MsSYMES (Northern Victoria) I too rise to speak to MrsPeulichs motion this morning. I wish to begin by acknowledging the legitimacy of homeschooling or home education as an alternative to attending government or registered nongovernment school. Since being elected I have certainly been contacted by many families who have shared their stories about their choices to homeschool, and the general theme is that parents who make this choice have an undeniable commitment to providing the very best for their kids. I have a prepage child. She is doing remarkably well at school, and I am very, very proud of her, but it has been heartbreaking to hear the stories of parents whose childrens experience at school has not been as positive as my familys. The choice to homeschool comes from the desire to provide an environment wherein children achieve their greatest educational potential, and there are many, many reasons that families consider homeschooling as the appropriate choice for their family. I am also the wife of a secondary school teacher, so I am very well briefed in the contemporary issues and challenges that face some of our young people, and I certainly understand that mainstream school is not always the best fit for every child. I will just run through the background in relation to the introduction of the changes to homeschooling. The regulations were tabled in the Parliament in June of this year. They introduced changes to the way that homeschooling is regulated in this state, and they are proposed to commence in January next year. At present Victoria is behind other Australian jurisdictions in terms of homeschooling regulation. The current regulations only require a parent to register for homeschooling. This is a simple form with no detail about the childs education, and there is no allowance for any oversight of the provision of that education. The government is of the view that while the rights of parents to choose homeschool should be protected and upheld, it is also important that the rights of children to receive an education that will enable them to participate as full citizens in the community are also protected and recognised. The government recommends changes to the regulations of homeschooling to ensure that every child receives quality education. We believe the regulations strike a balance between providing greater oversight to ensure that all Victorian students are receiving an education and still allowing homeschool families the freedom and flexibility to make decisions about how they want their children to be educated. In terms of the proposed regulations, I just wanted to clarify a point that MrsPeulich made. I think she made reference to the fact that there were 30days of consultation, and in fact there were 60. MrsPeulich No, I did not say that. MsSYMES You did not? Sorry, MrsPeulich. I will just put on record that there were 60days of consultation in relation to that. MrsPeulichs motion seeks to disallow several discrete parts of the homeschooling regulations, in particular the requirements to provide a learning plan and to provide the authority, which is the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority (VRQA), with further information upon request. If the motion today were to be successful, I note that the homeschooling regulations would still continue to apply insofar as requiring a parent to register their child for homeschooling with the VRQA in a form approved by the VRQA, requiring a parent to provide evidence of the students name and date of birth in the application, requiring the VRQA to notify the parent of its decision to register the child within 28days, requiring the VRQA to maintain a register of homeschooling students, requiring a parent to deliver regular and efficient instructions which substantially address the key eight learning areas and are consistent with the principles of Australian democracy, requiring a parent to notify the VRQA annually of their intention to continue homeschooling their child and requiring a parent to notify the VRQA if they cease to homeschool their child. I touched briefly on the differences across the jurisdictions in Australia, and it is important to note that even with the changes to the regulations Victoria will still actually have the most handsoff approach and flexibility compared to every other state in Australia. In New South Wales you must submit a learning plan, teach to the New South Wales Board of Studies curriculum, have a home visit for initial registration, submit an annual form for renewal and have regular home visits for ongoing renewal and registration. In South Australia you must submit a learning plan, teach to the South Australian curriculum, have a home visit for initial registration and have an annual review to monitor educational development. In the Northern Territory you must submit a learning plan that covers the eight key learning areas, have a home visit for initial registration that demonstrates the proposed learning program, have a method of recording the childs learning achievements and submit a registration form annually for renewal. In Tasmania you must submit a learning plan that covers the eight key learning areas, have a home visit within two months of registration and have routine monitoring at regular intervals. In Western Australia you must submit a learning plan, teach to the Western Australian curriculum, have a home visit for initial registration, demonstrate the program is satisfactory and the childs learning achievements within the first three months and have an evaluation meeting at least once a year for renewal of assessment. In Queensland you must submit a learning plan that covers the eight key learning areas, and a parent must complete an annual report for renewal of registration. In contrast, in Victoria under the new regulations families will have to submit a oneoff learning plan that covers the eight key learning areas and provide annual notification if they continue to homeschool, and the VRQA will be able to review approximately 10per cent of families. I think that demonstrates that we are proposing fairly low restrictions under the new regulations. In relation to the learning plan, the changes that are proposed are for families to submit a oneoff learning plan to the VRQA when they start homeschooling. I understand that a template for this plan will be provided for the parents to use, and importantly it must be noted that this is not to apply to parents who are currently registered to homeschool. I do not consider this as overly onerous, and I think that a learning plan is a great opportunity for parents to demonstrate their preparedness in undertaking to homeschool their child. The learning plan is a flexible document tailored to the needs of their child. It does not need to contain a daytoday lesson plan. It is a framework for the first 12months of homeschooling. There is no requirement to follow any particular curriculum or methodology as long as the plan addresses the eight key learning areas, which are wellknown to us English, maths, science, humanities and social sciences, the arts, languages, health and physical education, and information and communication technology. The purpose of requiring parents to submit learning plans is to ensure they provide the outline of the childs education, but as you can see, there is a fair bit of flexibility in that proposal. If the disallowance motion were to be successful, it would remove the requirement for parents who are seeking to become registered as homeschoolers to provide a learning plan. This means that a parent could register their child for homeschooling without any requirement to demonstrate how they actually plan to do this. Drafting a learning plan can play a very important role in preparing yourself to take on the responsibility of your childs education, and I would suspect that most homeschoolers have pretty much got this kind of documentation at hand. The disallowance motion would also remove the requirement for a parent to provide further