Principals ‘set up to take the blame’ over prayer group audit failures

Principals ‘set up to take the blame’ over prayer group audit failures

The Greens’ member for the NSW Parliament, Dr John Kaye, said principals have been put in “the impossible position” of being blamed for failing to enforce protocols they were not told existed.

Kaye said Public school principals were “being set up to take the blame” for the failure of the NSW government to provide adequate briefing and resources to implement the guidelines.

Kaye’s comments follow reports of failings by some schools to follow departmental guidelines requiring them to seek parental permission.
The audit – announced by NSW Premier Mike Baird in July – has backfired in some schools with students being encouraged to conduct their own unregulated playground prayer groups to avoid the new level of government scrutiny.
In a statement, Kaye said public school requirements around how prayer groups should be conducted were “onerous and close to impossible to implement.”

“They would have been even harder to implement if principals didn’t know they existed,” Kaye said.

“The survey caused widespread consternation amongst school leaders who were wondering what they were being assessed on. Only after they answered the test were they told that the procedures they were expected to implement had been changed.”

Following the announcement of the audit, Premier Baird said the positive values taught at school should not be allowed to be eclipsed by “extremist ideologies”. 

"Our schools should be, and are, havens of tolerance, places where students can explore the reaches of imagination and knowledge," Baird said.

"We will never allow them to become the setting for extremist ideologies."

However, Kaye said the NSW Liberals and Nationals “only took action when it was an Islamic student, having effectively ignored offensive messages being pushed by other faiths”.

“Premier Mike Baird was happy to grandstand in the media in response to an episode at one public school but he did not bother to check if principals were aware of the responsibilities that had been quietly dumped on them,” Kaye said.