New education policies released by the Queensland Department for Education Training and the Arts will greatly influence the conduct of Religious Education and the provision of chaplaincy services in State Schools.
The Uniting Church representative on the State Government’s Religious Education Advisory Committee (REAC) Rev David MacGregor says both policies significantly ‘raise the crossbar’ for all interested parties.
For RE the policies will impact on the school, parents, local church volunteers, accrediting ministers and, in the case of chaplains, the Local Chaplaincy Committee.
“It is worth noting that for the first time we have more than ‘guidelines’ for Religious Instruction in our state schools; we have policy,” said Mr MacGregor.
“This reduces the chance of arrangements being somewhat half-hearted and lacking in uniformity across the state.
“Religious leaders at local level will need to more diligent and vigilant in accrediting volunteers.”
Expectations regarding “Blue Cards” are now part of the RE policy and co-operative programs, in operation for many years now across Queensland will need input, detail and ‘sign-off’ by schools, volunteers and their churches alike.
“Parents in registering their children will experience both the opportunity and necessity of offering more-detailed information about their wishes for their children when it comes to religious education.”
Mr MacGregor said that technically, the ‘opt out’ option (where children attend RE unless their parents ask for them not to) remains, but with greater stringency in enrolment processes where parents will now be asked to declare their RE preferences.
He sees this as a move toward “opt in” but not as clear-cut as would have been the case had the proposed Education Act changes been implemented earlier this year.
“As for Chaplaincy, the policy (a major enhancement on a previous document) gives greater space to issues of accountability; the role (if any) of the chaplain in faith-based activities; local chaplaincy committees; appointment processes; support of chaplains; and a range of other matters.”
For further information the policy documents are available online:
Religious Instruction in School Hours – Identify processes, responsibilities and procedures for religious leaders or accredited representatives of a religious denomination or society to gain entry into a particular State school to deliver an authorised program of instruction to students who are members or have parental consent to attend such program. http://education.qld.gov.au/strategic/eppr/schools/scmpr021/
Chaplaincy Services in Queensland State Schools – Accountabilities and procedures for principals of State schools in developing program of chaplaincy services including appointing a paid or volunteer chaplain to deliver chaplaincy services. http://education.qld.gov.au/strategic/eppr/schools/scmpr012/
Photo : Uniting Church REAC representative Rev David MacGregor