The Sense of the Sacred program. A scheme for introducing religious values across the whole school curriculum

In 1995 the Catholic Education office of the archdiocese of Sydney embarked on a project to develop an approach to values education and moral development that would raise an awareness of and lead to more effective teaching of the holistic dimension to the school curriculum. A sense of the Sacred is a curriculum initiative that seeks to give priority to the integration of the Gospel and Catholic values in the subject matter and the classroom content of all areas within the school curriculum. It was developed to partner and support the Religious Education secondary curriculum. It is an extensive approach to the process of values education and education for personal growth and change. In structure it consists of two broad groups of materials.

The first of these is a collection of foundational material which provides the philosophical background to the initiative and attempts to raise awareness and deepen the understandings of all members of the school community of the role, purpose and significance of values education in the mission and work of a Catholic School. The second type of material associated with the package is a set of KLA and subject specific folders that contain a broad range of material that could be used to promote awareness of and teach about a range of values related issues in each subject area. The content of both facets A Sense of the Sacred is detailed, practicable and accessible for both staff and students.


The foundational material outlines the role and place of the Sense of the Sacred initiative as one which seeks to enable teachers to highlight the relevance of the Gospel to the life, learning and contemporary culture of their students. It is a values integration program engaging all teachers and aims to bring to all areas of teaching and learning a Catholic perspective that is informed by Scripture, Tradition and the on going response of the people of God. A Sense of the Sacred supports the teacher in both professional development and curriculum design. More fundamentally it is hoped that, A Sense of the Sacred may move the teacher to an ongoing conversion of heart and a greater awareness of the vocation of a teacher in the Catholic school.

The foundational material provides detailed material and reading in the following areas:-

Rationale and reflection This is a series of reflections and insights about the importance of a personal dimension to the curriculum. This material is designed to support staff in their own personal and values development as well as deepening their understanding of the role and place of values education in a Christian setting

Values Education One of the key issue relating to the process of education for personal change relates to what we understand values to be. This section attempts to establish an answer to this question and then to outline what are the benefits of values development.

Values Integration: A Catholic perspective This section attempts to identify what is unique about the process of education in Catholic schools and how the nature of the Catholic Tradition influences our understanding of the world.

Values This section names, defines and explains those values present in the Gospels and central to the Catholic Tradition. It presents a range of values linking them to sections of the Gospel and significant church documents.

Values in Outcomes Based education Section five outlines the nature of outcomes based education and its relationship to educating in values. It responds to the challenging question regarding the relationship between values outcomes and assessment.

Methodologies. This sections attempts to provide links between some of the better known educational frameworks and values centered learning.

A strength of the foundational material and its structure is that it is informative and accessible. Although a detailed document it is not structured as a text. It is a manual designed as a resource for the professional development of staff. It presents information in digestible components and is concerned with helping staff grow in their understanding of the values present in the Gospels. One of its key aims is to raise awareness of the importance and practicalities of values education in Catholic schools, while dispelling some of the myths and misunderstandings related to the teaching of values.

Support material for each KLA and Subject area

According to the Second Vatican Council, it is the religious dimension which makes the Catholic school distinctive. The religious dimension is expressed in:

  • the educational climate
  • the personal development of each student
  • the relationship established between culture and the Gospel, and
  • the illumination of all knowledge with the light of faith.

It is these last two aspects which are the particular concern of A Sense of the Sacred. This Values Integration Project seeks to engage all teachers in the Sydney Archdiocesan secondary schools. To this end, a thorough in-service guide and materials specific to each key learning area have been prepared. Perhaps Sydney is the only diocese in the world to have undertaken such a comprehensive and systematic Values Integration Project. The strength of the initiate lie in the quality of the materials prepared to help teachers in specific subject areas integrate a values focus into their normal classroom practice. Rather than being a collection of addition areas of content it is a range of material designed to enhance the existing content of particular courses through the promotion of a values focus. It has been developed by curriculum experts working in the subject area for which the material has been designed. A Sense of the Sacred recognises that the curriculum is not values neutral and that to gain a true and full understanding of an issue it is important to consider it from a range of educational perspectives.

The following is a collection of further aims of the project and its seeks to achieve:

  • it encourages the teacher to identify as being an educator of human beings more than simply a teacher of content
  • it is built on the conviction that all of education is value-laden and not values-free, and that values are implicit in the conduct and content of all education
  • it is built on the conviction that students have a right to be informed of the Catholic tradition into which they have been baptised and in which they are being educated
  • it seeks to integrate and connect the domain of reason, facts, content and skills with the domain of values, attitudes, ethics, conscience and moral responsibility
  • it seeks not to keep Religious Education isolated from other educational content, but to bring Religious Education into dialogue with the whole life and learning of the students
  • it seeks to ensure that the exit outcomes, the big dreams and aspirations we have for our students, are reflected in daily lesson outcomes
  • it seeks to bring the Gospel into dialogue with the life, learning and contemporary culture of our students
  • it seeks to ensure that values integration is not left to chance or reduced to an interesting discussion of ideas, but rather that teachers plan clear values outcomes and teaching/learning strategies informed by the Gospel and Catholic Tradition.
  • A discussion which looks at education for personal change. It also considers the values dimension to Citizenship Education.