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Queensland Teachers’ Journal November 2012 p.16:


Qualified support staff, not well-meaning amateurs

The 19th century saw the foundation of public schools in Australia on the principle that education should be “universal, secular and free”.

However, a recent conference of the Humanist Society of Queensland has questioned just how secular our public education system has become.

QTU policy is very clear about the position we take on the issue: “The QTU supports and promotes professionally conducted programs of education in the area of belief. It does not support or promote any program of study where content is selected from a faith perspective as in religious instruction.”

The Union believes that if a program of religious instruction is to be offered, it should be provided before or after school and not as an interruption to the already “crowded” curriculum.

By extension, the QTU regards the placement of chaplains in general education, welfare or counselling programs as extremely inappropriate in state schools.

While the Education Minister might believe that chaplains can replace qualified counsellors, members know that they cannot. Students need support staff who are properly qualified, such as guidance officers, not well-meaning amateurs. The issue has to be what’s best for children, not what’s cheapest. The state government’s extra $1m over four years for chaplains and $2m over two years for a boot camp trial would be better spent on providing qualified guidance counsellors.

Chaplains are not the only example of an increased focus on religion in schools.

Teachers will have to be vigilant to ensure that campaigns to teach creationism and intelligent design do not get traction in schools. We must reflect on Rona Joyner’s influence on a previous conservative government, which back in the 70s succumbed to her demands for a ban on MACOS (Man, A course of Study, a curriculum program developed for primary schools) and SEMP (the Social Education Materials Project, a social studies curriculum program for secondary schools) in state schools.

It is not beyond the realms of possibility that other fundamentalist groups might be able to unduly influence the LNP government. Members will need to be alert and not alarmed.

Greg Purches
QTU Deputy General Secretary