The Revd Peter Laurence OAM | Chief Executive Officer, Anglican Schools Commission
We are more than two years into the global pandemic, yet Western Australia was impacted by COVID-19 in 2020 and 2021 in a very different way to the eastern states and the rest of the world. Some are saying the current wave of Omicron cases that we are experiencing in such large numbers is really WA’s first wave.
Schools have done a remarkable job this past term managing the rising COVID-19 caseloads. Since the WA border opened only a few weeks ago, our principals, teachers, chaplains and all other staff have worked tirelessly to support students, families and one another as positive case numbers rose daily in our schools. From the first reported COVID-positive cases in our schools back in mid-February, living with the virus as a highly vaccinated community has been the focus. Keeping schools safely open and ensuring the continuity of teaching and learning, pastoral care and support remains our priority.
Earlier this term, issues around the treatment of students (and possibly staff) in faith-based schools who identify as LGBTQIA+ received considerable media attention. It was a topic of much discussion in schools. A Christian school in the eastern states sought to insert controversial sexuality and gender identity clauses in its enrolment contract for school families. After widespread public outcry, this move was reversed and the Principal stood aside from duties.
Shortly afterwards, the Commonwealth Government’s Religious Freedom Bill narrowly passed the House of Representatives after a marathon overnight sitting, then was withdrawn from debate in the Senate. While it has always been a controversial piece of legislation, the current concerns centre around protections (or the lack of such) for transgender school students.
Inclusion is one of the Anglican Schools Commission’s (ASC) six Core Values. For the ASC, inclusion means our schools should be places where diversity is promoted and difference is respected and celebrated.
The ASC’s current Strategic Plan 2025 has, as one of its objectives, ‘Respect for all people and cultures’. The Plan commits us ‘to develop new policies and procedures and review existing ones to ensure schools promote inclusion for all, regardless of ethnicity, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.’ We also commit: ‘to promote a culture of inclusion for LGBTQIA+ students, staff and families.’
ASC schools are inclusive and diverse communities which welcome all, and where hospitality is given to every student, regardless of religion, ideology, ability, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation.
All staff are expected to support the Anglican ethos and core values of our schools. Sexual orientation and gender are not considerations in the employment of teachers or support staff, nor the enrolment of students in ASC schools.
Whether in pandemic times or not, our schools must be safe places for children and young people as they grow as individuals and in community.
Another ASC Core Value is Respect. We desire that our schools are communities which promote respect of self, others and our world. It seems to me that respect must be at the heart of the Christian communities we know as Anglican schools. Respect by all, for all. ASC schools are places where all who value such respect are welcome.
Anglican schools are in a privileged position to share the Passion story and remind their communities of the significant place that the season of Easter plays in our faith and our world.
The Gospel story is one of inclusion. Our doors should be open to welcome everyone, offering generous and loving hospitality. Our church and schools are at their best when they live the generous Easter love story all year round.
Holy Week and Easter blessings to all.