The insistence of preachers on continuing to access public school classrooms despite the fears of COVID-19 spreading in New South Wales shows how Special Religious Education (SRE) providers are putting their religious “mission” above the safety of others.

Speaking in the ‘Teachers not Preachers’ webinar last week, NSW Teachers Federation officer Jack Galvin-Waight said the pandemic had exposed SRE providers as putting their self-interest ahead of public safety.

An SRE provider in Newcastle made headlines recently after saying it would ignore the concerns of school communities because, under the state’s Education Act, it had the “right to offer and attend the school to provide SRE instruction”.

In the webinar, Jack raised many other concerns about the ongoing SRE program in New South Wales, including concerns that preachers are delivering inappropriate content to children and that teachers are losing valuable class time.

Greens MP David Shoebridge shared the concerns about religious preachers having unfettered access to classrooms.

“Right now we’ve got a COVID-19 pandemic issue and parents and volunteers who want to come into schools to assist with literacy and numeracy are being told that they are not allowed because [the schools] want to control the number of people coming in and avoid the spread of a pandemic. Meanwhile, the doors have been opened up to an unknown number of SRE providers...” he said.

“So we’re allowing non-teacher strangers to come into the schools to preach but we are not allowing parents to come in and help with literacy and numeracy. How cooked are the priorities of the government when it comes to this!”

If you missed the webinar last week, you can watch it here in full.

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