By Sue Wight
The massive privacy breach by the Education Department (DET) demonstrates their continued disregard for children while simultaneously taking a ‘Father knows best’ approach to regulating an educational option they clearly do not understand.
DET’s failure to properly consult with home educators has resulted in the design of inappropriate regulations built on the kind of bias and misinformation we’ve come to expect from their ‘independent’ regulatory body, the VRQA.
The cavalier way DET handled harrowing personal submissions shows they regarded the process as box-tick in reaching their predetermined outcome.
The privacy breach included the publication of:
- Two confidential submissions including full contact details
- One confidential submission identified by name.
- Five anonymous submissions with name and/or contact details in the text or document title.
- Two submissions carrying contact details contrary to instructions.
For a further 113 submissions, anonymity was compromised by DET’s poor handling of metadata.
Many of these submissions were made by families who have already been failed by the department in terms of their children’s education or safety. Removing their children from the school system and dealing with the fallout was a traumatic experience; one they were only willing to revisit in response to proposed regulations which would adversely impact children.
These families have suffered in the school system. They have run the gauntlet of a hostile regulation authority and taken on the responsibility of educating their children outside the mainstream system.
They spoke out not simply for their own families, but for children who will need home education in the future.
Several families were contacted by a journalist who obtained their details as a direct result of the privacy breach, in one case this related to a confidential submission. For others, the publication of their contact details posed a risk to their safety due to their occupation or a Domestic Violence Order.
In breaching confidentiality or anonymity, the department has failed these families a second time.
The draft regulations clearly cite a lack of evidence on home education as a reason for increasing regulatory oversight. The overwhelming number and nature of submissions now provides DET with a significant body of evidence as to why the regulatory increase is entirely unnecessary and inappropriate in its proposed form.
The school system does not suit all children and it fails some. The proposed regulations for home education seek to police rather than support such families and would hand bureaucrats the power to say ‘no’, bureaucrats from the same system that has already failed many of us twice.
Apologies can do little to rectify the extent of this breach of privacy and trust.
HEN has called on the Minister to consider the depth of feeling and serious issues revealed in the submissions and to rollover the existing regulations.
We have also lodged a formal complaint and are waiting to hear who will conduct the independent review.
The question remains: How independent will it really be? Will it be farmed out to a consultancy group looking to tender for more work? Or will it be truly independent?
DET, please don’t fail us again.
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