Frequently asked questions
Special Religious Education (SRE), previously referred to as ‘Scripture’, is education in the beliefs and practices of an approved religious persuasion by authorised representatives of that persuasion. The traditional term for SRE was 'Scripture'. We now only use 'SRE'.
General Religious Education (GRE) is education about the world’s major religions, what people believe and how that belief affects their lives. It is taught through the school curriculum. Further information is available on the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) website.
Special Education in Ethics
Special Education in Ethics (SEE) is education in ethical decision making, action and reflection within a secular framework, based on a branch of philosophy.
Students withdrawn from Special Religious Education (SRE) can elect to engage in SEE where available, where available and requested by the parents/caregivers. SEE is currently available for students K-6.
If a school does not currently have SEE established, and a parent requests it, the principal is to provide the name and contact details for the approved provider Primary Ethics.
Voluntary student activity of a religious nature in schools
Voluntary Student Activities of a Religious Nature in Schools (VSA) is any activity of a religious nature, including those provided by religious organisations.
VSA includes student and/or volunteer led prayer groups, breakfast or lunchtime clubs, religious youth groups, and distribution of religious materials to students. VSA is not part of Special Religious Education (SRE) and is not part of the curriculum.
For more information about VSA, please see the Other Activities of a Religious Nature in Schools document (PDF254KB) and the Principal Checklist (DOCX 60KB)
Is a prayer group part of Voluntary Student Activity of a Religious Nature in School?
Yes. A prayer group is a VSA. VSA includes student and/or volunteer led prayer groups.
Are schools required to offer Voluntary Student Activities/Prayer Groups?
No. Principals may choose to allow VSA to operate within their school, when it aligns with local community expectations.
Alternative meaningful activities
'Alternative Meaningful Activities' may also be known as 'non-SRE'.
Students not attending SRE or SEE are to be provided with supervised 'Alternative Meaningful Activities'. These activities do not compete with SRE/SEE and are not lessons in the curriculum. Suitable activities may include reading, private study, completing homework or other activities as considered to be appropriate by the school community.
Schools determine the Alternative Meaningful Activities and include their plan for Alternative Meaningful Activities in general information to parents/caregivers on their school website and in other forms of communication.
Is minimal supervision permitted during alternative meaningful activities?
Supervision of students is to be consistent with the department’s duty of care requirements to take reasonable steps to keep students safe from risk of harm while they are at school and engaged in school related activities.
Schools consider the following factors when considering whether supervision is adequate and effective:
- Experience and skills of staff
- Student age and capabilities
- Size of the student group
- Nature of the activity
Can I continue timetabled lessons and simply withdraw the students who participate in SRE/SEE?
No. Students are not to be participating in lessons in the school curriculum or other extra-curricular activities during time set aside for SRE/SEE. Such activities create conflict of choice for some parents and students attending SRE/SEE. If the year/stage do not have access to SRE and/or SEE, that year/stage can continue with normal timetabled lessons.
How often do I have to offer SRE/SEE?
SRE/SEE is organised by negotiation and agreement between the principal and the approved providers.
On average, not less than 30 minutes and not more than one hour of meaningful teaching time per week should be allocated for SRE/SEE. The lessons or period length for SRE/SEE should be consistent with the age and attention span of the students.
A flexible time schedule may be used depending on the length of the school’s standard period. For example, schools may hold SRE fortnightly for a minimum of one hour or schools may hold an assembly once per month for a minimum of two hours.
Please note that all students have a right to a minimum of 30 minutes per week.
What do I do if the school doesn’t have enough classrooms available for all the SRE/SEE classes?
Schools must ensure that adequate learning facilities are provided for the delivery of SRE/SEE, including adequate accommodation and access to classrooms. Consultation and regular communication approved providers will assist in equitably allocating learning spaces for the delivery of SRE/SEE.
For example, schools may negotiate with providers to use a covered outdoor learning area (COLA), combine multiple classes from the same provider into one class, or run SRE/SEE at different times for different stages.
School and provider responsibilities
Am I required to offer SRE/SEE?
Yes. Principals allow time for SRE/SEE where authorised representatives of approved providers are available.
- Approved providers are responsible for recruiting a sufficient number of SRE/SEE teachers.
- There are no minimum number of students required to establish an SRE or SEE class. Schools should be mindful of an approved providers recommended minimum or maximum number of students.
- Section 32 of the Education Act 1990 states ‘In every government school, time is to be allowed for the religious education of children of any religious persuasion’.
- Section 33A of the Education Act 1990 states ‘Special education in ethics is allowed as a secular alternative to special religious education at government schools.’
- SEE is currently available for students K-6.
How often should I meet with my approved providers?
Schools should have a meeting early in Term 4 with representatives of the approved providers to discuss SRE/SEE organisation for the following year. Any changes to SRE/SEE should be negotiated with and communicated to all approved providers at the school.
What is the schools requirement around Working with Children Check Clearance for SRE/SEE?
Schools do not monitor the NSW Working with Children Check (“WWCC”) Clearance of SRE/SEE teachers. Schools receive a list of the names, date of births and contact details of the SRE/SEE teachers and local representatives from the approved provider(s).
Schools are responsible for cross-referencing 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 teacher commences.
What is the responsibility of the SRE/SEE Coordinator at the school?
Where appropriate, a member of staff is appointed as the SRE/SEE coordinator. The coordinator should read the SRE and SEE Policy and Procedures. Duties of the coordinator include:
- arranging meetings early in Term 4 between the school and representatives of the approved providers to discuss SRE/SEE organisation for the following year.
- provide a site induction and familiarise SRE/SEE teachers with the procedures and operations of the school.
- maintaining SRE/SEE records, including an up-to-date list of the authorised SRE/SEE teachers from the approved providers, and a list of the names of students in each class for SRE/SEE teachers.
