[Discuss-sudbury-model] Another assessment of Booroobin

From: The Booroobin Sudbury School / Derek Sheppard <derek.sheppard_at_booroobinschool.com.au>
Date: Fri May 16 19:35:00 2003


Our School Meeting recently decided to let our networks of friends know that we had been advised and are being subjected to yet another "assessment". This follows inspections and assessments in 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2001. There were 2 visits in each of those years. The process last time was so inept and drawn out, that it cost us well over $AUD100,000 directly in fees, charges and legal costs and further tens of thousands of dollars through write offs, through the forced sale of the School campus. For a School that commenced in 1996, we had worked hard, most of us sacrificing wages for years, to build up our beautiful campus, resources and staffing to satisfy Students' needs. There were still residual debts arising out of that last action, but we have managed. The first 6 months of this year were going to be hard enough financially. It is our intention to claw our way back to ownership of our campus, over the next 2 to 3 years, unless the State government acknowledges responsibility for our losses, as they ought to.

Booroobin is only one of about 3 democratic Sudbury model Schools in the world, which is either partially or fully government funded.

This assessment is being undertaken by the relatively new Non-State Schools Accreditation Board. The Board is an agent and a component of new legislation governing non-State Schools in Queensland, passed by Parliament in late 2001. Booroobin objected to elements of the legislation, when it was being considered and after it was tabled. The legislation gives the Board lots of rights and few clear responsibilities, and expect all sorts of responsibilities of independent Schools and gives few rights (above beyond accountability to our Students, members, insurers, ASIC, etc). We believed that we were a guinea pig, a test case, for the way the legislation might work, when we last had assessors in 2001. We were told we weren't, but we maintain that opinion.

The Board advised at the beginning of the last School holidays that it had "information that indicated we may not be complying with the accreditation criteria". It was therefore issuing a "Notice of Entry" giving authority for assessors to come onto the School premises and do almost anything they like, including asking for any documents and taking copies of them.

The Assessors attended the School pn April 30. They were polite, and asked all the same questions that had been asked previously. At their request, we gave them many of the same documents as previously, including those available to the anyone to see and print that are available on our comprehensive web site, along with new documents developed in line with our democratic, ever improving, changing and evolving nature. We spoke with the benefit of more experience.

We have written requesting details of the "information" and asking for natural justice. When the Chairperson responded, the requested information was not supplied and we were simply told to do what had been required of us. A week after the Notice of Entry, Directors agreed that we would write a strong letter to the Premier of Queensland, making a plea for some understanding, and to leave us to implement our philosophy and principles, without so much intrusive intervention. We have invited him to visit. There has only been an interim reply. The School Meeting has decided to undertake a Freedom of Information (FOI) search, as we have done previously, and this has been lodged.

We can't afford another impact like the last. We considered refusing the Notice of Entry, but decided to allow entry, and give the new Board the benefit of the doubt. We realise and are critical that no reasonable grounds have been given for what is essentially a fishing expedition. But we had no money for a legal defence, and didn't want to invest energy in that direction. Civil disobedience might have been one avenue.

We may need at least moral, and perhaps written support. The School's 5 Staff and older Students were strong and clear, and spoke individually from their own personal experiences, but as if with one voice, about who we are and what we do. The Students told the Assessors simply and clearly that they were capable of doing anything they wanted to. Usually there has been mixed impacts on Students. Not so this time. Those Students who know and understand the issue, are brilliantly supportive, working alongside Staff as equals. Something that the assessors and most Schools are unused to. If the assessors can get the message that the democracy of Booroobin is about a world view and the big picture for each Student rather than the narrow view of mainstream Schools, then we might get through the assessors' report to the Board, who makes a decision based on what they receive. Our recent 2 weeks end of Term holidays were completely consumed getting prepared for this assessment, just as in most previous years.

Regards, Derek
The Booroobin Sudbury School - a centre of learning
Ph +61 07 5499 9944 Fax +61 07 3251 0470
Homestay boarding accommodation
Ph +61 07 5499 9943
Received on Fri May 16 2003 - 17:27:01 EDT

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