State ‘dragging the chain’ on federal Safe Sex directive
The Australian, June 8, 2016
Sweeping changes to the Safe Schools anti-bullying program demanded by the federal government three months ago have yet to be fully adopted by NSW education authorities despite orders to overhaul the initiative immediately.
NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli, who welcomed the findings in March as “sensible”, yesterday said the department was still “in the process of ensuring compliance with the federal government’s updated requirements”.
Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham decreed in March the program be restricted to high schools after a review, following an outcry about teaching recommended for Kindergarten to Year 6 students.
Yesterday, three NSW primary schools and up to 11 more in Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania are listed as “members” of the Safe Schools Coalition on its website. The Queensland page lacked details of any primary or secondary-school members.
The Safe Schools Coalition, which is funded for $8 million for 2013-2017, yesterday insisted primary schools could remain members, despite the review.
A spokeswoman said: “The Federal Minister’s statement does not direct that primary schools cannot be members and we continue to work with schools at their request. Federal government requirements following their review stated SSCA limit the distribution of certain materials by … requiring local program managers to ensure the distribution and promotion of Safe Schools Coalition Australia program materials is restricted to secondary-school settings only.”
Schools are signed up at the discretion of principals.
The website says member schools “receive a range of tailored support, including professional development, printed and digital resources, consultation and advice for staff, students and families”.
“By signing below you are committing to building an environment that is safer and more inclusive of the whole school community,” it says.
The federal government changes also mandated “requiring parental consent for student participation”. Yesterday a NSW Education Department spokesman said parents would be “consulted”.
But Mark Makowiecki, the NSW director of the Australian Christian Lobby, said there were concerns about how consent would be given. “We haven’t seen a single parental consent form, and it would be difficult to see how parents could consent to the program, as it affects the entire education curriculum”, he said. It appeared NSW was “dragging the chain” on change.
The NSW Department spokesman said “the program is not available in NSW public primary schools” in line with the federal government review, and the coalition website was “an information portal” for schools, including primary schools.
NSW primary schools Bellingen, Marrickville West and Wattle Grove were listed on the website. Marrickville West P&C Association president Melanie Stopic said she supported the program. She said parents were told they would be offered a workshop but this had yet to happen.