Religious Instruction in School Hours

Version Number

4.1

Implementation Date

21/03/2013

Scope

All state schools

Purpose

​Identify processes, responsibilities and procedures for schools, religious leaders and accredited representatives of a religious denomination or society to gain entry into a particular state school to deliver an authorised program of instruction to students who are members and/or have parental consent to attend such a program.

Overview

​Queensland state schools embrace a multitude of cultural, religious and non-religious beliefs and encourage students to grow and develop as a whole person, in particular, in beliefs, values and attitudes. It is important to ensure that schools respect the background and beliefs of all students by not promoting, or being perceived as promoting, any particular set of beliefs in preference to another. In the case of Religious Instruction, parents are provided with the option to withdraw their child's participation in the program.

Section 76(1), (5) and (6) of the Education (General Provisions) Act 2006 (Qld) (the Act) allows any minister of a religious denomination or society, or an accredited representative who has been approved by the Minister for Education and Training, to give instruction to students who are members of the religious denomination or society in attendance at a state school.  This may occur for a period of up to 1 hour per week. These provisions do not extend to students in the Preparatory Year.

Religious instruction from ministers or approved instructors of a faith group is facilitated when members of the faith group are in attendance at the school, and there is a capacity for the faith group to deliver an authorised program.

Local arrangements for delivery of religious instruction by faith groups to relevant students are made either as:

  • a faith group or denominational program, or
  • a cooperative program.

Information from parents is essential to enable a principal to place a student in any program of instruction provided by approved instructors of a faith group.  This information is obtained from the religion that the parent identifies on the student’s enrolment form​.  If no information is provided on the enrolment form, the student is placed in an alternative activity.

Parents must be informed of the offering of any program or activity with religious content so that they may withdraw consent for their child/ren to participate in that part of the program or activity.

Religious instruction is not a program or syllabus provided by the Department of Education, Training and Employment. 

Teachers and chaplains are not to teach religious instruction. It is not part of their work duties. However, if a chaplain or a teacher works part-time, they may choose to teach religious instruction in their own time, outside of work hours.

Responsibilities

​Principals are responsible for the enactment within their school of Section 76(1), (5) and (6) of the Act, allowing any minister of a religious denomination or society, or an accredited representative who has been approved by the Minister for Education, Training and Employment, to give instruction to students who are members of the religious denomination or society in attendance at a state school, according to the following procedures

Process

​Principals:

Allocation and placement of students in Religious Instruction program

  • do not offer religious instruction to students in the preparatory year
  • inform all parents at enrolment, and on request, of details of programs of religious instruction provided at school and of their right to withdraw their child from a religious instruction program by providing a written request or by not filling in the religion component of the enrolment form
  • collect information on the enrolment form about a student’s religion
  • compile a list of students and their faith/non-faith group, based on information in the ‘Religion’ field of student enrolment forms
  • allocate time for religious instruction 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 and make known to all coordinators of religious instruction programs
  • monitor school activities offered to students not attending religious instruction so students who attend religious instruction do not experience educational disadvantage
  • allocate separate learning spaces for each program of religious instruction and alternative activities attended by students
  • attend to staff roster in order to maintain duty-of-care of students attending programs of instruction and conduct of alternative activities for other students.

Information sharing and student recordkeeping for Religious Instruction program

  • ensure up to date information on religious instruction programs is on the school website and inform parents of changes to programs in school newsletters
  • ensure privacy is respected and maintained in relation to information collected about a student’s religion. This information must not be disclosed to any other person or agency unless permitted in accordance with section 426(4) of the Act
  • retain record of all parent notifications.

For all new enrolments (including all Year 1 students being placed in Religious Instruction classes for the first time): 

  • if a religion is indicated on the enrolment form for which the school provides a religious instruction program:
    • inform parents via the RIS-C1: Parent Notice and the accompanying list of religious instruction programs that their child will be placed into a program of that faith group on offer at the school, or a cooperative arrangement that includes that faith group
    • collect any RIS-C1: Parent Notice forms that are returned signed and place those students in the alternative activity or another religious instruction program as requested on the form.
    • Note: if forms are not returned, student remains in the original religious instruction or alternative activity (as written on the enrolment form).
  • alternatively, if the religion section is blank or ‘no religion’ is entered on the enrolment form, or a religion is identified on enrolment for which the school does not provide a religious instruction program:
    • inform parent via the RIS-C2: Parent Notice and the accompanying list of religious instruction programs that their child will be placed into an alternative activity during the time that religious instruction occurs in the school
    • collect any RIS-C2 Parent Notice forms that are returned signed and place those students in the religious instruction program as requested on the form.
    • Note: if forms are not returned, student remains in the alternative activities during religious instruction and must not be included in a religious instruction class or in the classroom when religious instruction is delivered.

