Law will protect ethics classes from being dumped by Coalition
THE right to teach ethics classes as an alternative to scripture in NSW schools will be enshrined in law by the state government in a bid to prevent the Coalition removing the classes if it wins power next year.
The Minister for Education, Verity Firth, will introduce an amendment to the Education Act today to specify the right of schools to offer ethics to students who opt out of scripture.
The amendment will be supported by the Greens in the Legislative Council, guaranteeing it will become law before Parliament rises at the end of next week and before the election in March.
''The message we have received loud and clear from parents is that they should have the right to choose what is best for their child," the Premier, Kristina Keneally, said.
However, the opposition spokesman for education, Adrian Piccoli, attacked the decision.
He pointed out that the Board of Studies had to remove inappropriate draft course material before the trial of ethics classes earlier this year. ''If they want to legislate for a course, which has previously included subjects on terrorism and designer babies to be taught to 11-year-olds, then that's a decision for the Labor Party,'' he said.
A spokeswoman for Ms Firth said: ''First the Coalition failed to listen to parents and now they're trying to scare them. All course material will be vetted by the Board of Studies''.
The government's move is in response to the announcement by Mr Piccoli that the opposition would not support the government's plans to introduce ethics classes by term 1 next year.
He said a Coalition government would allow any classes already in place to continue until the end of 2011, but then remove them.
The government's initial plan was to rewrite education department policy, which bans ethics classes running in competition with special religious education.
But legislation means the opposition would need to get an amendment through Parliament to reverse the right to offer ethics classes.
Because there is a good chance the Greens will hold the balance of power in the upper house after next year's election, it is likely the amendment would be voted down.
The Greens MP John Kaye said it was the only way to prevent a Coalition government from dumping ethics classes.
''The Keneally government's decision will be welcomed by the overwhelming majority of parents in NSW who wanted ethics classes as an alternative to scripture lessons,'' he said.