27 October 2011




Did you know that

·        A private school can open in your neighbourhood, without your knowing about it until it is – there!


·        Although there is legislation requiring certain procedures of the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority (VRQAS),


·        The fast tracking of minimum requirements for a private sectarian school is the rule rather than the exception.


The official position ( as quoted from an official letter ) is as follows:

The Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority (VRQA) is the body responsible for the registration and review of operations of all schools in Victoria. In registering a school the VRQA must take into account the minimum standards for registration which are prescribed by the Education and Training Reform Regulations 2007. These minimum standards relate to the areas of school governance, enrolment, curriculum and student learning, monitoring and reporting on student performance, student welfare, staff employment and school infrastructure.


Supporting evidence which the applicant is required to provide the VRQA includes:

·         A permit to operate an education centre on the site issued by the local council

·         Documentation showing that buildings and facilities comply with local planning regulations and the Building Code of Australia, and

·         An occupancy certificate


In a case involving the Whittlesea Council however,  residents at Mernda have discovered that a Planning Permit follows automatically upon acceptance of a Development Plan.


Under the Planning and Environment Act, once Development Plans are approved, there is no avenue of appeal under that Act against any subsequent grant of a Planning Permit  - which can occur as soon as the Development Plan is approved .


A Particular Case Study


A Development Plan which involves a private school on a Mernda Heritage site has been submitted to the Whittlesea Council. But no Notice has been placed on the gates of the proposed school site. This is  land abandoned by the Education Department as unsuitable for a school in 1975.  If it was unsuitable in 1975, residents believe it is even less suitable in 2011.


The Applicants for the school were told that neighbours would provide them with more land. They were badly misinformed.


Residents have been informed  that a Notice of the Application for a School placed on the property is not required.  In fact, residents in the area are only discovering the full traffic and parking implications of the development because one of the neighbours was approached to sell their land, and a few neighbours have now received copies of the Development Plan. They are informed that they are fortunate to have even received this notice. The Council has informed the residents that they did not have to place the Development Plan on public exhibition.


 In spite of all the difficulties, a large number of objections (more than 200 ) have, to date,  been sent to the Council.


 The residents of Mernda need another private school like a hole in the head. They already have three private schools to ‘choose’ from. They also want the choice of a public secondary school. Land has been set aside for such a school to the north of the Heritage site, but they are told the Department  ‘does not have the money for it.’


Meanwhile, at the registration level, the Education and Training Reform Regulations expressly state that Applications for registering Schools can be made pending, not following, planning/ building, etc. approval and then approved at any time before the first day the School is  open for business A spokesman from the Registration and Qualifications authority said this is actually common - though not ideal.


This explains why so many private schools open hurriedly with unsightly demountables, cry ‘needy’, go cap in hand to the public Treasuries for  money that is no longer available for public education facilities, divide outr children along sectarian lines, and become an ongoing  burden on the public purse.


One last thought: In the Mernda case, the Council and  the Minister of Education are dealing with a determined bunch of residents.