Tasmanian Education Bill 2016, (14 March 2016)

Monday , 4, April 2016 Leave a comment


Question from member  Vikky Hn

tas_ed_act

Hi there everyone,

Here is a post that i put in another group I’m part of and someone suggested I follow up here. Any and all suggestions welcome. Little bit if background, I home Ed my kids and this is why i was looking into the act.

Hey guys,

I know this wont affect most of you, but anyone in Tassy needs to be made aware of this.

http://tased-education-act.blogspot.com.au/

They’re putting in a part of the act that they will have access to your child’s medical records if they deem they have behavioural issues. Apparently that’s the only grounds they need to access your child’s medical records and make recommendations. Can you imagine, behavioural ‘issues’ are very subjective, but can you imagine them trying to recommend that a doctor assess them and put them on meds, just because they’re a little disruptive at 5 (my daughter would have been someone that would have been a prime candidate for them to want to medicate to keep her quiet). They’re also trying to change the homeschooling abilities and change what we’re ‘allowed’ to do, and change the laws so that they can change the programme you’re undertaking to something that THEY want, without taking into consideration what your child’s needs are. In fact, a friend went to the forum down in Hobart and they said that a lady had a child with disabilities (the act is also bringing in that they need to be in school from 3.5 until they’re 18) and he wouldn’t be able to reach any kind of standard because he’s disabled and they said if he didn’t, she would be fined! This is totalitarian bullshit and needs as many people to write to their opposition leader and appose this! As a homeschooling parent, it scares the shit out of me what they’re trying to do! Have a look at the act and see if there is anything that I can take to the forum that would be worthwhile.

RESPONSE FROM AUSTRALIAN PARALEGAL FOUNDATION

 

Hi Vikky

Re; The draft release of the Tasmanian Education Bill 2016, (14 March 2016)

Concerns noted;

School entry and exit age

The home education fact sheet (found at education.tas.gov.au), assumes that ‘enabling home-educated children to be partially enrolled in a school is in their best educational interests’.

In this fact sheet, prior consultation and feedback with home educators has been supportive of the ability to partially enroll their children in school.

A significant change under this draft Bill is to lower the minimum school entry in Tasmania, from 5 years to 4 years and 6 months. This would also reduce Kindergarten entry to a minimum age of 3 years and 6 months. It also aims to raise the minimum leaving age to 18 years or on completion of year 12, whichever occurs first. The idea behind this, according to the departments review is that there is evidence supporting ‘that the longer children stay in school the better opportunities they have in life’, (Review of the Tasmanian Education Act, tased-education-act.blogspot.com.au).

I strongly oppose decreasing the age of formal education entry. The formative years where the strengthening of family bonds, values and sense of self are critical to a young child at this developmental stage.

A lowered school entry age does not make sense and defeats the intended goals of an improved education for Australian children.

The average age of entry into primary school in Shanghai-China, Finland and Singapore is 6.7 years, South Korea, 6.6 years, Britain 5 years and Australia 5.2 years, (OECD,PISA 2012). In Australia, children start school much earlier than that of other countries top-performing education systems.

David Whitebread from Cambridge University stated that research supports that children who extend their informal play-based early childhood learning perform above others academically and experience more emotional well-being, (The Sydney Morning Herald, 26/01/14). A formal, more rigid program enforced by a lowered school entry would not support future success in these areas.

School readiness must be considered with early entry and parents who understand their child’s strengths and weaknesses are usually in the best position to determine this. Many studies have supported a delayed entry highlighting increased cognitive outcomes measured by maths tests, reading and standardized achievements, (Bedard & Dhuey, 2006; Cascio & Schazanbach, 2007; Elder & Lubotsky, 2009). Early starters who are not socially or academically ready may develop behavioral issues through frustration, peer issues and academic failure issues, (Professor Norbury, London University, 2016). Is the Tasmanian government ready to create a new modified early years curriculum to accommodate the younger starters?

Conversely, gifted students who have exhibited signs of maturity and possibly frustration and boredom with kindergarten may benefit from the challenges of an early start, but this will not suit all children. The benefits, (social, emotional, physical, language and cognitive development), for gifted children will also only be realized through a quality learning environment with considerations to staff ratio, care and learning stimuli.

