Children in NSW government schools who do not participate in religious instruction are being made to colour in or pick up rubbish rather than have alternative lessons, The Daily Telegraph reports.
Parents are calling for the Parents and Citizens Federation (P&C) to urge the government to change strict rules about what schools can do while scripture is being taught.
According to Department of Education policy, those alternative activities must not compete with scripture classes nor can they incorporate anything from the curriculum — so children in scripture are not penalised.
￼But parents at 18 schools across the state want to see children given something meaningful to do instead.
About 30 per cent of primary schools offer ethics classes but these are not funded by the government. They can only exist when the school has sufficient parents willing to both fund and teach the class.
This means parents who withdraw their children from religious education are consigning them to “alternative activities” — colouring in or cleaning up the playground.
“It is not acceptable that children who do not wish to attend scripture must miss out on a fulfilling education,” Belmore South Public School P&C president Lisa Trewin said.
Ms Trewin is a practising Catholic but withdrew her kids from scripture class because she couldn’t be sure volunteers weren’t spruiking “fire and brimstone”.
The P&C will vote on the proposed changes at next month’s annual general meeting and, if it passes, it will become the official stance. Federation president Susie Boyd revealed there was also a “groundswell” of parents pushing to banish religious studies from the classroom completely.
Education Minister Rob Stokes said: “Religious education classes have been offered in public schools since 1848 and have been supported by all NSW governments since then.”