Special religious education and special education in ethics procedures

Direction and guidance to schools and approved providers on delivering special religious education and special education in ethics.


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

Version Date Description of changes Approved by
V02.0.0 10/05/2024 Under the 2023 Policy and procedure review program, consolidated instructions previously provided in the Special Education in Ethics procedures. Updated into new template and improved readability. Executive Director, Curriculum and Reform

About the policy

Term Definition

Special religious education (SRE)

The beliefs and practices of an approved religious persuasion, delivered by authorised representatives of that persuasion. It is the distinctive religious tenets and beliefs of the home and family, provided by the churches and other religious groups for children of parents expressing the desire that they receive such teaching.

Special education in ethics (SEE)

Education in ethical decision making, action and reflection within a secular framework, based on a branch of philosophy.


  • allow for the teaching of special religious education and special education in ethics in schools.

Directors, Educational Leadership:

  • monitor the implementation of special religious education and special education in ethics in schools
  • resolve implementation issues between the school, its community and providers of special religious education and special education in ethics.

NSW Department of Education Consultative Committee for Special Religious Education and Special Education in Ethics:

  • advises the Director, Curriculum Early Years and Primary Learners on implementing the policy
  • considers new developments and approaches to special religious education and special education in ethics.

Director, Curriculum Early Years and Primary Learners:

  • monitors the implementation of the policy and reports, as required, to the Learning Improvement Executive Group
  • acts as Chair and provides executive support for the NSW Department of Education Consultative Committee for Special Religious Education and Special Education in Ethics
  • advises the department on the policy and its implementation
  • provides administrative support for special religious education and special education in ethics, including
    • receiving and processing submissions for approving a religious persuasion to teach special religious education, or an organisation or individual to deliver special education in ethics
    • maintaining the list of approved providers
    • procuring annual assurances from approved providers.

Special Religious Education and Special Education in Ethics Officer:

  • provides advice on interpreting and implementing the policy
  • acts as Executive Officer for the NSW Department of Education Consultative Committee for Special Religious Education and Special Education in Ethics
  • liaises with principals and Directors, Educational Leadership on matters relating to special religious education and special education in ethics.

What needs to be done

1. Providers must obtain approval to teach SRE/SEE and manage teaching arrangements

To deliver special religious education (SRE) or special education in ethics (SEE), providers must, as outlined below:

  • obtain and maintain Ministerial approval
  • manage teachers, lessons and other arrangements.

To deliver SRE/SEE, providers must:

  • obtain approval from the Minister for Education, through the department’s application process
  • maintain approval by completing the department's annual assurance process. The department will email the annual assurance request in Term 4. Approved providers need to return the completed assurance before the beginning of Term 1 of the following school year. This assurance includes but is not limited to, having procedures in place to ensure compliance with the requirements of the Child Protection (Working with Children) Act 2012, including verification of the Working with Children Check clearance.

Approved providers will lose their approved provider status if they do not address the responsibilities and obligations outlined in the annual assurance.

Approved providers must:

  • recruit, train and authorise sufficient teachers of SRE/SEE
  • provide the names, contact details and dates of birth of SRE/SEE teachers
  • inform the principal when there are insufficient authorised teachers available
  • ensure that all personnel over the age of 18 years comply with all legislative requirements relating to the protection of children and young people from abuse and neglect, including the requirements for a valid and current NSW Working with Children Check Clearance for all workers (paid and unpaid) engaged in child-related work
  • ensure that all SRE/SEE teachers have a name badge that includes both the approved provider/s and the teacher’s names. These must always be worn on a school site
  • ensure that SRE/SEE teachers present photo identification on the school’s request
  • have in place a system of authorised initial training, regular ongoing training and support, including mentoring for their SRE/SEE teachers. The training is to include child protection, classroom management, and how to implement the approved provider’s authorised curriculum sensitively and in an age-appropriate manner. This information must be published on the approved provider’s website
  • conduct regular reviews of SRE/SEE teaching and use of approved curriculum. Approved providers are required to report the review results through the annual assurance process, including efforts to address any identified issues.

