The Rationalist Society of Australia has welcomed the decision of a school community in Western Australia to remove religious instruction from class time.
Spencer Park Primary School in Albany has informed its school community that it would discontinue with scripture classes after the school conducted a survey of parents and guardians.
As reported by the ABC in late October, the school launched a survey after parents complained that Christian scripture was taking up valuable learning time.
In its recent newsletter published on 18 November, the school announced that the majority of parents wanted scripture to be removed.
“Results from the survey indicated that the majority of parents do not support the continuation of Scripture in its current form,” the newsletter said.
“Based on this and other feedback the School Board has decided to cease the existing Scripture format from next year onwards. The School Board will discuss other options with Scripture volunteers, including the lunch time Treasure Seekers program.”
The RSA’s spokesperson for WA Vicki Caulfield (pictured) congratulated the school for listening to the wishes of parents and acting decisively on the survey results.
“We believe that all school communities across Western Australia should be given a say on whether Christian bible studies are offered during class time. Many families may be surprised that students are expected to attend scripture during class time,” she said.
“This episode highlights the need for the education department to update its guidelines on special religious education, which may be out of step with community expectations.
“In particular, the opt-out rule for religious education should be reviewed and schools encouraged to consult with parents on the matter.”
Volunteers from Christian organisation YouthCARE deliver scripture during class time at about 30 public schools across the state, along with lunchtime bible storytelling at another 20 schools.
The state’s School Education Act 1999 says public schools must not promote any particular religious practice, denomination or sect.
Under education department guidelines, the decision to offer special religious education is made by principals and school boards.
Students are expected to attend scripture classes unless their parents specifically opt out.
Si Gladman is Campaigns & Communications Coordinator at the Rationalist Society of Australia. You can contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @si_gladman