Friday, 29 November 2019

ACT NEWS: HOME EDUCATION LEGISLATION AMENDMENT PASSES UNANIMOUSLY

In 2017 a proposed change to the ACT Home Education legislation which could have been detrimental to many home educating families was introduced to the ACT Legislative Assembly. Since that time the HEA and local home educators have lobbied politicians to ensure that the legislation protects the rights and safety of children and families.

We are pleased to announce that our voices have been heard and the new amendments that passed unanimously yesterday means that the ACT is now leading the way with one of the more enlightened and sensible registration systems, which balances the safety of children and the right to an individual education.

The amended legislation provides certainty for home educators and retains the important safety net of a registration that must be granted in the first instance. This is particularly important for students who may be experiencing unsafe situations at school such as severe bullying and who need to be legally withdrawn from school immediately.

The ACT HEA members would particularly like to thank former HEA President Vivienne Fox and former Advocacy Subcommittee members Karleen Gribble and Lynda Carlos for generously sharing their experience and expertise over two years of tireless work and support in our efforts to protect home educators’ rights in ACT. This process has demonstrated the importance of having an experienced national body such as the HEA which advocates to protect the rights of all home educators.

With the passing of this legislation in the ACT, we celebrate the power of consultation and consensus driven decision-making. When politicians listen to stakeholders, universal agreement can be reached and everyone wins. The amendments to the Education Act are set to become the legislative example to the rest of the nation, both in terms of process and end product.

Video of the ACT Home Education Amendments being debated and passed yesterday. The speeches from all sides are truly excellent. The video is about half an hour but highly recommend watching to hear home education discussed intelligently and respectfully by all sides of politics. And an excellent opportunity for children to learn about how Government works in the ACT!

The three politicians who speak to the amendments are Andrew Wall MLA (Liberal opposition, on behalf of Elizabeth Lee MLA), Minister Shane Rattenbury (Greens) and Education Minister Yvette Berry (Labor).

Summary of ACT legislation changes:

Provisional is no longer a separate period of registration. Once a parent applies to home educate their child there will now be a single registration that the Directorate must grant if you meet the conditions of registration.

These are:

  • a) The parents of the child are to provide high quality education for the child;
  • b) The parents of the child must document the educational opportunities offered by the parents to their child and the strategies they use to encourage their child to learn;
  • c) The parents of the child must make available for inspection on request by the director-general any education programs, materials or other records used for the home education;
  • d) The child must live, or usually live, in the ACT;
  • e) The parents of the child must, within 28 days of either of the following occurring, tell the director-general, in writing, about the thing occurring:
    1. (i) information on the register under section 139 changes;
    2. (ii) the child stops living, or usually living, in the ACT;
  • f) The parents of the child must submit a home education report;
  • g) The home base for the child's home education is suitable for the education of the child;
  • h) Any conditions prescribed by regulation.

However for the first 3 months of a new registration you are exempt from meeting a, b, and c. This functionally means that this is a provisional period to deschool and get your paperwork together. This means that parents retain the right to immediately and legally remove their children from an unsafe environment at school if necessary. 

It is now also explicitly stated that parents and students are exempt from any truancy proceedings once they have applied to home educate: you are protected immediately and do not have to wait for registration to be granted.

The requirement to provide high quality education hasn't changed. This is purposefully broad (and has always been) as it's designed to facilitate individual learning programs for children without the requirement to follow a standard curriculum. (Parents are of course welcome to follow a curriculum).

Another change is that it is now explicitly stated that you must be resident in the ACT in order to be granted registration. However as before, extended travel during a registration period is allowed.

One important thing that remains enshrined in legislation: a child has a right to high quality education, and it is the parent's right to choose where that high quality education takes place. 

Home education is a legal and equal choice.