There are obvious benefits with extending the minimum leaving age to 18 or an achievement of year 12 including increased tertiary education, employment skills and a more educated society. It would also be beneficial for the Education System to look at why students are currently opting out prior to Year 12 and to strengthen motivations and learning opportunities tailored to retain this demographic for meaningful learning.

 

Access to a child’s medical records if behavioral issues are identified

This is addressed, (Bill, part 3 no.6), where it states that if a parent has informed the school that their child was absent due to sickness then the compulsory schooling registrar may give the parent written notice of a demand to submit their child to a medical exam. This is conducted by a practitioner specified in the registrar’s letter. I strongly oppose this approach as a family doctors note should suffice. This is an issue that should be rejected with passion as it appears that the registrar will gain the authority to choose a health professional of his/her choice who may not understand the complexities of various illness as a family doctor would. It also is in my opinion a massive invasion of privacy and greatly undermines the role of the parents. We should be free to choose our own practitioner and retain our rights to privacy and natural rights to autonomy concerning our health.

I share your concerns regarding the assessment of behavioral issues as subjective & concerns re associated recommendations such as medication. This opens up the States capacity to remove children from parents. Under child welfare laws, failure to comply with a doctor’s diagnosis and treatments, or even requesting a second opinion has been classified as medical neglect, (as seen in cases of non-compliance to vaccination legislation). These laws have been enforced and have resulted in good parents losing custody of their children to the State.

Changing the program with no consideration for individual capacity

The Bill states that in the determination for approval of a home education program the program must meet the standards prescribed by the regulations for approval of proposed home education programs. These programs may be amended subject to approval by the Registrar. The Registrar may approve an amendment ‘only if satisfied that the program, if so amended, meets the standards prescribed by the regulations for the approval of home education programs’, (Bill, Part 3 no.2).

1)The question is do these prescribed standards prescribed by the regulations allow for individual learning capacities? This needs to be determined and accommodated in the Act as it is not a side-issue

Part-time attendance at a mainstream school is offered as an option to teach students components of the program that the home educator considers him/herself unable to provide.

This addresses the prescribed content but not individual learning capacity.

APPROVED LEARNING PROGRAM

This proposed Bill is effectively increasing the monitoring of the educational component of home education. One positive is that the assessing officers will now be appropriately qualified, current monitoring officers are not required to have educational qualifications. There has however, been mixed support of monitoring officers requiring a background in education, according to views collated through prior consultation shown in the fact sheet, (education.tas.gov.au).

The objective stated on the proposed bill’s fact sheet, (education.tas.gov.au), is to ensure home-educated students receive a level of education that provides them with the foundations to participate fully in society. It is suggested on this fact sheet that this proposal will promote best practice, quality home education.

So who decides best practice and quality?

At present Tasmanian homeschools are not required to follow the National Curriculum. In Victoria, the Education and Training Regulations, 2007, require that homeschooled children are registered and receive efficient instruction in the 8 Key Learning Areas, (KLA’s); Arts, English, Health and PE, Languages, Maths, Science, Humanities and Social Science and Information Technology. The delivery style may vary, however, must be consistent with Australian democratic principles. Homeschoolers are permitted to partially enroll in mainstream for specific activities and participate in NAPLAN. The ACT and the Northern Territory do not require a State or Federal curriculum learning program as a prerequisite for registration. South Australia requires the 8 key learning areas and some aspects of the national curriculum and home visits. Queensland is more heavily regulated and encourages the national curriculum though it is not compulsory.

