[Discuss-sudbury-model] Grounds for withdrawing Booroobin's accreditation

From: The Booroobin Sudbury School / Derek Sheppard <derek.sheppard_at_booroobinschool.com.au>
Date: Mon May 26 23:16:00 2003


This e-mail is necessarily lengthy. Future e-mails on this subject will not be as long. Our web site will soon be updated with all correspondence between the government and the School.

The Non-State Schools Accreditation Board of the Queensland (State) Government proposes to withdraw our accreditation as a School on or after June 23. We can lodge a submission to show cause why this should not happen before that date.

The grounds for this, in summary, are as follows:
  a.. Educational program. (a) Limited activities available to students - no written, age related learning processes or measurable learning outcomes. No balanced or comprehensive curriculum for all the age groups. Our activities do not include all the KLA's (Key Learning Areas). No developmental progress observable for each Student. (b) Inadequate records of achievements relevant to Queensland standards were available. Standards of assessment and learning are not clear or sufficient.
  b.. Student welfare processes. There are no written processes for identifying Students with learning or other disabilities. There are no written processes for reporting by Students to a responsible Staff member regarding abuse by another Staff. Also written processes were not in place for a "Principal" to report this type of abuse to relevant State authorities.
We strongly disagree with both of these for different reasons. The nature of the assessment, the grounds of assessment, the quality of the assessment, and the outcomes have no regard whatsoever to do with the School or its philosophy. The assessors were not prepared to accept or consider, under instructions from the Board, the different paradigm in which the School conducts its day to day operation. The philosophy of the School and the informed decisions of parents and Students have been completely disregarded in favour of government edicts and bureaucratic requirements that have nothing to do with how children and people learn. We don't seek to label people as having disabilities. Disabilities in mainstream Schools rarely are an issue at Booroobin. The issue of Student welfare is a good example of the mainstream education response to the sexual misconduct of some teachers and religious figures, and how issues have been swept under the carpet, and not reported to authorities as good citizens ought to have done, with no responsibility nor regard or respect for the rights of affected children. In a supportive learning environment, where justice, freedom, respect, trust, fairness, equity and responsibility are high values, there is little chance for similar things to occur, and if it did, the responses would be immediate and just.

If accreditation is withdrawn by the Board, there is a right of appeal - to the Queensland Minister for Education. The process may be able to be circumvented, by way of an application to a Court. The Minister has been somewhat compromised by a claim of friendship by a non-custodial parent, who has complained to the School. It may emerge through our FOI application that this parent prompted the Board's action.

A Special School meeting was called to consider the advice. 2 days later, at the regular weekly School Meeting, we considered how we would respond. Three options were considered:
  1.. Closing the School (and immediately proceeding to establish an intentional democratic community on the land, doing precisely what we do now, employing Staff and homeschooling our Student children; repurchasing the land at the earliest opportunity);
  2.. Bend to the wishes of government, design programs for the Students, set up classes, and give Students choices of classes;
  3.. We fight it in the Courts, preferably the High Court. For this course we would have to find legal representation which is sympathetic to our cause, has a human rights foundation and perspective and accepts us on a pro bono basis. If this is not possible, we will make our own representations to Courts.
After weighing up and debating all the pros and cons of each, and then voting on each option, there were no votes for either of the first 2 options, and unanimous votes for the 3rd - to fight.

In deciding to fight withdrawal of accreditation, we have adopted a number of initial objectives that we want and need to achieve, to varying degrees:
  a.. Freedom of choice (for parents and Students);
  b.. Freedom for children to choose what and how they want to learn;
  c.. Accreditation;
  d.. Funding - but do not regard this as an imperative, so long as we achieve other objectives, especially the following objective:
  e.. Recover lost money, because of past State government actions, so as to repurchase and develop the School's campus as planned and approved in 1996;
  f.. Change the accreditation and assessment processes;
  g.. Change and increase the time given before a Notice of Entry may be exercised (currently a minimum of 14 days);
  h.. NSSAB to provide advice, at time of Notice of Entry, that a School nominated representative may and should be present during the assessment, who can and will compile and submit their own independent report to the School and Board; and that the Board will pay for the costs;
  i.. Stop the State from artificially limiting new independent Schools for the supposed benefit of existing State and non-State, mostly Church run Schools;
  j.. Gain broad based support;
  k.. Natural justice.
We will lodge a submission, in time only to meet the June 23 deadline. Our next steps will be to write again to the Queensland Premier; and write an article that challenges the precepts of coercive education in a democracy, that we hope to have published in mainstream print media.