Approved providers can either:

A volunteer under the age of 18 does not need a WWCC, however, must complete the approved provider’s volunteer authorisation form that has been signed by the volunteer’s parent, the volunteer’s school and an authorised representative of the approved provider or the department’s Declaration for child related workers (PDF 220 KB). A volunteer under 18 years is to be supervised by an SRE/SEE teacher on a school site.

Lesson content

Approved providers must:

  • authorise the materials and pedagogy used by SRE/SEE teachers, have a process in place to manage other materials identified by the SRE/SEE teacher, including internet resources, and return the annual assurance to the department as outlined in section 1 ‘Providers obtain and maintain ministerial approval to deliver SRE/SEE’
  • make their curriculum scope and sequence(s) accessible on their website in sufficient detail for parents, carers and schools to be able to understand what is covered in SRE/SEE lessons
  • provide the link to their website to the school so it can be placed on the school’s website to be easily accessible to parents and carers
  • provide information about the content of lessons when requested by parents, carers and principals
  • organise any excursion with the consent of the principal and in accordance with the department’s Excursions policy.

Combined arrangements

Religious persuasions may decide to provide a combined arrangement for several reasons, including human resource management. No religious persuasion should be compelled to participate in this form of organisation.

In combined arrangements, each religious persuasion must be an approved provider. The curriculum and the SRE teacher, must be authorised by at least one of the approved providers.

The approved providers must clearly identify to the school which approved provider is responsible for authorising the curriculum and the appropriate website link.

The school and the approved providers involved should periodically review combined arrangements.

2. Schools negotiate SRE/SEE delivery and timetable activities

Schools must, as outlined below:

  • negotiate delivery with providers
  • ensure SRE/SEE delivery is timetabled, along with alternative meaningful activities
  • communicate with parents or carers about SRE/SEE options
  • appoint a coordinator (as needed).

Principals and approved providers organise SRE/SEE delivery through negotiation and agreement. Principals need to be sensitive to the fact that SRE/SEE teachers are often volunteers and they may have other commitments.

Schools must:

  • adhere to privacy legislation and make sure that unauthorised persons cannot access confidential information, in any form, including details about students and SRE/SEE teachers
  • check providers are an approved provider to deliver SRE/SEE
  • cross-reference SRE/SEE teachers on the department’s Not to be Employed (NTBE) database in Electronic Casual Pay Claims (eCPC) each term or when a new SRE/SEE teacher commences.

Schools are responsible for managing student behaviour during SRE/SEE classes and retain duty of care for students, including for student supervision, health, safety and wellbeing, during SRE/SEE. Schools intervene in cases where it is necessary to maintain good order and conduct. Principals need to manage such cases with the approved provider’s representative.

Principals and approved providers may negotiate:

  • a flexible variation of SRE/SEE teaching time (at least 30 minutes, but no more than one hour), provided it is not more than an average of one hour per week – for example, schools may hold SRE/SEE fortnightly for a minimum of one hour or hold an assembly once a month for a minimum of two hours. Principals will review these arrangements regularly
  • providers being able to use school technology to deliver SRE/SEE
  • a combined arrangement as outlined in the information on ‘Lesson content’ and ‘Combined arrangements’ in section 2, which the school and the approved providers should review periodically
  • for a class teacher to remain in the classroom to assist with and monitor student behaviour.

In line with the department’s Code of Conduct, employees of the department are not to teach SRE/SEE while on duty.

Principals must allow time for SRE and SEE where authorised representatives of approved providers are available. SRE/SEE is an integral part of school activities, taking place during school hours and under the school’s jurisdiction. If no SRE providers are available, SEE may still be delivered.

Principals must:

  • ensure no academic instruction or formal school activities occur during time set aside for SRE/SEE
  • allocate a suitable amount of meaningful teaching time per week – at least 30 minutes, but no more than one hour (consistent with students’ age and attention span)
  • provide adequate learning facilities for delivering SRE/SEE, including accommodation and classroom access
  • notify, well in advance if known, representatives of approved providers and their teachers of any changes to school routines that may impact on the scheduled time of SRE/SEE classes.

