Home education is something that not everyone understands. It is viewed with distrust, there are many misconceptions about it. But if there is one thing any parent can understand, it is the need to home educate out of necessity - the reason of last resort.
Many of those who homeschool their children in Victoria do so because of the reason of last resort. They send their child off to school, all is well, but then something happens. Bullying, verbal and emotional, from other students. Sometimes even by teachers. Physical and even sexual assault, with Victoria topping the statistics on sexual assault in schools. Or the insidious but less noticed, thus less reported, neglect, where a teacher will do things like refuse to allow the child to use the bathroom, which only ends in utter humiliation for the child.
The statistics on our youth having mental disorders is out of control – with 1 in 5 girls aged 16-17 meeting the criteria for major depressive disorder. Some of the children who suffered in school are brought home in desperation, many of them want to commit suicide, some have already tried – and some succeed, before anything can be done.
A parent's right to choose their child's education is important, but the parent's right and responsibility to keep their child safe is of the utmost importance. This isn't something that can even be debated - we must protect our children. People can speak of kids needing to toughen up in the face of bullying, but when a child is at the point of suicide - there is no toughening up. A ten year old shouldn't need to toughen up so much. It is our responsibility to make sure they don't need to toughen up, it is our responsibility and our right to protect our children.
In Victoria, this right is being taken away.
Just before Christmas in 2016 the Victorian Education Department with the support of Education Minister James Merlino released a draft of changes for the Education and Training Regulations. Within this draft is the section on homeschooling, which matter little to the average parent. But there is one change that applies to every single one of us. Even if it doesn't affect you, and I hope it never does, it actually still applies to you.
regulation 72: Application for registration
(1) a parent of a child may apply to the authority to register the child as a student for homeschooling
(2) where a student is proposed to start homeschooling-
(a) at the beginning of a school year, an application must be made under subregulation (1) must be submitted by 30 Nov in the year before the student is proposed to start homeschooling or
(b) other than at the beginning of a school year and an application under sub regulation(1) has been made for a child of compulsory school age, the child must remain enrolled at and must attend, a registered school until the Authority notifies the applicant of the Authority's decision to approve the application in accordance with regulation 74."
The key point here is 2b, a child must remain enrolled in school and must attend school until the parent is successful in registering to homeschool. This will take 28 days at the least. 28 days the Victorian Qualifications and Registrations Authority (VRQA) will have to look over your application and then get back to you. But before you do that, you must draw up a year's worth of lesson plans, among other things - which will also take time. And after the time it takes to draw up those plans, send them and the application off, and then wait 28 days - they can still make you wait longer, if they decide they need further information.
If your child is in a dangerous situation in school, you must leave them there for 28 or more days. 28 days your child must continue to remain in danger. 28 days is a long time for a child at the end of their rope.
This can all be seen as a homeschoolling problem, nothing to do with you. But it's not, it's more than a homeschooling problem – it's a parenting problem. It's the erosion of our parental rights, and more importantly, our parental responsibilities.
You might never have to deal with this problem, you might never choose to home educate your child. But the regulation will still be there, the regulation removing your right and responsibility to keep your child safe. The regulation that forces you to ask for permission to protect your child, and then makes you wait for that permission to be granted.
Because that is what this regulation is saying – you, the parent, must ask for permission to protect your child. We should not need permission to protect our children. We should not have this right taken from us, we should not have to ask for this right to be granted to us. This right is and should always be an automatic right. It is our right to protect our children, it is our responsibility – there should not be a law that can say otherwise.
But that is the law they are trying to create.
You might never choose to home educate, you might never feel the need to do so. But this isn't about home education, it's just placed under that title where no one will think to look. This is about your rights as a parent, this is about the safety of our children.
The regulations are still in the draft stage, they will not be voted into legislation for a few months yet. They have given us the date of 28th of February to send in submissions about the regulations. If you wish to fight for your parental rights, please send in a submission to the DET, asking that they remove this regulation and leave us our parental rights to protect our children.