- advising parents/caregivers of arrangements for SRE/SEE classes for the next year and ongoing information about any changes as they occur.
What information is the school required to provide to SRE/SEE teachers?
- provide a site induction, including what to do during an evacuation, lock down or lock out.
- adhere to privacy legislation and make sure that confidential information, in any form, cannot be accessed by unauthorised persons. This includes details about students and SRE/SEE teachers.
- provide the SRE/SEE teachers with any changes to scheduled routines which will impact on the delivery of the SRE/SEE lesson.
- provide teachers of SRE/SEE the names of the students in their class and any special information, such as disability or special needs, which might affect the health, behaviour or performance of particular students.
Can schools review materials/resources used in SRE/SEE at the school?
Yes. The principal and parent/caregiver can access information about the content of lessons from the Approved Provider website.
Schools are responsible for providing 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, and in the school newsletter.
What are my obligations when approved providers request to use school resources?
It is at the principal's discretion to determine if he/she wants to support the requests made by approved providers in relation to the use of school-based resources, including school technology.
How do I know who is approved to deliver SRE/SEE at my school?
Only those who are on the Approved Provider list are approved to deliver SRE/SEE in NSW Government schools.
When you are approached by someone offering SRE/SEE, you must ask who they represent and who is the Approved Provider, then check against the Approved Provider list.
What is an approved provider of SRE? How do they get approved?
Religious persuasions must have the approval of the Minister for Education to deliver SRE in NSW Government schools. See the criteria for approval and how to apply.
Is the school required to request an Approved Provider?
No. If a parent/caregiver has requested a religious persuasion or SEE, which is not currently available at the school, the school is to provide them with a link to the Approved Provider list. It is the responsibility of the parent/caregiver to follow up with approved providers.
It is the responsibility of approved providers to contact schools and to recruit, train, and authorise teachers of SRE/SEE.
What information should the school receive from the Approved Providers at their school?
The Approved Provider must provide schools with the link to their website which includes:
- the curriculum scope and sequence in sufficient detail for parents / carers to understand what is covered in SRE / SEE lessons
- information on the authorisation of teachers, the initial and ongoing training on classroom management and delivery of the curriculum with age appropriate learning experiences
- complaints procedures.
The provider gives a letter to the school which clearly identifies the approved provider and includes the name of authorised teacher(s) and local representative(s), date of birth and contact details. The letter is updated annually before the start of term 1, or as required.
The provider must ensure that all SRE/SEE teachers are provided with a name badge that includes the name of the authorising Approved Provider. The name badge is to be worn at all times when on a school site.
What information should be on my school website?
Parents/caregivers have the right to general information about how SRE/SEE will be organised each year and which organisations will deliver it. Schools must provide 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 also needs to be provided at enrolment, and in the school newsletter.
Schools can also use social media to communicate general information about SRE/SEE. All forms of communication can be used to regularly update the information and keep your community well informed.
When should I update the information on my school website?
Schools are encouraged to provide information to parents/caregivers and the wider community regarding SRE/SEE and alternative meaningful activities offered at the school. Any changes to SRE/SEE, or alternative meaningful activities options should be communicated to the school community.
Information should be updated whenever a change or variation occurs to existing choices and programs provided by the school.
What information should be in the school newsletter or other school communication resources?
Parents/caregivers have the right to general information about how SRE/SEE will be organised each year and which organisations will deliver it.
Any changes to SRE, SEE and/or alternative activities options should be communicated to the school community.
Additional religious education information
What is a combined arrangement?
Religious persuasions may decide to provide a combined arrangement. If this occurs, each religious persuasion must be an approved provider of SRE in NSW Government schools.
SRE lessons in combined arrangements must be delivered by authorised representatives who are authorised by at least one of the approved providers within a combined arrangement.
The curriculum delivered through a combined arrangement must be authorised by at least one of the approved providers. A combined arrangement should be reviewed periodically by the school and the religious persuasions involved.
In a combined arrangement only those students whose parents/caregivers have nominated them to attend SRE classes of one of the participating religious persuasions are to be included.
What is the difference between a combined arrangement and an SRE Board?
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.
An SRE board is independent of the department and may have churches listed whose only role is to provide resources or support to an approved provider. Supporting churches are not required to be an approved provider.
All SRE teachers must be trained and authorised by an approved provider and deliver their authorised curriculum.
Can schools host events which are linked to religious activities such as Diwali, Hanukah, Christmas, Eid, Easter, etc?
Yes. There are two ways this can occur.
- When a religious event is celebrated during SRE time, students do not need further parental permission to attend. The usual arrangements are to remain in place for students who do not attend SRE.
- When an event is linked to a religious activity and supports local community expectations and it is celebrated outside of SRE time e.g. a whole school Christmas activity, parents/caregivers should be notified of the activity and reminded of their right to object to the inclusion of their children. Schools are to provide alternative activities in another area of the school for students who do not participate.
What is Chaplaincy?
The National School Chaplaincy Programme (NSCP) does not fall within the religious education policy.
NSCP is a Commonwealth-funded initiative to support the emotional wellbeing of students and the school community through the provision of pastoral care. The New South Wales Government administers the Programme on behalf of the Commonwealth. For more information on the NSCP, please visit the National School Chaplaincy Programme in NSW Public Schools website.
Can I have a school prayer?
Schools are permitted to use or to write school prayers. These prayers are to be interdenominational Christian or multi-faith to reflect the diversity of the school community.
Consultation with the school community should occur about both the prayer and the types of occasions on which it will be used. Section 33 of the Education Act 1990 states that parents/caregivers can object to any general religious education. Children of parents/caregivers who have indicated this objection, including their children being present when prayers are said, should be supervised in another area of the school.