Assessment of Hilliard State School RI policy compliance as at 31 August 2016

Hilliard State School update as at 31 August 2016

QPSSS letter to Department emailed 29 April 2016 (relevant parts)

The 2016 parent handbook:

RELIGIOUS INSTRUCTION

Our school Chaplain plays a vital role within the school (refer to the Chaplain section of our school website).

A dedicated band of R.I. teachers conduct non-denominational Religious Education classes at our school. These classes are conducted Wednesday fortnightly. Students not participating in the Religious Instruction program are required to complete the appropriate form and forward direct to the School Office.

Religion Letter under enrolment package:

NON-DENOMINATIONAL RELIGIOUS INSTRUCTION

Education Queensland allocates one half hour per week to Religious Education.  At Hilliard State School we are able to offer one half hour per fortnight, with volunteer teachers providing lessons to each grade level (except Prep).

Here at Hilliard we use a program entitled CONNECT, which is specifically written for Australian schools, approved by Education Queensland and used widely throughout Australia. In this program, children are given the opportunity to:

*Hear and discuss Christian stories, faith and beliefs

*Learn about and hear stories from the Bible

*Learn how to have positive interactions with others

*Explore personal values and choices

Our volunteer instructors deliver non-denominational lessons through the CONNECT program, which is endorsed by our local Ministers Fraternal, and comes under the banner of the Redlands Co-operative Religious Education Program.  They are well trained, and all hold Working With Children Blue Cards.

Students usually stay in their classrooms for Religious Instruction. Occasionally special events are held (either at Easter or Christmas), which may include guest speakers, entertainers, puppets etc. These are usually held in the school hall. Children who do not attend Religious Education will be supervised and provided with revision work or other suitable activities. 

We require you to please fill in the below section and return to the school ONLY if you DO NOT consent for your child to participate in Religious Education at Hilliard State School.  

For more information about this program, please contact the school office, or Lyn Keen, our chaplain, who co-ordinates our Religious Education classes.

Yours faithfully

Andrew Walker, Principal

Please return this section to the office – RELIGIOUS EDUCATION – HILLIARD STATE SCHOOL

Childs name: _______________________________________ Class:_________________________

I do not consent for my child to attend Religious Education classes or activities ______________

Parent/Carer Name: _____________________________ Signature: __________________________

Date: ______________________

 

Student services and support program:

Religious Education 

Religious Education occurs at Hilliard State School every second week. The program is non-denominational, and lessons are taught by volunteers who have Children’s Workers Suitability Blue Cards. Religious Education teachers who have been trained to teach religious education are volunteers representing the local Redlands R.E. Co-operative, which is made up of members of many local churches.

The curriculum used at Hilliard State School is called “Connect”, and is one of several Education Queensland approved curriculums in use in Queensland Schools. All children participate in the program unless the school receives a written and signed request from parents (sent to the school office) for a child to be excused from the R.E. class.

Unfortunately we can see only a couple of minor changes since our review. This school still has serious breaches of RI policy. The main areas of non-compliance include:

– Incorrect terminology referring to Religious Education and teachers.

– Connect program is stated to be approved by Education Queensland.

– It is not specifically stated that the RI program is Christian except for a reference in the description of activities.

– The information on the program is very general and may not all be factual, non-coercive and may mislead.

-The denominations involved are not stated.

– Volunteers are stated to be ‘well trained”. Is this appropriate or even factual?

– Appears to be opt out only- All children participate in the program unless the school receives a written and signed request from parents (sent to the school office) for a child to be excused from the R.E. class.’

– There doesn’t appear to be sufficient information provided to parents about Connect to enable them to make an informed decision.

We made a recent RTI application for this school. It is very concerning that 2015 religious affiliation enrolment data indicates only about 20% of students are identified as Christian yet 83% of all children, excluding preps, currently participate in Christian RI. This significant discrepancy is highly likely due to non-compliance with policy, in particular, lack of factual, non-coercive and non-misleading information to parents to enable them to make an informed decision on their child’s participation in RI.

