The Perrottet government appears to be unconcerned that creationism is being taught in the state’s public schools under the guise of the Special Religious Education (SRE) program.
New South Wales education minister Sarah Mitchell (pictured) and her department have ignored concerns raised by the Rationalist Society of Australia about SRE teaching materials that promote the creationist myth and undermine the science of evolution.
In a letter to the RSA earlier this month (see letter below), a department spokesperson failed to respond to the questions that we directed to the education minister last month.
James Hoffman, the R/Director for Curriculum Early Years and Primary Learners, said SRE providers were responsible for the materials delivered to public school children.
“It is the responsibility of an approved provider to authorise the materials and pedagogy used by their teachers,” he said.
“It is also the approved providers responsibility to make their curriculum scope and sequence(s) accessible publicly and in sufficient detail for parents/carers to be able to understand what is covered in lessons.”
RSA president Dr Meredith Doig said the New South Wales government’s response showed an alarming disregard for what was being taught to children in SRE classes.
“The government seem to be completely unconcerned that religious missionaries are teaching creationism in New South Wales’ state schools. It appears they are washing their hands of any duty of care towards children,” she said.
“The Labor opposition and minor parties really need to speak out about this. I call on opposition education spokesperson Prue Car to act on this issue to ensure that creationism would have no place in New South Wales’ public schools under a Labor government.”
Last month, the RSA discovered an SRE teaching manual that compares creationism and evolution and claims that “some people think the theories of evolution and creation by God can both be true.” It makes numerous other claims, including that “some people think there are many things wrong with the theory of evolution and that it isn’t true.”
Following the discovery, Dr Doig wrote to Minister Mitchell to ask whether it was acceptable for creationism to be smuggled into public schools under the guise of the SRE program.
Dr Doig also asked Minister Mitchell to explain what steps the Perrottet government would take to prevent SRE instructors from indoctrinating public school children with the anti-scientific creationist myth.
Image: Sarah Mitchell MLC (Facebook)
Letter from James Hoffman, New South Wales Department of Education, 7 March 2023
Dear Dr Doig
Thank you for your email of 23 February 2023, to the Hon Sarah Mitchell MLC, Minister for Education and Early Learning, regarding Special Religious Education in NSW Government schools. The Minister has asked me to respond on her behalf.
A feature of the public education system in NSW is the opportunity to provide time in class for education from a religious or non-religious perspective at the choice of parents.
The NSW Government is supportive of, and committed to, Special Religious Education and Special Education in Ethics in line with Section 32 and 33A of the Education Act 1990.
It is the responsibility of an approved provider to authorise the materials and pedagogy used by their teachers. It is also the approved providers responsibility to make their curriculum scope and sequence(s) accessible publicly and in sufficient detail for parents/carers to be able to understand what is covered in lessons.
If you would like any further information about Special Religious Education and Special Education in Ethics, you are welcome to visit the Department’s website at https://education.nsw.gov.au/religion-and-ethics or contact the Department’s Special
Religious Education and Special Education in Ethics Officer, Curriculum Early Years and Primary Learners, by telephone on 7814 2353 or email at [email protected].
R/Director, Curriculum Early Years and Primary Learners
07 March 2023