NSW Opposition commits to ethics option

June 13, 2018

The NSW Labor Party has committed to reinstating the option for ethics classes on school enrolment forms.

In 2015 the NSW Coalition government removed the option to enrol in ethics classes, presenting Special Religious Education (scripture) as the only available option and requiring parents to actively pursue ethics classes for their children.

In a media release dated 10 June, NSW opposition leader Luke Foley said that the government “effectively hid options from parents” and that “it is frankly a scandal that the government in a deal with the Rev. Fred Nile removed the ethics choice from the public school enrolment form”.

“At present, Principals do not have to inform parents about ethics classes until the parent has returned paperwork rejecting scripture lessons for their child — twice,” shadow education minister Jihad Dib said in the media release.

“‘It’s a very simple thing to do — go back to the form that was in use before the Liberal-National government changed it. Allow parents to just tick the box, without the need to write additional letters — or creating more confusion,” he also said.

Scripture in NSW schools has been at the centre of a number of ongoing controversies, including incidents of students being placed in scripture classes against their parents' wishes and the ongoing policy that prevents students not participating in scripture from participating in learning activities.

In 2017 the government rejected recommendations from its own independent review of scripture classes in NSW, which arose out of an Upper House inquiry into ethics classes in 2012. The rejected recommendations included returning the ethics option to enrolment forms.