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Primary Ethics


Ethics is a subject with a relatively short history in NSW primary schools. It came about in 2010 as an alternative to special religious education (SRE), which has existed since the late 19th Century.

The subject’s introduction to the curriculum wasn’t without drama either! In November 2010, the then NSW Opposition said it would cancel the [ethics] classes when it took power. Spearheading the anti-ethics movement was Conservative MP Reverend Fred Nile, who attempted to repeal the Ethics Classes Amendment Act in April 2011. However in 2012, his private member’s bill was scrapped following recommendations from an inquiry tabled by the NSW Upper House Education Committee.

For those of you not familiar with what Ethics looks like… it’s a branch of Philosophy that examines ethical concepts and issues. An Ethics class in the NSW curriculum comprises age-appropriate lessons on a wide range of topics that primary-aged children find interesting.

Leading the charge to deliver an ethical education to Australian youngsters is Primary Ethics, an independent, not-for-profit organisation responsible for all aspects of course delivery, including providing trained volunteers and resources to schools.

Primary Ethics uses online multimedia learning platforms to provide online classrooms and forums promoting dialogue between students, teachers and the entire volunteer network. Janison teamed up with Primary Ethics in 2011, to provide them with our then Learning Management System (LMS) which has since been superseded by the Cloud Learning System (CLS).

Our platform was chosen because it answered Primary Ethics’ brief which was to provide:

  • automatic notifications [of expiry on police checks and working with children checks]
  • effective reporting
  • the ability for supervisors to manage the records of their subordinates simply and easily.

It also enabled better access to curriculum teaching notes, face-to-face training and allowed for the provision of online courses. One of the big features of the platform was the ability to prevent non-compliant teachers from accessing the curriculum. This ensured the integrity and consistency of Ethics classes.

Interesting facts:

  • 16,000 children from Years 1-6 were attending weekly ethics classes in their schools by the end of FY14.
  • Primary Ethics’ representation in schools increased by 30 per cent since 2013.

The following quotes are from primary school children who participated in a 10 week Ethics pilot program in 2010. Quirky and insightful, these proclamations reflect the children’s capacity to understand and interpret the complexity of ethics.

“Children’s rights was fantastic because we are children and we had a lot to say. We all thought that children should have more rights but it was interesting to see what rights we thought we should have.” -Isabella, Leichardt Public School

“My most memorable ethics class was about the ill-treating of animals such as whale killing, fox hunting, horseracing, bull riding and using animals for testing medicines. I like animals and they are living things, ill-treating them is bad. I would do ethics again because I find it more interesting than scripture.” -Todd, Baulkham Hills North Public School

At Janison, we’re always proud to be involved in making a difference to an individual’s learning experience.

Originally posted by Vanessa Lahey on 29th January, 2015.

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Published by

Stuart Dalrymple

Business Development Manager, Certified Scrum Master. My goal is to help organisations realise the benefits of online exams.

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