AN ideological divide has emerged in the Hunter, with coastal schools taking up new ethics classes and western schools favouring a school chaplain program.
Data shows that the 12 Hunter schools that offered new ethics classes this year are in coastal areas that stretch from Coal Point to Shoal Bay.
Ethics classes are an alternative to scripture classes already offered at the schools.
Upper house Christian Democrats MP Fred Nile tried last month to repeal the legislation allowing ethics classes in school.
Fifty-one Hunter schools are participating in the federal government’s School Chaplaincy Program.
The schools are in a mix of suburbs across the region but many are inland.
The school chaplaincy program has become the subject of a High Court challenge from a Queensland father who says it violates the constitution because it imposes a religious test as a requirement for a Commonwealth office.
The voluntary chaplain program includes support and guidance on values, relationships, spirituality and religious issues, the provision of pastoral care and community engagement.
A recent ombudsman’s inquiry found chaplains should have a minimum qualification and code of conduct to avoid proselytising.
Hunter Christian special religious education committee chairman John Donnelly said 99per cent of 215 state primary schools in the Hunter and Manning regions had weekly scripture lessons.
‘‘[Scripture] exists wherever schools exist and that follows the population of the region,’’ he said.
Mr Donnelly said the Catholic Church had accepted the place of ethics classes and was working with providers.
St James Ethics Centre said the first ethics classes were created in schools that had expressed interest and could provide volunteers.
Spokeswoman Teresa Russell said it could be harder in regional areas to find volunteers.