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Principal's Blog

2012 TERM 4

Starting New Schools – The Consequences of Over-Regulation


I do not know a family who has not had difficulty finding a child-care, kindergarten or school place.  Many families have difficulties with all three! 

Economists would call this a supply-side problem – that the service being sought – education – is not available in the number, style or location needed.

I am also in the unique position of constantly meeting educators who would like to open new schools.  They are blocked at every stage by a plethora of rules and regulations designed to... protect us?

My experience is that these rules and regulations entrench a bureaucracy opposed to new schools and educational innovations.  A few examples should suffice to show how obstructionist and disconnected to educational reality and quality schooling the system is.

Our school failed many of the criteria for school registration at its last review.  We were threatened with closure... and had to (again) argue to stay open. 

Let me re-state that – we failed to achieve compliance with State regulations.  Viewed through the window of quality, personal, caring and empowering schooling – this failure is probably inevitable under current regulations – so we will now wear it as a badge of honour!

A member of the board of the VRQA (Victorian Regulations and Qualifications Authority) – the body that registers non-government schools on behalf of the Department of Education told me a couple of years ago that, “your school would not gain registration today”.

That is right, our school, which is consistently one of the top, if not the top performing school in Victoria (The Age, The Herald Sun, MySchool) would not be able to be registered today!

Given the ongoing failure of competent, good people to get schools off the ground, I can certify this statement as entirely accurate.  I have a unique perspective on this, in that I am constantly being approached by different groups wanting advice on starting schools.  Over my eight years of being principal, I have sat down with uncountable numbers of people wanting to offer their energy, expertise and experience to the world through opening and operating schools.  They are all slowly and effectively squashed by the current compliance framework.

Let us re-visit the consequences of this state of affairs – the consequences of our legislative and regulatory environment – that literally hundreds of thousands of families do not get the type of education that they want for their children. 

Over-regulation is the reason you struggle to get a child-care, a kindergarten, or school place.  Over-regulation is the reason that you don't get the type of schooling or childcare that you want for your child.  Over-regulation is the reason that those many, many good people wanting to provide another educational option simply cannot offer it.



To go boldly...

The UK Government has just changed the rules on opening schools, and is currently witnessing hundreds of new schools coming into existence across the country.  A couple of links at the bottom of this document illustrate this exciting change – change that actually led to new schools opening less that a year after the legislation was passed and the rules changed.  The West London Free School (link below) is one such school.  This new situation is called the Free Schools Policy.

The growth in new, mostly parent and community group founded schools has even led to the establishment of charities that help schools get off the ground, such as the New Schools Network (link below).  These schools are fee-free as they are fully government funded, but can exhibit the individual character typical of independent schools here in Australia. 



Closer to home...

My sister is applying to open a school in New Zealand under the Partnership Schools Policy.

The Partnership Schools Working Group writes that they aim to:

draw on best practice and key success factors of overseas models of school such as charter schools (the United States and Alberta, Canada), free schools (the United Kingdom and Sweden) and academies (the United Kingdom). We are looking to build on innovative and successful practice...

Australia is sadly not on the list. It seems strange to me that my sister can open a school in New Zealand but not here. I look forward to visiting your school Naomi!



Want to add your voice to the debate?

Please help Australian families get the right education for their children – by writing to the politicians below, your local MP, a local paper, or anyone else who you feel could make a difference to this situation. 

The Victorian Minister for Education is Martin Dixon (, while the Victorian Shadow Minister for Education is James Merlino (

The federal Minister for Education is Bill Shorten MP ( and the federal Shadow Minister for Education is Christopher Pyne MP (

A notable school set up under the free school policy is:

The West London Free School (founded by Toby Young):

While a major charity assisting the establishment of new schools in the UK is:

The New Schools Network

Timothy Berryman (Principal)


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