The start of the school year brings fresh challenges to a group of people stepping into a new role. It’s a new role for them, but one that has been around for over 100 years.
These people are the ones who have said ‘Yes’ to teaching Special Religious Education (SRE, also known as Scripture) in public schools this year.
SRE teaching is not a job for the feint-hearted. Teachers need to be confident in the benefits that they bring to the school in helping the children develop spiritually.
It’s not a job for independent operators. By law, all SRE teachers must be authorised by a Government Approved Provider. In the case of Baptist churches, that is the Baptist Union. Where SRE is conducted jointly with other churches, the teachers are cross-authorised by the other denominations and represent not just their own church but the other churches as well. New implementation guidelines from the Department of Education and Communities (DEC) state, ‘The religious education to be given is in every case to be the religious education authorised by the religious body to which the … religious teacher belongs. Religious persuasions recruit, train and authorise their teachers, ensuring they have met child protection guidelines. Curriculum is authorised by the religious persuasion’.
SRE teaching is a job for dedicated followers of Jesus who are grateful for the extra dimension that faith and church bring to their lives and has brought to Christians for 2000 years. It’s a job for people who want to help kids explore the place that faith might have in their lives. That’s very different from trying to impose a set of beliefs on kids, which is how some in the media have described SRE.
Because we have this opportunity in schools, we want to do it with excellence. That’s why the churches, through the Inter Church Commission on Religious Education in Schools (ICCOREIS), last year agreed to a common standard for SRE teachers.
This is in addition to child protection training, and is about training in practical classroom skills and competencies. From 2013, when a teacher’s authorisation card comes up for renewal, they will only be given provisional authorisation until they complete training to the agreed standard. The extra training involves four modules (two hours each) of classroom training and one hour of Biblical worldview. (For teachers trained in education or theology there are exemptions.) That’s quite a commitment for those who volunteer to teach, but it reflects the importance of SRE teaching, the competence expected by DEC, and the level of training required for teachers of Special Ethics Education.
The Baptist Association fully endorses this standard and has been conducting the training regionally throughout 2011 with much more planned for 2012. Even those who have been teaching confidently for many years agree that the training was well worthwhile.
Other denominations are doing the same and, of course, teachers can do training with any denomination and get credit for it, as long as they notify kidsmin@baptistnsw. asn.au. An online course is also being developed, not as a substitute for face-to-face training, but in order to bridge the gap until teachers can get to training.
Browse the School Scripture (SRE) page at www.children.baptistnsw.asn.au page for more information and free resources. Downloads include an orientation letter with essential dos and don’ts for new SRE teachers, a handy document to get important information about teaching before you start, and materials that highlight the benefits of SRE to contemporary schools and their students.
SRE is a partnership. It provides a service to the children on behalf of the churches with the consent of the parents and the cooperation of the schools.
Special thanks go to all who are cooperating to ensure that the churches’ part of the partnership is done with excellence. And let us all unite in prayer and with words of encouragement for the dedicated volunteers who are part of SRE.