MS PENNICUIK — To ask the Minister for Training and Skills (for the Minister for Education): Under the proposed changes to the Victorian Education and Training Reform Regulations —
(1) what is the rationale for requiring children to attend a mainstream school while awaiting home school approval;
(2) what research has the Department undertaken regarding the further study and employment outcomes of home schooled children;
(3) will the Department be commissioning further research into the further study and employment outcomes of home schooled children;
(4) what will be required to be included in the proposed home schooling plans;
(5) will the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority (VRQA) be provided with additional resources to oversee home schooling plans and reviews; and
(6) what procedures will apply for parents of home schooled children to appeal decisions from VRQA.
ANSWER on 8 August 2017:
I am informed as follows:
1) What is the rationale for requiring a child to attend mainstream school while awaiting home school approval?
The Education and Training Reform Act 2006 (the Act) requires that all children of compulsory school age (between the ages of 6 and 17) must be enrolled in a school or be registered for home schooling. The proposed Regulations do not prevent a student from being removed from school or impose any new requirement on home school families.
Under the current Education and Training Reform Regulations (current Regulations), the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority (VRQA) must process an application for home schooling within a 14-day period. The obligation for children of compulsory school age to remain enrolled in school until such an application is approved is implicit in the requirements of the Act.
The proposed Regulations will extend the present day 14-day period to a 28-day period. The time period is being extended because the proposed Regulations will require VRQA to assess a newly introduced learning plan, which will accompany the application under the proposed reforms. The proposed 28-day period is required to allow the VRQA enough time to assess applications to ensure that the child will receive regular and efficient instruction across the eight key learning areas.
I fully understand that there may be situations where a child who is enrolled at school is unable to continue to attend school for a period of time due to illness, stress, bullying, or other difficulties. In this situation, a parent should contact the principal to discuss the situation, including what alternative arrangements are available. Where there is a reasonable excuse for non-attendance, a child can be excused from attending school for a period of time. If a parent decides that the child would benefit from a home schooling environment, the parent should contact the VRQA and start to prepare a registration application and a learning plan. For some applications the registration process will very quick and for others it may take longer, in particular where the initial application is incomplete.
During the interim period a child of compulsory school age must remain enrolled in school, however, where the child is unable to attend school because of special circumstances, a parent could start to deliver instruction at home. The child's school may be able to support the parent to do this by providing some materials or guidance. Once the VRQA has assessed the learning plan as suitable, the parent and child will be registered for home schooling.
Where a parent requests that their child be excused from attendance at school and discussions with the Principal have not led to a resolution, the Department has a comprehensive Parent Complaint Policy that provides mechanisms for complaints relating to schools and Principals to be addressed by the regional office, or central office, as appropriate. If the Department cannot deal satisfactorily with a complaint, the parent could contact the Independent Office for School Dispute Resolution for assistance.
In response to the feedback received from the home schooling community, I have requested some amendments to the proposed Regulations to make it clear that children who have a 'reasonable excuse' for not attending school will not have to continue to attend the school while their application for home schooling registration is being assessed. The proposed Regulations have been altered so that the section that establishes 28-day application assessment period references the existing 'reasonable excuse' provisions in the Act. It is important that parents are aware of the options that are available to them if their child is facing difficulties at school.
2) What research has the Department undertaken regarding the further study and employment outcomes of home schooled children?
In the course of reviewing the current Regulations, preparing the Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) and the drafting of the proposed Regulations, the Department undertook research into home schooling practices and outcomes. As part of this process, the Department engaged with all other Australian States and Territories to discuss their regulatory systems and relevant outcomes.
An important function of the proposed Regulations will be increased visibility over the home schooling community and an increased capacity to collect information and data to inform more targeted policy in the future. Part of the value of the proposed Regulation is they would allow for deeper insights into outcomes for home schooling students, as well as visibility into which teaching methodologies are being adopted by the home schooling community.