This information has been updated from an article written for Otherways magazine by a home educating lawyer in 2006 when registration became a legal requirement in Victoria.
- The law requires it. It is a serious thing to break the law.
- Victorian home education law remains among the least restrictive regimes in Australia.
- Registration is straight forward.
- The regulations and processes are not intrusive.
- You can home educate using any method you choose, including natural learning/unschooling. You will not be told what to teach your children.
- There are no compulsory home visits.
- Transition to TAFE under the age of 17 requires a Transition from School Form signed by the Regional Director. Being unregistered at that point would complicate matters.
- Unregistered families are very vulnerable if they come in contact with the Family Court or Child Protection Services.
What does registration involve?
- You will be required to provide regular and efficient instruction that broadly addresses the eight Learning Areas, but do not have to follow the state curriculum. Note that you are not required to cover all the learning areas every year e.g. you could not do languages and still be considered to be complying with the regulations.
- You will be required to teach in accordance with the ‘Australian values’ recited in the Act, which are expressed very generally, and include openness, tolerance, freedom of religion, acceptance of democratic principles and the rule of law.
- You will submit a simple learning plan; they aren’t difficult and help is available to HEN members if required. The learning plan is only required on initial registration, renewal is simply a matter of notification.
- You will have a 10% chance of being reviewed in any given year. When reviewed, you can submit a brief report/work samples, do the review by phone or in person at a location of your choice. More details here. A review is of one child’s registration. You can choose the child and you can choose the month of review. Once your child’s registration has been reviewed, your family is exempt from review for two years.
The powers of the VRQA are limited
- Apart from annually reviewing 10% of home educations, the VRQA will only seek to review a household’s programme (including inspection of materials, etc.) if there is a written complaint against you alleging reasonable grounds to believe that there is non-compliance. Parents are notified of any concern in writing and will have an opportunity to respond (and, if necessary, rectify any non-compliance). At this point, it would be of great assistance to be able to demonstrate compliance by records made by the parent.
- Suspension or cancellation of registration can only occur if you fail a review or fail to renew. No one has yet failed a review. The decision to suspend or cancel registration can be reviewed in VCAT if the parent disagrees with it.
Other benefits of registration
- Registered home educators are exempt from the Mutual Obligation requirements if they need to claim a Centrelink benefit.
- Registered home educators are in a better position to promote home education to others, and in public forums.
What Happens if I Don’t Register?
Despite the fact that registration is required by law, some home educators decide not to register. HEN surveys indicate 96% of Victorian home educators are registered, a higher compliance rate than other states.
The following information is provided so you can assess the risks and possible consequences of not registering.
The most important thing to realise is that the primary obligation under the Act is to register and comply with the regulations. If unregistered, you are outside the law regardless of the quality of education you offering.
Under the terms of the Education Act, if you are suspected of unregistered home education, you would initially be asked whether you were registered. If in doubt, the Regional Director has the authority to check with the VRQA. If you aren’t registered, you would be told to register and then issued with a School Enrolment Notice if you did not. This would give you 21 days in which to register (or enrol in a school) and return the form indicating that you had done so. Because registration can take up to 28 days, you would need to take particular care to get your application and learning plan right as, if insufficient information is provided, registration would be delayed.
If you registered at that stage, there would be no further action taken.
If you did not register, the notice would be followed up with a reminder and then an infringement notice.
For some unregistered families the process allows plenty of opportunity to register before further action is taken. However, families who would refuse to register on conscientious grounds must be prepared to face the court proceedings that could result.
If you refuse to register, you are breaking the law and are liable to be fined for truancy. The fine for truancy is set at one penalty unit per day ($165.22 in 2019/2020 and increases annually). Any fine would be based on a calculation of one penalty unit per day of non-compliance although, depending on the number of days and the financial position of the family, it may be reduced.
The pre-2006 defence of providing ‘efficient and regular instruction’ is no longer available. The primary requirement of the law is the obligation to register.
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