The Secular Education Network commends the Churches Education Commission for making clear its policy on informed consent. The CEC recently updated its web site to include a statement about informed consent.
We believe that parents have the right to choose what is best for their child. This is especially important in relation to what (if any) religious beliefs you as a parent are happy to allow your child to learn about. We appreciate that religious belief is a deeply personal matter, and in no way do we want to mislead parents as to the purpose of our programme. It is therefore fundamentally important that parents have clear and accurate information in relation to the CRE (‘Christian Religious Education’) programme that we offer to State primary schools.
The Secular Education Network has been promoting the practise of schools gaining informed consent from parents prior to including children in Christian Religious Education programmes. There are two aspects to informed consent.
We support the CEC position that schools should provide clear and accurate information to both parents and prospective parents about CRE programmes. We believe this should include information about the curriculum. Ideally this should be made available on school web sites and in other printed materials used to educate parents about the policies of the school.
The second aspect is consent. We support the position of the CEC that schools should respect the right of parents to choose what is best for their children. This means that schools should seek explicit permission from parents rather than including children in CRE programmes with no consent.
The CEC has also stated that it intends to make available a opt out form for parents to use when opting their children out of religious education programmes.
While the current law permits schools to include children in religious education programmes without parental consent often without parental knowledge, we commend the CEC for supporting parents rights to know about and provide active consent for their children to attend these programmes.