New South Wales requires an intimate knowledge of the NSW Syllabus, based on the Key Learning Areas, which is now largely, the National Curriculum.NSW brought in a federally imposed national curriculum in 2014. The policies enforced by the NSW Board of Studies Teaching & Educational Standards (BOSTES), have dramatically reduced the opportunity for an individualized education which has the flexibility to cater to the strengths, weaknesses and interests of the homeschooled child. In NSW the national curriculum has entered homeschool lessons. Independent educational creativity and goals now need to squeeze in between the required content and timetable. The national curriculum presents one view of education. A major effect of this design is that it creates a single approach in preparing workers for the system. This minimizes individual creativity and subsequent innovation. A limited uniform curriculum produces a nation of students who repeat facts and has an impaired capacity for lateral thinking which lowers standards. Mr P. Brown, a maths lecturer at the university of NSW, suggested the National Curriculum was a ‘dumb down’ of the previous high school certificate curriculum. An economist from Melbourne University stated that “the real rationale for a national school curriculum relates to the pursuit of centralized control by the federal government and the scope to impose fashionable views dressed up as the pursuit of educational excellence”.

A NAPLAN analysis, (Smith, 2016), showed the average results from a sample of 10% of homeschool students, who sat the NAPLAN tests between 2008 and 2013, were approximately 70 marks higher than the NSW average. Students who had been previously homeschooled and had transferred to a standard classroom scored significantly higher in reading, grammar and punctuation tests than the average. This indicator may suggest that education mainstream would benefit from adopting homeschool practices such as tailored learning not the converse suggested in this proposed Act.

The Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority, (ACARA), has a national approach through its curriculum development assessment and reporting. They run the NAPLAN tests aligned with the federal curriculum. The limited research discussed suggests that homeschoolers are performing better than mainstream students in NAPLAN. It is imperative that the Education Department conducts substantial research to see if this is supported over a larger group. It is suggested that the homeschool tailored delivery and environment is a major factor in the retention and recall of knowledge. It may be possible that ‘best practice’ is already implemented without the need for substantial change.

 

It appears that the proposed Bill intends to implement a compliance officer, similar to the managers used in the Queensland homeschool system. These managers monitor parental compliance. They oversee the registration process, facilitate learning accounts and maintain a database of registered children and home educators. Parents in Queensland are obligated to meet participation requirements, including providing a high quality education complying with the state, detailed in the child’s education program or risk registration status.

After reading the Bill in its entirety I note a very heavy handed approach to attendance, monitored by the compliance officer and predictably one of the factors that could easily  revoke registration. This appears to be focused on much more than the quality of education. Individual learning styles and capacities are only addressed with the suggestion of assessment for a special needs school. This Bill does not promote quality education or encourage independent, substantial, innovative learning.

In Tasmania the current curriculum is quite flexible. In the THEAC, (Tasmanian Home Education Advisory Council) information kit, (November, 2015), it is documented that for registration, they require that all the basic educational areas are to be addressed. THEAC states that ‘home educating parent/guardian/s should be free to choose from a wide variety of resources, commercial programs and curriculum materials in line with their educational values and beliefs’. It is interesting to note this registration body also state that; ‘THEAC should maintain its independence from the Department of Education and from any other Government agency or non-government affiliation, and be responsible directly to the minister.’ ACARA have successfully lobbied to implement the Federal Curriculum into the NSW homeschool program. If a similar process is strictly followed in Tasmania, via this Bill, then THEAC cannot claim to maintain its independence or values of parental freedom in educating their children.

Bill Part 3, no.78 states Parent to enroll child in school, &c., on revocation or expiry of registration as home educator. This language is a bit concerning as I have no idea what &c., means??? Maybe Danny will be able to provide further information on this. What does the &c., mean? Is it & counseling? Is it & concentration camp? It is not clear and must be clarified.

While we are discussing the language of the Bill, Part 5, no.4 greatly concerns me as ‘The Minister, in any circumstances the Minister considers appropriate, may-

‘b/ close any State school either temporarily or permanently.’ WTH this is an obnoxiously ridiculous amount of power and while this provision does not directly affect home schools, this is an example of too much power in the hands of one individual! All it would take to close the entire home school system would be for the minister to re- categorise them as a form of schooling run by the state. The regulations leave room for this.

The Governor may make regulations regarding registration for the purposes of this Act, (Part 8,248/f) and re programs provided. In Part 8,248 no.5, it states; ‘the regulations may authorize any matter to be determined, applied or regulated by the Minister, Secretary, Registration Board or another person specified in the regulations’.

