Thousands of Catholic volunteers (Catechists) have been preparing for a new era of Special Religious Education (SRE) in NSW Public Schools.
Amid calls to modernise the way lessons are presented to the digital generation of students in SRE classes, the Catholic Conference of Religious Educators in State Schools (CCRESS) has updated their curriculums and developed new training modules. Primary and secondary classes will be enhanced with digital resources, learner centred activities and notes alerting catechists to topics that require sensitivity to student needs, family situations and attitudes.
In 2020, the Diocese of Broken Bay is publishing the third edition of the highly innovative Walking with Jesus program with colourful new graphics and a range of supplementary resources online. Responding to student and teacher feedback the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) team is systematically revising the entire Kinder to Year 6 program. Previews of the new material have had Catechists very excited about returning to classes.
Doug Mawhinney recently announced that the Archdiocese of Sydney is also releasing a new edition of the Christ our Light and Life SRE curriculum commencing with the Kindergarten teachers manual and student activity book. ‘Kindy in colour’ presents students with 3-5 minute activities that are partially coloured to guide students to respond to the main point of each lesson plan with graphics by Paul Mooney.
Several dioceses throughout NSW, including the Diocese of Parramatta, use Christ our Light and Life as their approved curriculum in Special Religious classes in public schools.
A CCRESS team from the Archdiocese of Sydney and the Dioceses of Broken Bay, Parramatta and Newcastle have developed a digital high school program Pathways of Discipleship which will be used for SRE classes this year. Care has been taken over controversial issues of morality and social norms, while the authentic teachings of Jesus and his Church are presented in modern formats and with engaging activities. There is a great deal of anticipation among Catechists about this new program as the trial lessons have been received with such positive feedback from students and teachers.
In a society as diverse as Australia, teaching of students in public schools needs to be age appropriate and sensitive. Over the past few years, members of CCRESS have trained thousands of dedicated Catechists to be more aware of difference and teach students our stories and beliefs with care and respect of individuals. These workshops and course have also introduced contemporary learning strategies and resources designed to increase the effectiveness of the time spend in class each week.
Each diocese as a Catholic SRE provider has responded to the recommendations of the 2015 Independent Review of SRE and SEE and worked closely with NSW Department of Education and other churches and faith groups to develop policies, procedures and programs that give families greater information, increased transparency and more effective educational outcomes.
While attendance at SRE classes has always been popular, we all anticipate an increase in participation rates as parent/caregivers consider the choices available for the spiritual formation of their children in public schools.
John Donnelly is a Regional Catechist Coordinator in the Diocese of Broken Bay and is a member of CCRESS.
For more information about this in the Diocese of Parramatta, please contact Cecilia Zammit on (02) 8838 3485 or visit the CCD website at http://parracatholic.org/ccd.