After two years of negotiation advocates, including the Home Education Association, suggest that the ACT now leads the country when it comes to sensible regulation for children who are being schooled at home and outside the traditional school sector.
This is a significant turnaround from the situation two years ago when legislative change was first suggested. While proposed changes were trying to improve the system for children being homeschooled, there were issues raised that the changes meant that parents may not have been able to move quickly to commence homeschooling, which can be an issue if there is a concern about a child’s health or safety.
The key concern centred around proposals that changed the provisional registration process. This change had been aimed at ensuring individuals did not continually apply for provisional registration without going through full registration. However, there were concerns from advocates about unintended consequences of the initial proposed changes including families choosing not to register and getting lost, instead of creating a low barrier for registration and providing families with time to meet important conditions to support quality education.
While only around 300 children in the ACT are homeschooled, it’s an important system for those who use it.
And while there are plenty of stereotypes about homeschooling, there are good reasons why families might need to home school.
For some families, it’s due to a preference for supporting learning in a home setting. For others, it’s in response to a particular need of a child, including physical or mental health needs. For a growing number of families, it is in response to a situation where the family views it is unsafe or unhelpful for a child to be in a traditional school. And it’s important to ensure that children who are in the homeschool system are not missing out on a quality education – this is something that everyone involved in the past two years have been united on.
Over the past two years, there has been significant discussion and consultation with affected families – not just by the Education Minister and her Directorate but across all parties in the ACT Legislative Assembly.
It is rare to hear advocacy groups note that they feel their voices have been heard but in this instance, they have stated that the process of discussion and engagement has delivered an amended system that places quality education at its centre, recognises the challenges for individual families, provides certainty for home educators and retains the important safety net of a registration that must be granted in the first instance. They see this as particularly important for students who may be experiencing unsafe situations at school such as severe bullying and who need to be legally withdrawn from school immediately.
The Home Education Association and individuals in the process have also expressed their appreciation to all political parties in the Legislative Assembly who engaged respectfully and openly about the issue and listened to families needs and concerns. In tabling speeches, all parties thanked the families who had provided helpful advice, and other members of the Assembly who had worked constructively to find a solution.
With the theatre of party politics, we don’t often hear stories about good consultation and engagement to make good laws and regulation. It’s good to see that there is a workable regulatory system in place in the ACT to support quality education for children being homeschooled.
Do you have experience of where processes have delivered good outcomes for local communities and sectors?