education about ethics, values and beliefs needs to reflect those changes”.
The full Queensland report is available here: https://www.scribd.com/document/338073864/170201-Queensland-SRE-Review