Following is the recently (2002) enacted governing legislation in Queensland:
Principal Act: Education (Accreditation of Non-State Schools) Act 2001

Regulations, passed pursuant to the Act being assented to

Amendments to the legislation:

There is only one house of the State Parliament - no upper house of review. The Labor Party currently holds power with about 66% of the seats. Apart from challenges of parliamentary committees, it can write its own legislation, with little opposition.

Soon, our web site will be updated with a new internal link that will show correspondence with the Queensland government starting with 2003, then 2001/2, 1999, etc. This will demonstrate that we have covered the same grounds in each year, and succeeded. However, as much as we have succeeded, it has not resulted in any long term improvement or change - in fact the opposite is true. The legislation is proof of this.

We will let you know how you might help. At first, we would like letters to be written to the Queensland Premier in about 2 weeks. We will provide contact details in the next week or so. Any communications should address the issues, make reference to what you know about educational democracies, especially Booroobin, avoiding any abuse, giving support for the outcomes we seek most especially accreditation, and seeking acknowledgement of the differences between mainstream and free / alternative / democratic Schools, noting that the legislation severely restricts the opportunities for new, non-systemic Schools. We request that you also forward a copy of any communication to the School (but not obviously).

Regards, Derek Sheppard
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

NB. In an e-mail to a person enquiring about the School in September, 2002, I included the following information. Activities are potentially unlimited.

"Booroobin on the other hand is a participatory democracy, so there is equality between the Students and the Staff, to the extent that Staff are elected, by their peers and the Students. The School's campus provides an important place for learning with 16.42ha for Students to learn from and grow.

In response to your question "what does your School offer", we don't offer anything (except our campus, facilities, resources and life experienced, including qualified Staff). The motivation, and the initiative comes from Students, finding and following their own interests. Adults offerings are typically limiting, and subjective. Students do a range of things from fine art in acrylics, hand building in clay, mechanics, camping, bushwalking, kayaking, swimming, playing with Barbie dolls, playing complex computer games, flute, clarinet, guitar, singing, drumming, playing, playing, playing, Lego, cooking, reading, 3D on computer, trips to movies, and Sizzlers, cleaning, building web sites (including the School's and managing, and winning awards for doing so), computer animation, mathematics, sciences, organic vegetable growing, picking and eating yellow berries and raspberries, harvesting and eating and drying bananas, tending animals, tending poultry, swinging, ultralight flying, dmotor vehicle driving, active play, creative play, play in the treehouse, playing CD based educational software, managing people, clearing weeds, preparing annual budgets, interviewing prospective Staff, voting for Staff, communicating, communicating, communicating, establishing and running autonomous School Corporations as either elected Directors or Members, participating in School Meetings making democratic decisions about any aspect of the day to day operation of the School, writing and preparing cheques to pay external Tutors, building automobiles, maintaining acres of School grounds using whipper snippers, ride on mower, and other tools, fulfilling roles delegated by the School Meeting as Clerks, Chairing Meetings, Minuting Meetings, working part time jobs off campus, attending forums, conferences and workshops, lobbying politicians, etc. Not one of these things was initiated by Staff or any adults. Students are not limited by very ordinary subject matter. And in doing real things, they learn about real life. The School replicates real life, by respecting children as whole people who make choices and often get it right but sometimes get things wrong, and that's okay by us, because they and we learn from mistakes."
Received on Mon May 26 2003 - 19:14:11 EDT

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