Tasmania's school start age to be lowered

Education Minister Jeremy Rockliff
Education Minister Jeremy Rockliff

A modernised state Education Act has passed through the House of Assembly but not without signals from the opposition parties to the state’s upper house that the bill needs further amendments to some of its more controversial aspects.

If made law, children will be allowed to start kindergarten at three years and six months, prep at four years and six months, and keep children enrolled in education until they are aged 18 or get certain qualifications.

The Opposition during debate on Thursday night riled against sections of the act that dealt with truancy, problem behaviour management, and voiced concerns over new dual enrolment provisions which allowed for children with disabilities the option to access both formal schools and special schools or home education.

For prolonged absenteeism, a school can now force a parent to provide medical information about a child, and if denied, the school can go to a third party like a practitioner.

Labor education spokeswoman Michelle O’Byrne failed to move an amendment to wipe out what she saw as a contradiction of clauses in the relevant section of the bill and soften the language so that information was requested and not required.

Ms O’Byrne also failed an attempt to have a clause put in the act that prevented schools from retaining student data and guard that data from being used for commercial purposes.

She brought up concerns over the rigid requirement regarding a child transitioning from home education to formal schooling.

Franklin Labor MHA Lara Giddings shared a story from a home-educated child with a degenerative autistic condition who required life skills education over academic learning.

She said the child’s parent could be forced to relinquish them from home education under the new act.

Education Minister Jeremy Rockliff denied that would happen in this circumstance.

Ms O’Byrne targeted part of the act dealing with school closures with the legislation stating that the government would consult with the relevant community but would make the final decision.

She said this contradicted the Liberal Party’s policy is that decisions on school closures would be made by the community.

The bill will be debated in the Legislative Council next week. United Voice will protest against the changes at Parliament House on Saturday.