Approval processes and record keeping of faith groups and accredited representatives:

  • as the Minister’s delegate consider written applications to be approved as an accredited representative of a faith group (RIS-A form) to provide religious instruction in a state school
  • if concerned that the application is not genuine (i.e. from a person or group that may not in fact be a legally recognised religion) make contact with Student Services Branch to obtain further advice about the handling of the application    
  • as the Minister’s delegate approve accredited representative of a faith group to become an approved instructor when students who are members of a faith group of accredited representatives are enrolled and issue a letter of approval (RIS-B form)
  • maintain a register of accredited representatives of faith groups that attend the school including dates and times of attendance in accordance with section 32 of Education (General Provisions) Regulations 2006 (Qld) (the Regulation).
  • retain record of all approved instructors at school
  • issue approved instructor identity card each year for each approved instructor at school 
  • require  approved instructors to sign visitors’ book when entering and leaving school site
  • facilitate a single arrangement for religious instruction if:
    • students who are members of faith group are in attendance at school
    • authorised program of faith group is available and made known.
  • facilitate a cooperative arrangement for religious instruction if:
    • Cooperative arrangement (RIS-E form) has been submitted to principal by the Religious Instruction coordinator
    • students who are members of each faith group participating in cooperative arrangement are in attendance at school
    • authorised program agreed to by participating religious leaders is available and made known. 
  • ensure that religious leader/s of each single or cooperative arrangement for religious instruction are aware of the requirement to nominate annually to principal a local coordinator (RIS-D form) to oversee relevant program
  • ensure that local coordinator is aware of the requirement to provide a new Cooperative arrangement (RIS-E form) whenever there are any changes to the arrangement
  • provide each local coordinator with necessary data (that is, relevant numbers of students at each year level) to plan and schedule delivery of their program at school.

Monitoring and training of faith groups and accredited representatives:

  • monitor  at beginning of each year that only instructors of faith groups with students in attendance at school retain approval to deliver religious instruction
  • advise approved instructors of faith groups of school procedures and actions needed to comply with legislative provisions for religious instruction and with Department of Education, Training and Employment policies
  • arrange for continued monitoring of currency and carrying of suitability cards (Blue Card) under Working with Children requirements
  • make available to all religious instruction coordinators relevant policies of the Department of Education, Training and Employment as stated in the Related Procedures section of this policy, which are obligatory for all volunteers providing programs to students
  • ensure that all religious instructors undergo Student Protection Training
  • monitor, as necessary, the content and resources of the authorised program to ensure that content does not contravene legislation or departmental policy
  • inform coordinator and approved instructors that faith group/s’ publications used for instruction are not to be accessible for other students or left in classrooms at completion of lesson. Assist with separate secure storage if resources are available
  • monitor conduct of approved accredited representative in relation to DETE policies and initiate processes to withdraw approval where conduct is inappropriate
  • monitor conduct of approved accredited representative in relation to DETE policies and initiate processes to withdraw approval where conduct is inappropriate
  • promptly direct all queries, concerns or complaints relating to religious instruction in a single or cooperative arrangement or its implementation to relevant coordinator
  • follow process to determine if  withdrawal of approval is appropriate:
    • give representative and religious coordinator written notice of matters of concern and invite either a written response or a meeting to discuss issues and provide an oral response
    • if necessary, with the consent of the representative and religious coordinator establish, in writing, a process to resolve the issues of concern, or
    • if not satisfied with the response provided by the representative and religious coordinator, withdraw approval until the issues are resolved, and provide written notice of this decision to the representative and religious coordinator.

Religious leaders: 

  • When establishing a religious instruction program in a state school:
  • inquire with local state schools to ascertain numbers of students of relevant faith group attending each school
  • ensure familiarity with Chapter 5, section 76 of the Act and Part 5 of the Regulation
  • ensure accredited instructors are familiar with Chapter 5, section 76 of the Act and Part 5 of the Regulation
  • ensure  familiarity with section 426 of the Act ‘Confidentiality’
  • ensure accredited instructors are familiar with section 426 of the Act ‘Confidentiality’
  • review program of instruction authorised by the faith group and approve content
  • determine criteria necessary (for example, training, qualifications etc) for accrediting a representative to become an approved instructor
  • ensure that all representatives accredited to become approved instructors have been issued with a Working with Children prior to entry into a school
  • provide the principal with Application to be an approved instructor form (RIS-A) for each accredited representative who is to be an approved instructor of faith group at each school visited
  • decide if a cooperative arrangement to deliver a program will be used at a school
  • understand that the religious leader has responsibility for accredited instructors of faith group and for ensuring quality delivery
  • provide school with name and contact details of person who will be local coordinator appointed to school to implement and manage program on behalf of faith group
  • provide  or establish a process for coordinators to gain all necessary materials and resources for program of religious instruction
  • if a cooperative arrangement is agreed, prepare a Cooperative Arrangement (RIS-E) form and submit to principal when this arrangement is adopted at a school
  • accept only faith groups with right of entry to school to be signatories of cooperative arrangement
  • ensure all documentation is kept current.

