Wimmera principals question need for religious education overhaul

WIMMERA principals believe parents are happy with the standard of religious education students receive at school.

It comes after the state's education department released plans to overhaul religious education to give parents a better understanding of what students are learning.

The department released a new ministerial directive which will come into effect on July 14.

Under the directive, state school principals must offer special religious instruction from accredited instructors.

A new consent form will be offered to families, with a link to learning materials.

Teachers must also supervise the religious instruction of students, and students who opt out must be supervised by another teacher.

The directive comes after the department found the state's key religious education provider, Access Ministries, breached its guidelines by distributing material to students that parents deemed offensive.

Murtoa College principal Joanna Day said the college offered religious education to primary students for 30 minutes a week.

"The course is the Access Ministries' approved material and is delivered by a qualified teacher," she said.

Under the current system, Dr Day said the college was bound to the Access Ministries program, unless its school council objected.

"I find it a little strange," she said.

"I would have thought there could easily be delivery of some general religious curriculum within the current Victorian curriculum, however, as the system is currently set up, if Access Ministries wants to deliver a program then we are bound to allow it."

Dr Day said generally parents seemed happy with the material delivered and allowed their child to participate in religious education.

"I think it would be beneficial for parents to have a better understanding of the content, although there is nothing to stop parents from seeking more information at present.

"I think that at Murtoa, we are lucky because we have a qualified teacher delivering the program."

Horsham West Primary School principal Brendan Bush said the school's program was also run by Access Ministries.

"People teach from a set program of booklets that we purchase from Access Ministries," he said.

"It is quite a strict regime that they have in terms of values and being a good citizen the program is broadly focused and parents have the option to opt in or not."

Mr Bush said while there had been a couple of issues in the past with the program not being followed correctly, generally parents and students were happy with the program.

"The volunteers who come in do a fantastic job and relate well to the students," he said.

"Students enjoy it and we have a range of people from all walks of life participate and volunteer.

"It adds richness to our school curriculum."

The education department's directive also states once principals offered religious instruction, they could withdraw it if there were insufficient resources, including teachers or classrooms.

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