Given that the current participation in RI appears to be on the basis of misleading information and lack of correct information both of which invalidate parental consents, and that this school appears to have all children participate unless parents opt out, we ask DET to request the principal to suspend RI pending a complete review of policy compliance.

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Response received from Sharyn Donald, Regional Director, South East Region dated 10 June 2016 thanking us for our email and confirming that the regional office is working with schools to ensure their practices are consistent with RI policy. Inviting us to contact Timothy Dighton, Principal Advisor, South East Region if wish to discuss it further.

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Handbook at 30 August 2016

Religious instruction (RI) is offered at Hilliard State School and is conducted fortnightly. The information you submit on your child’s enrolment form is used to place them in either RI or in Other Instruction, unless you have provided additional written advice to the school. Please notify the school, in writing if you wish to change your preference specified in the enrolment form. Students who are not participating in RI will be provided with other instruction in a separate supervised location. Other instruction relates to part of a subject area already covered in class and may include, but is not restricted to, wider reading, personal research, revision/homework tasks. The faith group that currently provides Religious Instructors to deliver an authorised program is the Redlands Ministers Fraternal. They deliver the Connect program. The Connect program offered by the Redlands Ministers Fraternal group involves a curriculum that is content structured, teaching the major events, concepts and doctrines of the Bible.

 

Enrolment package

NON-DENOMINATIONAL RELIGIOUS INSTRUCTION

Education Queensland allocates one half hour per week to Religious Instruction. At Hilliard State School, we offer one half hour per fortnight, with volunteer teachers providing lessons to each grade level (except Prep). They use a program entitled CONNECT, which is specifically written for and used widely throughout Australia. In this program, children are given the opportunity to:

*Hear and discuss Christian stories, faith and beliefs

 *Learn about and hear stories from the Bible

*Learn how to have positive interactions with others

 *Explore personal values and choices

Volunteer instructors deliver non-denominational lessons through the CONNECT program, which is endorsed by our local Ministers Fraternal, and comes under the banner of the Redlands Co-operative Religious Education Program. They are trained, and all hold Working with Children Blue Cards.

Students usually stay in their classrooms for Religious Instruction. Occasionally, special events are held (either at Easter or Christmas), which may include guest speakers, entertainers, puppets etc. These are usually held in the school hall. Children who do not attend Religious Education will be supervised and provided with revision work or other suitable activities.

The information you submit in your child’s enrolment form is used to place them in either RI or in Other Instruction, unless you have provided additional written advice to the school. Please notify the school, in writing, if you wish to change your preference specified in the enrolment form.

For more information about this program, please contact the school office, or Lyn Keen, our chaplain, who co- ordinates Religious Instruction classes.

Yours faithfully

Andrew Walker, Principal

 

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Issues on present website information since Regional Office involvement:

 

There has been improvement but room for more. Issues identified are:

– There is no clarity that RI can be of any religion and that only Christian RI is offered at Hilliard. It infers that RI is only ever Christian which is not the case.

– The composition of the ‘local Ministers Fraternal’, should be disclosed. Which denominations are involved?

– It is not clear who authorises the Connect program and it should be clear that it is authorised by the religious ministers

– Use of the word ‘non-denominational’ is not clear as some parents will not realise this is a Christian only term

– The instructors are referred to as teachers at least once.

– Use of the word “opportunity” followed by a description of Connect that doesn’t accurately reflect its content. Its stated aim is one of salvation and lessons focus on sin yet parents are not told this. If that is the only info given to parents it is woefully inadequate to make an informed decision. The lesson aims and outcomes directly from the manuals would give parents comprehensive information on the program rather than marketing spin.

– The volunteers are ‘trained’ but no meaning explained.

-Uses term Religious Education which is incorrect and misleading. It is Religious Instruction.