Victorian law requires children to attend school OR be registered for home education. While awaiting registration approval, school attendance is required.
However, there is provision for non-attendance set out under section 2.1.3 of The Education and Training Reform Act (details here) e.g. for
- illness, accident etc
- child’s disobedience
- the parent has provided a reason to the principal and the principal accepts that reason.
So, if your child is unsafe, do NOT send them to school while you await approval to protect them.
Instead, notify the principal that you have applied to home educate and that your child is unsafe/unable to attend in the waiting period. State the reasons why they are unsafe/unable to attend and request that the principal approve the child’s absence in the application period. It is important this notification is in writing and dated, as this creates a paper-trail.
Keeping school communication open and polite can help avoid escalation and also count in your favour if the case is escalated.
The Student Attendance Guidelines makes it clear that their gradual escalation nature makes it highly unlikely there would be ramifications to families who remove their children to safety.
This is the process if a principal refuses to accept your reason for non-attendance:
- Referral to a School Attendance Officer (regional director);
- The School Attendance Officer makes enquiries. They would consider the reason you supplied together with your pending home education application and the process is likely to go no further;
If they decide to take it further the next stages are:
- Issue of a School Attendance Notice;
- Response time (21 days);
- Assessment of the response;
- Issue an official warning or Infringement Notice;
- Appeal against the Infringement Notice.
In the meantime:
- You appeal to the Regional Office (10 days).
- If unsuccessful, you appeal to the Independent Office for School Dispute Resolution (10 days).
For the safety of children who need immediate removal from school, it is important that this process is not abused by families who aren’t in that situation.
If you need support, let HEN know.