Another submission made to DET published here by permission
I am very concerned about the proposal that the VRQA will be responsible to approve home lesson plans and conduct reviews on home educators and how that would impact on children. I have been homeschooling since July last year and I have not produced a plan and yet my son is more engaged with learning than he was at school.
Since homeschooling my son has made progress in all areas of learning and self care – partly I believe due to not being in a stressful, loud and demanding environment that school was. He now fulfils many of his self-care needs without prompting or assistance. He is socialising with more ease and does not have the behaviour issues that school reported. He is showing a natural curiosity in the world – which he didn’t before as he would come home from school anxious, exhausted and overloaded by the sensory environment. He set up his own workstation for this year in mid-January. He is helping out in the garden as well as cooking, hanging up clothes and other chores – all part of his natural desire to be self-sufficient and to be helpful. He has set aside a timetable including maths and English times and we do daily exercise and walks.
My son has autism and ID and high anxiety and was suffering greatly at school from anxiety and bullying. We cooperated and attempted to work with the school for 6 months with SSG’s and emailing back and forward to find a solution yet the school could not make many adjustments for my son’s condition. I withdrew him only as a last resort as he nearly escaped the school (which could have been fatal) as well as other concerning situations that arose which the school would not address.
I am committed to providing my son a good and broad education and object to the VRQA being given total authority to dictate the methods or details of that education. Every child with autism is unique in their needs and without knowing the child intimately (as myself or his long term psychologist would do) I don’t believe there is a sound basis to judge the home curriculum. There is also no indication that the assessment of plans or the associated reviews will be performed by someone with home education experience.
I am particularly concerned that bullied children will be trapped in school and at risk during the application process which is likely to take over 2 months. A parent will have to research, write and mail the plan, and then wait 28 days for approval after receipt. If a plan is rejected, they would have to go through this process again. How will the government protect children from harm when their failure to do so has been the motivation behind the home education decision? In my case, we spoke with the school and DEECD multiple times to try to put into place strategies to protect my son, yet even a basic resource like visuals to help minimise anxiety were not provided for 3 months by either party.
I would be happy for limited assistance or guidance that was offered unconditionally by VRQA. I understand that part of this move to monitoring is to protect children’s best interests and safety but that is not an educational issue in my view nor would the level of monitoring that the Regulations is suggesting be necessary for that. A visit by the VRQA which is purely observational and encouraging would be sufficient.
If the government is serious about ‘light touch’ regulation, I feel that the draft should be revised with proper consultation from home educators to build a workable regulatory regime which limits the power of the VRQA over home educators.