Students not attending SRE/SEE must be:

  • provided with supervised alternative meaningful activities such as reading, private study or completing homework – they cannot participate in school curriculum lessons or other extra-curricular activities during this time
  • in a separate physical space from SRE/SEE classes
  • supervised by a member of the school staff consistent with the department’s duty of care requirements outlined in the Code of Conduct.

Schools need to communicate with parents or carers about how SRE/SEE will be organised each school year. They must provide parents or carers access to current information about approved providers working in their school, including links to the approved providers’ authorised curriculum scope and sequence(s) and information on alternative meaningful activities. This information needs to be provided:

  • at enrolment
  • on the school’s website
  • in the school newsletter.

Schools must use the SRE and SEE participation letter (DOCX 42 KB) and, if a school has access to the Online Enrolment System, they must also set up the SRE/SEE options page to provide the option for parents or carers to either:

  • enrol their child into SRE from the school’s available approved provider(s)
  • withdraw their child from SRE by selecting alternative meaningful activities or SEE where available.

Schools must make all reasonable attempts to receive a response from parents or carers and keep any written response on file.

If the student starts school without the SRE/SEE preference being completed in the Online Enrolment System or before the return of the paper-based participation letter, the student is to participate in alternative meaningful activities pending a response.

Students are to continue in the same arrangement as the previous year, unless a parent or carer requests a change. A parent or carer may at any time notify the school in writing that they do not wish their child to attend SRE, or to change their nomination. If a parent or carer has withdrawn their child from SRE, a different parent or carer cannot override this withdrawal.

Where a parent or carer requests an SRE/SEE option, and it is not currently available in the school, the school will provide them with the link to the approved provider list. It is a parent’s or carer’s responsibility to contact their preferred approved provider to request they commence at their child’s school. The approved provider will contact the school to negotiate a start date if they have an authorised teacher available.

The Religion and ethics website provides further information and Support materials to help schools communicate with parents or carers. This includes:

Where appropriate, principals may appoint a member of staff as the school’s SRE/SEE coordinator. Duties of the coordinator include:

  • arranging meetings early in Term 4 of each year between the school and representatives of the approved providers to discuss SRE/SEE organisation for the following year, including estimated numbers
  • liaising with SRE/SEE teachers to
    • provide a site induction and familiarise them with school procedures and operations
    • advise of any variations of school routine affecting SRE/SEE
    • provide a class list and any special information, such as disability or special needs, which might affect the health, behaviour or performance of particular students
  • maintaining SRE/SEE records, including
    • an up-to-date list of authorised SRE/SEE teachers from the approved providers
    • a list of student names in each class for SRE/SEE
  • advising parents and carers of SRE/SEE class arrangements for the next year and ongoing information about any changes as they occur.

3. Schools and providers manage complaints

Principals determine whether the school or provider will manage a complaint and will make this clear to complainants. For example, providers will manage complaints about alleged teaching inefficiency or inappropriate lesson content.

School-managed complaints follow the department’s Complaints handling policy. If a principal receives allegations of improper behaviour or other complaints of a serious nature, it must be managed in accordance with the department’s policies and procedures. In line with the Child protection: allegations against employees policy, any allegations of a child protection nature must be referred to the department’s Professional and Ethical Standards (PES) directorate, which will determine how the matter should proceed.

Approved providers must make publicly available on their website their complaints procedures. Complaints must be resolved within a reasonable timeframe.

Where combined arrangements exist for delivering SRE, the approved providers must clearly identify to the school which approved provider is responsible for handling complaints.

Mandatory tools and templates

Supporting tools, resources and related information

Policy contact

The Director, Curriculum Early Years and Primary Learners monitors the implementation of this procedure, regularly reviews its contents to ensure relevance and accuracy, and updates it as needed.

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