What is SRE?
Special Religious Education (SRE), or Scripture, is offered during the school day in most NSW primary schools and many high schools.
Under the Education Act 1990, parents can choose SRE for their child as part of the school curriculum.
There are different models agreed between schools and local churches. Some schools have weekly 30 minute classes, some have seminars once a term or less frequently and in other cases several classes combine for regular assembly style lessons.
When the government took over schools from the churches in the late 1800s the agreement was that the clergy should continue the spiritual development of students in school time. Initially it was an hour a day but now although ‘up to an hour a week’ is allowed by law for SRE, lessons average 25-40 minutes.
Who teaches SRE?
SRE teachers are people of faith. They belong to local churches and most volunteer their time because they enjoy working with children and believe that a faith is valuable for everyday living. Many are retired, some work part time in other jobs, some are students, and others work full time and teach SRE in their lunchtime. Many SRE volunteers already have experience working with children either as professional teachers or in children’s ministry in their church or community.
All teachers must complete a Working With Children Check, attend a Child Protection course and undergo initial and ongoing training
What happens in SRE lessons?
SRE teachers are required to use an approved curriculum, which is available for parents to view online.
Whilst the programs vary, and are age appropriate, students in Christian SRE classes commonly explore the Bible, encounter core Christian ethics and beliefs and examine how the teachings of Jesus call us to make good life choices in our relationships. A variety of teaching methods are used that allow the students to respond to lessons via writing, group discussion, music, song, drama and prayer. Children are encouraged to think, interact and make up their own minds about matters of faith. There is usually also a teacher from the school in the room.
Why send my child to SRE?
Some parents send their children because they already have a strong faith and would like their children to have these beliefs strengthened at school as well as at home. Some parents want their children to be informed about faith and spirituality so they can make up their own mind. Others are keen for their children to learn Christian morals and values. We believe there are lots of benefits in sending children to Christian SRE lessons, including these:
- In SRE children will be assured that they are unique, valuable in their own right and treasured by God.
- Kids learn from the Bible which helps them understand western culture, art, literature, language and law. It builds up their general knowledge
- SRE provides an opportunity for children to develop their spirituality
- It promotes moral development and teaches Christian ethics like the 10 Commandments and Jesus’ teaching on loving others.
- The ’big issues’, like life, death and purpose are explored through ancient stories.
- SRE teaches children tools to use in times of crisis e.g prayer, words of comfort from the Bible. This helps build resilience.
- SRE provides information, and encourages children to think and discuss and to make up their own minds.
- SRE reinforces the Core Values of NSW Public Schools: honesty and trustworthiness, integrity, doing your best, respect, freedom, understanding, tolerance and inclusion, responsibility, care and compassion, fairness.
- Medical research has found positive associations between increased spirituality and health outcomes and wellbeing.
Does SRE still have a place in public schools?
The Department of Education in NSW recognises that along with educational, social, emotional and physical development, spiritual development is important for children.
Many parents don’t feel able to teach faith to their children but believe that having a faith gives a person an advantage in life. They want their child to have a knowledge of the things taught in SRE so they can make up their own mind about what to believe. SRE has been in public schools in NSW for over 130 years, and the values and ethics that are taught such as forgiveness, loving others, helping the poor and being compassionate remain fitting character traits for good community members of the future.
What do kids think about SRE?
It varies of course, but overwhelmingly SRE teachers are passionate people who love kids, and kids respond with enthusiasm. Many SRE teachers are older, and for kids who have little contact with older members of their extended family, regular interaction with them conveys a different, valuable perspective on life. Because SRE lessons are often a different style from other classroom lessons, kids who usually struggle often shine in SRE.