HUNTER primary schoolers whose families want them to take ethics classes are being put on long waiting lists, because there are not enough volunteer teachers in the region to keep up with demand.
Bonnells Bay Public School ethics coordinator Erin Turriff said the number of participants at her school had grown exponentially in less than two years, from three volunteers teaching three classes to six volunteers stretched over 11 classes.
About 200 of the school’s 451 students take the classes and about 35 are on the waiting list.
“Our classes are growing every year which is a great thing, because part of what we’re trying to do is foster an environment where kids are given a voice and learn skills about communication,” Ms Turriff said.
“Unfortunately what I worry about is I don’t want to burn out my volunteer teachers.
“It’s also difficult to maintain quality if we’re having to spread ourselves too thin.”
Ms Turriff has called for anyone interested in the program, which is offered in state primary schools as an alternative to special religious education or scripture, to consider becoming a teacher volunteer.
Applicants must be willing to attend two days of face-to-face training and undertake online modules.
Primary Ethics CEO Leonie Johnson said the growth at Bonnells Bay was reflected across the Hunter, where 144 volunteers under 35 co-ordinators teach 2500 students at 51 schools each week.
Ms Johnson, who was formerly the ethics co-ordinator at Hamilton South Public, said this equated to about 30 per cent of the region’s state school primary population.
Another 22 Hunter volunteers will be coming on board in coming months, but it still will not be enough.
Ms Johnson said the Hunter was the organisation’s “most active” regional area in the state.
“We do have waiting lists across the schools,” she said.
“In some schools we have volunteers who thought they would take on one class, but they’ve ended up taking on multiple classes.
“We also get calls all the time from parents asking how do they start the program at the school and whether we have any volunteers.
“We help them to find people in their school community who will be willing to get the program up and running.”
Ms Johnson said the large numbers of students taking ethics classes may be an under-representation of the number of families interested in the concept.
She said some families were not aware that ethics classes existed and that they could request the program be offered.
Primary Ethics will host training for teacher volunteers in Newcastle in June.