NEWS | John Sandeman (Scripture teacher at Ashfield Public School)
Special Religious Education (SRE) or “Scripture” teachers were celebrated Thursday afternoon in a special gathering at Parliament House in Sydney.
The gathering is the first of an annual celebration of SRE promised by the New South Wales Minister for Education, Adrian Piccoli. “It is important to ensure quality time for these classes,” Piccoli told the SRE teachers in the strangers’ dining room. He described himself as an “active advocate for SRE in public schools”.
The event was sponsored by the Inter Church Commission on Religious Education in Schools (ICCOREIS) in NSW, who invited people of other faiths to tell their stories about how their involvement enriches public education. Representatives from a wide range of Christian, Bahai, Muslim, Jewish and Hindu groups were present.
“As a mother of an 11-year-old who attends SRE, I know what you go through”, said Carmel Tebbutt, the Shadow Minister of Education. Labor’s “strong support of ethics classes” (held as an alternative to SRE), “in no way diminishes our support of SRE in public schools,” added Tebbutt. “We know Catholic, Anglican or Buddhist parents will not choose public schools unless they can get the religious instruction of their choice.”
Seventy five years of teaching Catholic scripture made Maureen Power of St Brigids in the inner city suburb of Marrickville the star of the afternoon when it was time to hand out awards for teaching scripture.
Other award winners included:
• Janet Broughton from Menai Baptist for “faithfully teaching SRE for many years despite being wheelchair bound and enduring chronic ill health”.
• Cheryl Hallihan for training scripture teachers across a third of NSW. In 2010 she also travelled 100km each week to teach scripture at an isolated two-teacher school at Mayrung.
• Mark Ohlmus who pioneered SRE at Maclean High School, and working with SU NSW, built up scripture in the North Coast region so that over 90 per cent of North Coast High Schools are served by a full-time scripture teacher.
• Ron Taylor who worked with 75 Churches on the NSW Central Coast over 20 years to build networks of SRE teachers all along the Coast.
• Phil Watson, illustrator for the Big Rescue Bible (which is provided free of charge to Scripture classes by the Bible Society) and who also teaches scripture himself
Twenty SRE teachers received awards, including two long serving Jewish teachers.
Feature image: avlxyz