FAQ’s about Religious Instruction
in Qld State Schools by Education Queensland
1. Why do we have religious instruction (RI) in Queensland state schools?
Queensland legislation allows for religious instruction (RI) to be offered in Queensland state schools. The Education (General Provisions) Act 2006 (EGPA) allows any minister of a religious denomination or society (faith group), or an approved representative, right of entry to provide RI for up to one hour per week at a state school where there are members of the faith group in attendance. RI is only to be provided to students whose parents have nominated that faith group on enrolment or to students whose parents have given written permission for their child/ren to attend.
2. Is RI taught in state schools in other Australian states and territories?
RI is taught in state schools in other states and territories across Australia in accordance with their own legislation. RI may also be referred to as Special Religious Education, Special Religious Instruction, or Religious Education depending upon the state or territory implementing it.
3. What is the relationship between chaplaincy services and RI?
The role of a chaplain is fundamentally different from the role of a religious instructor and each role is governed by its own roles and responsibilities as outlined in departmental policies SCM-PR-012: Chaplaincy Services in Queensland State Schools and SCM-PR-021: Religious Instruction in School Hours.
Chaplains do not teach RI as part of their work duties. RI is only provided by approved instructors of faith groups that have right of entry to the school.
Chaplains provide students, staff and parents with support which may have a religious and/or spiritual component. Chaplaincy services provide an additional adult role model in schools. Whilst personally modeling and owning their own faith positions or belief, chaplains avoid any implications that any one religion, denomination or other set of beliefs is advantageous or superior to any other denomination, religion or belief.
RI refers to teaching in the distinctive tenets or doctrines of a religious denomination, society or sect. RI is provided by religious leaders and accredited representatives, only to students who identify with a particular faith group or whose parents have given written permission for them to participate.
4. How does a faith group gain right of entry into a school?
Religious leaders may inquire with local state schools to ascertain if any members of their faith group attend the school. As delegate for the Minister for Education and Industrial Relations the principal may grant right of entry to a faith group on confirmation of the attendance of members at the school, the faith group’s authenticity, and their capacity to provide an RI program.
5. Will all children be able to receive RI from their faith group while attending a state school?
On enrolment, the principal will advise parents if their faith group delivers an RI program. The school’s website will also have information about the RI programs occurring at the school and the faith groups involved.
If the parent’s faith group does not provide an RI program they can advise their local religious leader. It is a decision of the religious leader to determine if the faith group has the capacity to provide RI at the school.
6. Who determines the time allocated to RI classes?
Following consultation with RI coordinators the principal allocates time for RI that does not exceed one hour per week, or an amount of time that is equivalent (to the total of one hour per week) at another time during the term.
RI coordinators and accredited representatives should receive advance notice of any variations to these days or times due to the organisation of school events or activities.
7. Does my child have to do RI?
No. RI is an optional program. Based on the information provided on the enrolment form and responses to the Parent Notice for Religious Instruction in School Hours – Nominated (RIS-C1)form or a Parent Notice for Religious Instruction in School Hours – Non-Nominated (RIS-C2)form the child is placed in either an RI program or in an alternative activity. Parents are able to withdraw their child from RI at any time by notifying the school in writing.
8. How is my child placed in an RI program or an alternative activity?
At the beginning of Year 1 or at the point of enrolment, principals use the information provided about a child’s religion on the school enrolment form to send out either a RISC-1 or RIS-C2 http://education.qld.gov.au/strategic/eppr/schools/scmpr021/risc1.pdf form.
Based on the information provided on the enrolment form and responses to the RIS-C1 or RIS-C2 form the child is placed in either a program of instruction provided by approved instructors of the faith group specified or in an alternative activity.
If a RIS-C1 form is received by the parent and not returned, the child will automatically be placed in the RI class as per the information provided about the child’s religion on their enrolment form.
After that initial placement, the child will continue to be enrolled in the RI program or alternative activity unless parents provide written notification otherwise or the RI program is no longer available. Parents may withdraw consent for their child to participate in any RI program or activity containing religious content, or change RI programs, at any time by notifying the school in writing.
9. If my child isn’t in RI classes, what does my child do instead?
Students who do not attend RI are placed in an alternative activity and supervised in a separate area. The content of this alternative instruction is monitored by the principal, who must ensure that it does not create educational disadvantage to students attending RI. Activities may include wider reading, doing personal research or revision of class work.
10. Who is responsible for the students during RI classes?
Principals roster Education Queensland staff in order to maintain duty-of-care of students attending RI or alternative activities.
11. Who determines the content of RI classes?
Faith groups determine the content of RI programs. The religious leader is responsible for approving the content of the program of instruction to ensure that it does not contravene legislation or departmental policies. If the faith group is a member of a cooperative arrangement for RI, then the program of instruction is agreed to by all participating religious leaders.
RI is not a program or syllabus provided by the Department of Education and Training (DET).
12. Who can teach RI in Queensland state schools?
Religious leaders or approved instructors of a faith group may provide RI in Queensland state schools.
Teachers and chaplains are not to teach RI as it is not part of their work duties. However, if a chaplain or a teacher works part-time, they may choose to teach RI in their own time, outside of their work hours.
13. How does someone become an approved instructor to provide RI in a state school?
A person who wishes to provide RI as a representative of a faith group must be accredited by the relevant religious leader.
The religious leader needs to ensure that the accredited representative has completed the Working with Children Check (Blue Card) and been issued with a Blue Card prior to entry into a school.
The religious leader will provide the principal with an Application to be an Approved Instructor to Deliver Religious Instruction in a State School (RIS-A) form. Upon receipt of Approval for an Accredited Representative to Deliver Religious Instruction in a State School (RIS-B) letter and an approved instructor identity card they may provide the approved RI program for their faith group
Approved instructors need to be familiar with all relevant legislation and DET’s policies and procedures.
14. What does the legislation state about Bible lessons?
The Education (General Provisions) Act 2006 (EGPA) s.76 states:
(2) Instruction in accordance with a regulation may be given in State primary and special schools during school hours in selected Bible lessons.
(3) A separate reading book shall be provided for such purpose.
(4) Instruction of a kind mentioned in subsection (2) is not to include any teaching in the distinctive tenets or doctrines of any religious denomination, society or sect.
The principal has the authority to decide if Bible lessons are to be read by teachers as part of the school’s instructional program.
15. Can teachers provide RI through selected Bible lessons?
Teachers are not permitted to provide teaching in doctrines and tenets relating to the texts. A reading plan of selected bible lessons for each year level is available for use by teachers who agree to deliver bible lessons. Teachers can read selected Bible lessons and give backgrounds to the reading e.g. geographical location, literary styles or historical information.
16. What information should be shared with parents about selected Bible lessons?
Parents must be informed when selected Bible lessons occur in school and of their right to request that their child not attend. Parents may withdraw their child by notification in writing to the principal.
17. What alternative instruction occurs for students who are withdrawn from selected Bible lessons?
Principals must arrange for students who are withdrawn from selected Bible lessons to receive alternative activities in a separate location. The content of this alternative instruction is monitored by the principal, who must ensure that it does not create educational disadvantage to students attending selected Bible lessons. Activities may include wider reading, doing personal research or revision of class work.
(From Education Queensland’s Frequently Asked Questions about RI [December 2012]