Religious education and special education in ethics

Direction and guidance on matters relating to general religious education, special religious education and ethics education in schools.


All schools, department officers and providers of special religious education and special education in ethics.

Version Date Description of changes Approved by
V05.0.0 10/05/2024

Under the 2023 Policy and procedure review program, this policy is consolidated with the Special Education in Ethics policy and converted into new template.

Executive Director, Curriculum and Reform

Document history

2022 Jul 25 - updated section 4.2 of implementation document, Special Religious Education Procedure, to include changes to the Working with Children Check policy. Updated website links.

2021 Jul 15 - maintenance update to both implementation documents - updated links, minor formatting changes.

2021 Jun 22 - maintenance update to policy statement - position titles updated to reflect current department organisation structure.

2020 May 12 - updated contact details.

2020 Apr - updated contact details.

Superseded documents

Religious Education Policy PD/2002/0074/V03

Special Religious Education Policy (1995) (PD/2002/0074/V02).

School Manual on Educational Management, Revised 1995 DG 95.4095, Section 15.8, Procedures for SRE.
School Manual on Educational Management, Revised 1995 DG 95.4095, Section 15.7, Religious Education.
School Manual on Educational Management. Revised 1995 DG 95.4095 Section 15.9, Education week religious celebrations in schools (including multi-faith services).
Memorandum to Principals 91/067 (S.048) Education Reform Act (Section 26) Exemption from what is being taught on the basis of conscientious objection on religious grounds.
Memorandum 96/138 (S.132) School prayers
Memorandum 93/3316 Special religious education (SRE)
Memorandum DN10/00321 - Planning for 2011 Classes (Special Religious Education).

  1. Policy statement
    1. Schools are to allow for both general religious education (provided as part of the NSW Education Standards Authority syllabuses) and special religious education (where the curriculum is developed and implemented by approved providers).
    2. For students whose parents have withdrawn them from special religious education, schools are to provide alternative meaningful activities. This may include the option of special education in ethics if it is requested by a parent and carer and an approved provider can provide trained volunteers.
  2. Context
    1. Education Act 1990, sections 26, 30, 31, 32 and 33 and 33A.
    2. Rawlinson Committee Report Religion in Education in NSW Government Schools (1980) recommendations 36-72.
    3. NSW Ethics Course Trial Final Report (2010) recommendations 1 to 5.
    4. Inquiry into Education Amendment (Ethics Classes Repeal) Bill 2012 Final Report.
    5. 2015 Review of Special Religious Education and Special Education in Ethics in NSW government schools recommendations.
    6. The following procedures support this policy:
  3. Policy contact
    Special Religious Education and Special Education in Ethics Officer
    02 7814 2353
  4. Monitoring the policy
    The Director, Curriculum Early Years and Primary Learners monitors the implementation of this policy, regularly reviews its contents to ensure relevance and accuracy, and updates it as needed.

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