THOUSANDS of NSW public high school students will continue to “twiddle their thumbs” during scripture lessons because of the politics of scripture in schools, according to the NSW Secondary Principals’ Council.
Students would not benefit from the NSW Government’s rejection of a proposal to allow the majority of secondary students to do regular schoolwork while a small minority attendscripture, council president Chris Presland said.
“If we have a scripture class with 10 students in it then another 740 students have to be occupied some way or another, and in our view that’s a complete waste of time,” he said.
The Secondary Principals’ Council argued strongly for the change in a submission to a 2015 review of special religious education in schools, which was controversially held by the NSW Government and not released until this week.
The government rejected major recommendations from the $300,000 review, including changing the school enrolment form so that students have to “opt in” to scripture, rather than parents being forced to “opt out” in writing. Under the current system primary school students whose parents do not formally opt them out of scripture are allocated to scripture as the default position.
Mr Presland, who is principal of a Sydney high school, said there were no scripture classes at his school but a Baptist group had applied to run a class. It would possiblyforce more than 1000 students who were unlikely to attend scripture to “twiddle their thumbs” during the scripture lesson.
“They can’t do school work. They can’t go home. They literally have to sit around and wait for scripture to end,” Mr Presland said.
The Department of Education’s support for special religious education was a response to NSW Government support for scripture, he said.
The government has been heavily criticised for backing demands of faith groups and Christian DemocratMP Fred Nile despite declining community support for scripture.