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New policies tighten up RE and Chaplaincy in State Schools

Changes to Education Queensland policies for both Religious Instruction and Chaplaincy in state schools will have significant consequences for schools, parents, ministers, church councils and RE volunteers.

Uniting Church representative on Education Queensland’s Religious Education Advisory Committee (REAC) and Queensland Churches Together RE/Chaplaincy Committee Rev David MacGregor says this is the culmination of over five years work, and comes within months of the government’s ‘about-turn’ on their proposed changes to the Education General Provisions Act.

“Both policies, Chaplaincy and Religious Education, significantly ‘raise the crossbar’ for all interested parties,” said Mr MacGregor.

“It is worth noting that for the first time we have more than ‘guidelines’ for Religious Instruction in our state schools; we have policy which reduces the chance, and likelihood in far too many cases, of arrangements being half-hearted and lacking in uniformity across the state.

“Religious leaders at local level will need to be more diligent and vigilant in accrediting volunteers and “Blue Card” expectations are upfront in the RI policy.

“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 enrolling their children will need to offer more-detailed information about their preferences when it comes to religious education.

Mr MacGregor said there had been particular interest in the new policy about FORM C – Parent Notice for Religious Instruction in School Hours.

“This was the form that parents were to fill in at enrolment, to specify their choice of RE.

“There had already been some schools who have indicated that they would ask all parents to respond to this form, rather than just new enrolments and the potential concern here was that these forms would become lost, not be returned promptly or have a low return rate and the delivery of RE would suffer.

“On 15 December 2006, this new form was removed from the policy.”

Mr MacGregor said the Chaplaincy policy is stronger on issues of accountability, the role (if any) of the chaplain in faith-based activities, local chaplaincy committees and appointment processes.

More details will be sent direct to ministers and Church Councils through UC Information.