By Mish Baker, Disability Advocate and Home Educating Parent
There are 4743 students registered for home education in Victoria from 3006 families. They receive no funding at all.
Research consistently shows 25% of home educated children have additional needs. In Victoria, the figure may be as high as 60%.
For many home education results from the lack of supports within the school system, causing students to experience issues such as extreme bullying, delayed learning due to lack of reasonable adjustment, significant mental health struggles, self harm and more. Homeschool for some families is a final hope to help their children who are being failed daily, and the only way to provide the learning supports they so desperately need.
Once a student is homeschooled, a parent is left to not only fund the student’s education themselves, but also denied all access to curriculum support, government-supported access to services such as regional nurses, psychology, speech therapy and so forth. All government support ceases.
Despite parents’ dedication to their children’s education, the department has developed proposed regulations that can only be viewed as punishing homeschoolers, despite there being no evidence such action is needed.
Over 500 submissions were received, many telling heart-wrenching tales of unmet needs, bullying and abuse. The government has ‘noted’ these stories and their plan will proceed unchanged.
The proposed changes increase the risks to students with disabilities as follows:
- Complete power over students is being handed to VRQA who are increasingly hostile towards homeschoolers. (e.g. see submission 243)
- To exit school there will be a mandatory 28-day wait period while the homeschooling registration is considered.
- For students in volatile or vulnerable circumstances, this places the students at significant risk. In the case of bullying, self-harm or suicide ideation, the wait could cost a student their life.
- The government assures us there is provision for a principal to approve a student’s absence during this time. However, where principals refuse to acknowledge the child has unmet needs and/or is in danger, their approval will be hard to secure.
- Many principals are reluctant to let go of the funding a child with a disability brings to their school.
- Homeschooled students are denied access to the Distance Ed curriculum.
- Initial registration requires a 12-month individual learning plans covering eight key learning areas including where the learning will take place, what resources will be used, and how the learning will be recorded.
- Not even schools are required to plan this far ahead.
- Many children never receive an individual learning plan in school.
- It is impossible to plan the learning of a student with a disability this far ahead. To do so is to limit a student’s growth and development by not responding to the child’s actual learning.
- Parents can apply for an exemption from teaching a specific Learning Area.
- Any medical evidence required for such an exemption will be at the parent’s own expense.
- An exemption is up to a bureaucrat with no medical knowledge.
- This contrasts with schools where students are exempted from key learning areas at the teacher’s discretion.
Such stringent regulations will further damage the learning opportunities for students, will deny the flexibility needed to adapt throughout the year to the student’s development, and will create further risk when trying to remove a student from school.
Submissions 362, 109, 119, 165, 275, 512 are particularly relevant.