information to the regulator on request. This would mean that a parent who submits an incomplete application, for example, would not be required to respond to requests from the regulator for further information. Similarly, when the VRQA seeks to review a homeschooling registration they will not be able to ask parents for further information on how they have been providing education to their child. The reforms to homeschooling are intended to ensure that parents are providing a quality education to their children. Of course this is not an accusation that homeschool parents are not doing this; it is just a regulation check. The regulator may ask the parent to submit samples of a childs work or to provide details of test results. Allowing the VRQA to collect that information will enable it to satisfy itself that regular instruction is taking place and that the students learning is progressing. I understand that there is a lot of concern about the requirement to remain enrolled for 28days while an application is being assessed. It is categorically untrue that the reforms will force children to remain in school for 28days before being homeschooled. The act requires that all children of compulsory school age must be enrolled in a school or be registered for homeschooling. The proposed regulations do not prevent a student from being removed from school or impose any new requirement on homeschool families. The period for considering an application for homeschooling has been extended to 28days to allow the VRQA sufficient time to assess applications that include the new learning plan. It is anticipated that the majority of applications will not require 28days to be assessed. Sadly, we all know of situations where children enrolled in school are unable to continue for a period of time due to illness, stress, bullying or other difficulties. So where there is a reasonable excuse for nonattendance a child can be excused from attending school. If a parent decides that their child would benefit from a homeschooling environment, the parent should contact the VRQA and start to prepare a registration application and a learning plan. The VRQA will need a number of days to review the application to ensure that it contains all the necessary information and to assess the learning plan. Obviously, as I have said, this will often be very quick and not require the 28days, but we have to allow for situations where they might have to seek further information etcetera. During this interim period a child of compulsory school age must remain enrolled at a school, but that does not mean that the child has to physically be there. The childs school may be able to support the parent and child during this time by providing some materials, homework or guidance. Once the VRQA has assessed the application as suitable, the child will be registered for homeschooling. Under no circumstances does this government want any child to be forced to attend a school where they feel unsafe, bullied or ill. I think it is a bit concerning that there are people out there telling homeschoolers and this house that that is the case when it is not the case. People have asked, What is the evidence behind these changes?. Of course we acknowledge that the vast majority of homeschool families are doing a wonderful job their children are healthy, happy and progressing very well under the homeschooling system but the VRQA has reported that this is not the case in all situations. There have been some dubious registrations for homeschooling. Examples include reports that parents state that they wish to become registered for Centrelink purposes homeschooling registration will lead to an exemption from having to seek work or attend training to comply with the Centrelink activity test, for example. There have also been reports of families from other states seeking to register with the VRQA, effectively using a false address in Victoria to avoid the slightly more onerous requirements for registration in those other states. Furthermore, and probably more alarming, some of the complaints received by the VRQA have been from grandparents of children who have very serious concerns about the education and development of their grandchildren. Under the current situation the VRQA is powerless to request to review those situations, and I think that is really problematic. The disallowance motion today would continue that practice where if a genuine complaint comes from somebody who loves and cares for a child there is no capacity to go and check the education provision. We say that by requiring families to submit a learning plan with their registration form the VRQA will have a greater ability to ensure that families who seek registration have truly thought about how they will deliver instruction and have a plan in place. I think this would be pretty easy for most of those that are committed to providing education to their children. I think they would pretty much have the plans in their drawers, in effect. On the topic of consultation, as part of the review the department conducted a public consultation period from December 2016 to February 2017, calling for submissions on the proposed regulations and the regulatory impact statement. During this consultation period the department received well over 500submissions, which of course were taken into account before making the final regulations. In the last months the Deputy Premier has met with representatives of the homeschooling community and the Home Education Network to talk through their concerns and the new homeschooling regulations. Similarly, representatives from the Department of Education and Training have met with the Home Education Network to establish the Victorian Home Education Advisory Committee. The committee has been created as a new way for the homeschooling community to provide education to the department. DrCarlingJenkins made the point that the homeschooling community has lots to offer in terms of providing information and advice to the department, so this is a measure for that to be facilitated. That advice can be provided not only to the education department but to the VRQA, particularly in relation to the implementation of the new homeschooling regulations. As I have said, they have the capacity to provide feedback on all other related matters. There is broad agreement on the form of the committee. It will provide a really strong basis for ongoing engagement with the homeschooling community. The committee will comprise a chair who will be the assistant deputy secretary a representative from the VRQA, another departmental representative, an academic, a disability sector representative and, importantly for the homeschooling community, six to eight representatives to be elected from that community. It has been agreed that they will conduct an election process for the homeschooling members of the committee, and the first meeting is scheduled for 31August. The committee will meet three times before the new homeschooling regulations are introduced at the start of next year. They have already set dates for that in August, September and October. Furthermore, the homeschooling community is working together with the VRQA to select a new manager of homeschooling. I understand that one of the issues that was continually raised during the consultation and review process was access to distance education materials. As a result, the department has worked with distance education to ensure materials are available to homeschooling families at cost price. There will be ongoing conversations with the homeschooling community. Hopefully I have managed to alleviate some of those concerns and myths that are circulating out there. As I have described, there are mechanisms in place to have further ongoing, meaningful discussion about the implementation of these regulations. It is not the governments intention to support MrsPeulichs motion. We think that that would be counterintuitive to the best outcomes for all children in this state in relation to their education.