Leaders of Christian schools in New South Wales met with Premier Mike Baird and other government officials in late October for a roundtable discussion about issues affecting independent Christian schools.
The “historic” meeting represents the first time a combined group of Christian education leaders have met directly with the state government.
Among those taking part in the roundtable were senior representatives of Christian Schools Australia (CSA), Christian Education National, Australian Association of Christian Schools, the Sydney Anglican Schools Corporation, Lutheran Education VIC NSW TAS, and Adventist Schools Australia (ASA).
“Christian schools in NSW make up 4 per cent of total state wide enrolment, 12 per cent of the non-government enrolment and a significant 33 per cent of the independent non-Catholic enrolment,” said Seventh-day Adventist Schools (NNSW) CEO Dean Bennetts. “Therefore, being able to sit at ‘the big table’ and talk over issues that impact upon our kids and schools—and therefore on our mission—is a huge opportunity.”
CSA CEO Stephen O’Doherty said the Christian Schools Roundtable was a “very welcome first,” and paid tribute to Premier Baird and his government for their “support and willingness to engage with our movement on those issues that are of particular importance to Christian schools.”
Among the issues discussed were “sector-blind” funding, the needs of students with disabilities, new school development, and human rights and religious freedom issues.
A key outcome of the meeting was the assurance of continuing, regular dialogue between the government and Christian schools.
“This will strengthen relationships both ways,” said Mr O'Doherty, “and ensure we can continue to help make a positive contribution to the NSW Government’s educational and social policy objectives.”
The Adventist presence at the meeting cannot be understated, as its education program is the third biggest system of schools in the NSW Christian sector (after CSA and the Sydney Anglican Schools Corporation). More than 6000 students currently attend the Church’s 16 NSW schools.
“We have substance and merit in this group and can hold our heads high as representing our faith,” said Mr Bennetts.