Inquiry rules in favour of school ethics classes
ETHICS classes should be retained in NSW schools as an option for students who do not want to take part in special religious education, according to the findings of a parliamentary inquiry due to report this week.
The inquiry was established last year after the Christian Democratic Party MP Fred Nile put forward a private member's bill seeking their abolition, less than a year after the former Labor government introduced them.
A parliamentary committee chaired by the Liberal MP Marie Ficarra examined the objectives and effectiveness of the classes and whether the legislation allowing for them should be repealed.
The Herald understands the inquiry's report recommends against the repeal of the legislation and advises the government to continue to support the classes. It also recommends the Department of Education publish the number of students taking part in ethics and special religious education classes, or neither, and that both types of class be reviewed in 2014-15.
The inquiry received almost 500 submissions. It heard that some religious groups which initially opposed the classes did not believe they should be removed, but others, such as the Presbyterian Church, said they were not opposed to their abolition.
The committee is believed to have acknowledged the positive feedback the classes had received and the evidence suggesting they had only had a small effect on enrolments for special religious education classes.
The law was changed in 2010 to enshrine the right of NSW schools to run ethics classes as an alternative to special religious education.
Previously, department policy forbade schools from offering alternative lessons to students who chose to not take part in special religious education.