Monday, June 23, 2008

South Australia Education and Children's Services Legislative Review

I just spent a couple of hours reading Discussion Paper 2 and answering the feedback form online. You can find the links to both here:
http://www.edlawreform.sa.gov.au/

In a nutshell the government wants to combine the Education Act and Children's Services Act into the one Act.

On the surface the Discussion Paper says a lot of things that seem to make sense - who wouldn't want a streamlined, efficient Act that makes use of best practice and doesn't cost a fortune to implement and regulate? And why wouldn't we want to combine these two, often overlapping, areas of societal responsibility.

Because the discussion paper talks about regulation, licensing and registration of children's services and education, and home schooling is mentioned, then it's probably a good idea to take a look and if you feel inclined, pop in a reply or two on the feedback form.

Last time the government tried to merge the Acts submissions from home educators just about out-numbered all the others - not many parents or teachers took the time to make a submission and we were well represented at open meetings held around SA.

Having your say at this early stage of the review will send a message to those writing legislation that we're interested in the future of home education provision in South Australia.


© Beverley Paine 2008

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Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Future of Home Education Regulation in Australia

© Beverley Paine, 20th June 2008

On the ABC News Radio this morning Mal Brough said that it would not take much effort for the government to cross check school enrolments with Centrelink to get those children not attending schools into school. He offered the figure of 2000 and the conversation was in relation to the Northern Territory intervention, which he said should be expanded across Australia, to include all populations.

Home educators may need to be reassured by reminding them that Mal Brough's remarks need to be kept in the context of his adversarial role of Opposition spokesperson - he is no longer running the show and his alarmist comments amount to politicking and heckling from the sidelines in response to the latest intervention measure announced by the Rudd government.

However, I have no doubt that eventually, regardless of who is holding the reins in Canberra, school enrolment and Centrelink parenting benefits will be linked for all Australians. Some time soon – maybe not this year or next year, but probably within five years – to legally homeschool in Australia one will have to be registered, this process will cost the homeschooler. Home educators will be required to demonstrate, in terms the authorities understand, that their children's educational and social development is progressing in line with acceptable standards, which will be either the national or individual state curriculum guidelines.

From my vantage point spanning two decades of involvement with the home education movement it is easy to see that this was inevitable, given the lack of understanding by the general population of the nature of home education and the pressures facing governments resulting from the increasing visibility of the effects of poverty on sections of our society.

If, as I predict, this future in inevitable, what should home educators, and those like myself who advise home educators, do to prepare for this adjustment?

Some will not accept what I see as the inevitability that regulation of home education will become unavoidable, and will continue to lobby governments for the right of parents to teach their children at home without ‘big brother' looking over their shoulder every year, or giving them approval in a patronising way to do the job that is their responsibility alone. Home education in Australia needs these families to become vocal and to lobby hard and continuously for fair and rational treatment. Their voices are an essential part of the way forward for home education. Their arguments and reasoning are sound and reflective of the liberal democratic society we enjoy and wish to preserve.

Some will continue to conscientiously object to laws they feel impinge on their rights as parents to determine the direction and content of their children's education, as well as their right to parent according to their religious and lifestyle beliefs. Some will fight what they believe to be unnecessary and restrictive regulations and laws through the court system. The home education movement as a whole needs to continue to support these families.

But for most of us, we will choose to comply with the new regulations, either because it makes sense, as it will to many home educating families, or because the stress of opposing them will be overwhelming and ultimately too disruptive to family life. I believe that the home education movement needs to support, in whatever way we can, genuine home educating families.

For my part this will mean helping families write and record learning programs for their children that will demonstrate that no matter what style or approach of education is used, home education is effective and successful. This is what I do best. We each need to do what we each do best to help others find their way through these difficult times of change. In this way we can support each other and continue to promote home education as a viable alternative to school for those families who need it most.

© Beverley Paine 2008

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Visit www.alwayslearningbooks.com.au for a great range of homeschooling, unschooling and books on natural learning!

Friday, June 06, 2008

Parents face jail for truant kids under new NSW laws

An article in the Daily Telegraph by Simon Benson on the 1st of April (and no, it wasn't an April Fool's joke), reported on new laws introduced into NSW parliament which could inadvertantly adversely affect many homeschooling families.

The laws grant powers to the Department of Education to seek court orders which could force parents to enrol their children at school. Magistrates will be empowered to impose jail sentences for parents of habitual truants, with fines up to $10,000.

Premier Morris Iemma stated that it was time that the issue of school enrolments and truancy "became one of parental responsibility".

However, if parents are coerced to send their children to school, doesn't this remove some of that parental responsibility? It was my understanding that education - not school attendance - is compulsory for primary school aged children in NSW. Homeschooling is a legitimate and legal alternative that addresses the educational needs of children.

How will the new laws affect existing home educating families, especially those not registered with the Board of Studies?

There is a trend across Australia for tightening of regulation of home education. Let's hope it is done in an enlightened way, where the needs of home educating families are assessed in an thorough way, given an understanding of the unique and distinct from schooling nature of homeschooling.

Home educating families do not fall into the category of negligent parents - they take parental responsibility seriously, to the extent that they are willing to forgo a second (and often necessary income) to supervise their children at home and in the community. It is a shame that politically motivated laws which appear to have been hastily created as a reaction to a much publicised case of child abuse will catch in its net innocent and dedicated parents.

© Beverley Paine 2008

Have a homeschooling question? Become a member of the friendly Homeschool Australia Frequently Asked Questions email group. Visit Homeschool Australia for more original content. No time to visit the site? Sign up to receive Beverley's regular Homeschool Australia Newsletter.
Visit www.alwayslearningbooks.com.au for a great range of homeschooling, unschooling and books on natural learning!