LEGISLATION

The Bill states that the amount of some of the fines for children not reaching standards, in particular attendance, is under review. I imagine they will rise.

At present home educators (of 5-16 year old students), in Tasmania are legally required to register with THEAC, (Tasmanian Education Act, 1994 and the Youth Participation in Education and Training Act, 2005), by following their processes. This proposed Bill still permits home education as a legal option but is introducing standards to be introduced in the regulations. These standards are assessed and are required to comply with advice from the Education Department and THEAC. They are also to be managed by an appointed registrar. These standards are required to meet THEAC’s educational planning and curriculum.

This proposed Act is the primary legislation and is accordingly has quite a general framework in nature. However, the regulations, (subordinate legislation), made under the authority of the Act, will contain details on how this is to be implemented. The Regulations can be approved through parliament as law or refused, if inappropriate. They can also be amended according to need. These regulations, manage the operational policies and procedures within this proposed Act. The Act itself may refer to Instructions to be provided to a minister or Secretary. These are usually published written documents which contain operational detail. For example, in NSW permission from BOS is required to allow children to advance above their federally constructed content. This may also include home visits to ‘monitor compliance’. These details have an obvious impact on parents who choose to homeschool and any concerns need to be raised immediately.

In Victoria documenting home education is encouraged and the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority, (VRQA), may request a review. Parents who choose to homeschool are required by the Education and Training Regulations, 2007, to register with VRQA.

It is currently specified and compulsory, in the Education and Training Reform Act, 2006, that all Victorian children of compulsory school age, (6-17years), must be enrolled in and attending a registered school or be registered with VRQA for home schooling, unless they have a reasonable excuse. VRQA provides registration and attendance details to a Department of Education school attendance officer. These attendance officers enforce requirements under the Education and Training Reform Act, 2006. It is an offence for parents not to provide instruction to a registered child without a reasonable excuse, under Section 2.1 of this Act.

It is noted the following legislation is proposed to be repealed in this Bill…It is concerning that these specific areas have been repealed, noting the safety net of time required to source an alternative educational setting if required. This could cause a home educator to lose registered status as attendance is critical to maintain registration. The removal of this legislation may be relevant if a homeschooler attends mainstream school part-time and is excluded or suspended for various reasons.

EDUCATION ACT 1994 – SECT 86

  1. Immunity from liability

Any person or member of the Registration Board or any council or committee established under this Act is not personally liable for an honest act or omission done or made in the exercise or purported exercise of a power, or in the performance or purported performance of a function, under this Act.

YOUTH PARTICIPATION IN EDUCATION AND TRAINING (GUARANTEEING FUTURES) ACT 2005 – SECT 13

  1. Suspension or exclusion

(1) If a young person participating in an eligible option stops attending because the person has been suspended from attending by the provider, the person’s participation in the option is taken to continue during the period of the suspension.

(2) If a young person participating in an eligible option stops attending because the person has been excluded from attending by the provider, the person is taken to be continuing to participate in an eligible option, at the same level as before the exclusion, for the time reasonably required for the person to resume participation in an eligible option.

In summary the totalitarian medical practices suggested for absences due to sickness, the extra documentation, fines, unreasonably inflexible focus, on a narrow curriculum that cannot possibly educate children of various capacities and enforced timeframe of standards are detrimental to substantial and enjoyable learning for home schooled children. There is a narrow window to voice protest.

If you would like to have your say on these proposals please go to www.research.net/r/drafteducationbill2016 and you can email comments directly to comments@education.tas.gov.au note that submissions close on Friday 13th May, 2016.

You may also contact THEAC via email at admin@theac.org.au Web: www.theac.org.au or phone (03) 63345381

By Mishka

The Original Post by Vikky Hn can be found here in the Australian Paralegal Foundations discussion group on Facebook join in the discussion here are some highlights.

tas_ed_act

 

 

 



References   [ + ]

1. The question is do these prescribed standards prescribed by the regulations allow for individual learning capacities? This needs to be determined and accommodated in the Act as it is not a side-issue
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