Religious instruction coordinators responsibility:

  • after necessary consultation, complete Capacity to provide a program of religious instruction form (RIS-D) to give to principal at commencement of each year and provide revised versions as required
  • prior to use in school/s, gain approval from religious leader/s for the authorised program of instruction and all other materials used and distributed to students during religious instruction
  • advise approved instructors that any materials other than authorised program distributed to students during religious instruction requires the consent of the principal
  • on request, provide principal with all program materials used to deliver religious instruction program to ensure that content does not contravene legislation or departmental policy
  • advise instructors of secure storage arrangements for materials used for religious instruction
  • inform principal if parents need to be advised of any costs associated with purchasing materials for a program of religious instruction
  • respond to concerns or requests for information about the program and its delivery.

Approved Instructors responsibility:  

  • deliver only the program authorised by the faith group being represented
  • obtain approval from the religious leader and the principal before distributing any additional materials to students
  • retain letter of approval issued from each school visited to deliver religious instruction
  • ensure both Blue Card Working with Children and school approved instructor identity cards are current, carried and shown on request
  • sign school’s Visitors’ Register each time a school is visited
  • follow advice and directives of relevant coordinators for delivery of program at each school visited
  • follow directives of principal regarding school protocols and procedures at each school visited.

Online Resources

Review Date

29/01/2013
Attribution CC BY

​Accredited representative
Refers to person accepted and nominated by religious leader/authority to represent faith group.

Approved instructor
A religious leader who has right of entry and/or accredited representative of faith group who is approved by principal to provide religious instruction at particular school.

An approved instructor identity card is issued by principal each year to each approved instructor.

Authorised program 
A program of religious instruction which faith group/s approve for delivery to students in a single or cooperative arrangement. The religious leader/s of the faith group authorises the program of instruction. Religious instruction is not a program or syllabus provided by the Department of Education, Training and Employment. For this reason, the Department of Education, Training and Employment has no involvement in the selection of content of the program. 

Blue Card (Working with Children Check)
Is issued by the Commission for Children and Young People and Child Guardian  once it has carried out the Working with Children Check to see if a person is eligible to work in the areas of child-related work covered by the Commission’s Act. If a person is eligible, they are issued a positive notice letter and a blue card.

Cooperative arrangement
When religious leaders of two or more faith groups with members in attendance at school agree to combine to provide religious instruction to joint faith groups. Students who are members of any of the participating faith groups attend this program. Other students who have written parental consent can also attend. Schools will facilitate this arrangement in accordance with information provided on the Signatories to Cooperative Arrangement (RIS-E) form.

Coordinator
A person nominated by religious leader/authority to manage faith group/s’ single or cooperative arrangement for religious instruction.

Doctrines
A code of beliefs or instructions, taught principles or positions, as the body of teachings in a branch of knowledge or belief system.

Faith group
Refers to a religion, a religious denomination or religious society.

Parent notice 
Refers to information given by a parent which informs principal as to placement of a student into a program of religious instruction. There are two forms used:

  • Form RIS-C1 (for students where a religion has been indicated on the enrolment form and there is an approved program delivered).
  • Form RIS-C2 (for students where the religion section is blank or ‘no religion’ has been stated, or where a religion has been stated that the school does not provide a religious instruction program for).

Religious denomination or society
While the expression ‘religious denomination or society’ is not defined in the Education (General Provisions) Act 2006 (Qld) the meaning of the term religion was considered by the High Court of Australia. In short the High Court determined that the two most important factors for determining whether a particular set of beliefs and practices constitute a religion are: 

  • belief in a supernatural Being, Thing or Principle, and
  • acceptance of canons of conduct which give effect to that belief, but which do not offend against the ordinary laws.

Religious leader
Refers to a minister of a religious denomination or society (as contained in s. 76 of the Education (General Provisions) Act) or person recognised by faith group as having authority to discharge duties of a minister of religion or spiritual leader.

Right of Entry
When the local religious leader of a faith group asks the principal if there are students who are members of the faith group in attendance at the school. The principal issues the religious leader with a letter to confirm or deny the faith group’s right-of-entry into the school.

Right to withdraw from a program with religious content
Consistent with s.31 of the Education (General Provisions) Act, a principal is required to arrange for a student who is not participating in a religious instruction program, to receive other instruction in a separate location during the period arranged for religious instruction.

Parents must be informed of the offering of any program or activity with religious content so that they may withdraw consent for their child/ren to participate in that part of the program or activity.

Single arrangement
When a religious leader/approved instructor of a single faith group with members in attendance at school elects to deliver religious instruction separate from other faith groups. Other students who have written parental consent can also attend.

Tenets
Opinions, doctrines or principles held as being true by a person or an organisation.