Your rights and reasonable expectations as a parent or carer are covered under various laws and government policies, explained throughout Learning Together. Key areas are summarised below.
On this page:
- Confidentiality and privacy
- Support in meetings with the school
- An interpreter if you need one
- When applying for funding
- No additional costs required
This page gives an overview of the main legal protections for your rights as a parent or carer in the Victorian school system. Visit the section Tools and resources to find pages that summarise and link to all of the key relevant government policies and guides.
Confidentiality and privacy
Various Victorian laws protect your right to confidentiality, and the privacy of your child’s and your family’s information at school and in dealing with DET and service providers.
Sometimes staff at DET, your child’s school, an assessment service, therapist or other health services might need to collect personal information about you and your child, including about their health status or disability. They are required to store this information securely and keep it confidential.
Families often find it very helpful when schools or service providers are able to share information with other services about their child’s diagnosis or needs, and even work together directly. However, privacy laws mean that schools and services must always seek your permission before sharing any such information about your child or family.
“I had to go on this fact-finding journey, and contact the Association for Children with a Disability and speak to the lovely lady that helped me through. She gave me the websites, she gave me things that I could sit and read, to ensure that we knew what our rights were with regards to education, and what Xavier’s entitled to.
There’s a lot of those things that I didn’t really quite understand. So to be given that information, it’s really empowering.
She helped me draft emails and letters. I would pass them by her, and I would say – does this sound right, or can I change anything? You don’t want to bully people, but you want to inform them. And you want to ensure that they know, that you know what’s you’re talking about. And so I was able to be a little bit more articulate around that. And then so my confidence grew with that.
She also supported me at a couple of those meetings. Like, she sat next to me, and she said, ‘Cristel, if you need a moment, just excuse yourself for a moment. Get up and walk out, and if you need to recompose yourself do those things. Because it actually gives not just you a moment to reflect, it gives the people in the room a moment to reflect on – what are we really here for. This is a student support group meeting. Let’s support this student to move forward in their education.’
She gave me knowledge. She gave me confidence. And she made me feel as though I wasn’t the crazy one! For want of a better term. Because I really thought – is what I’m asking for unreasonable?” Christel
The Commonwealth Disability Standards for Education state that schools should consult with you and your child about your child’s disability, how it affects your child’s ability to actively engage in their school’s learning programs, and what ‘reasonable adjustments’ are needed to ensure your child’s participation.
Under DET policy, the main way this occurs is through your child’s Student Support Group, or SSG, of which you are a key member. Student Support Groups are compulsory for students with PSD funding, and are highly recommended for all students with additional needs. As a parent or caregiver, you can request additional SSG meetings, and bring issues to the group for discussion. Your child can also participate if you and they wish. The equivalent group meetings in the Catholic and independent school sectors are sometimes called Program Support Meetings.
Support in meetings with the school
Under DET policy, you have the right to bring an advocate to Student Support Group meetings with you. They can be a friend, family member or a trained advocacy worker, like a member of the ACD Support Team. They cannot be someone whom you are paying to represent you, like a lawyer. Their role can include: supporting you to share your knowledge and views, helping you understand the process, and supporting the development of a positive working relationship between you and the school. Sometimes a therapist or case manager working with your child and family might help, by advocating for your child in meetings at school.
An interpreter if you need one
You can request an interpreter if you want one, whichever type of school you are in. The school is required to provide an interpreter for every important meeting about your child, if you need one. Even if you speak English quite confidently, you might prefer to have an interpreter when discussing complex issues to do with your child’s disability and their education. Let the school know ahead of time if you require an interpreter for a meeting – it can take a week or more to organise. Schools can also use the Telephone Interpreter Service for other communication with you.
When applying for funding
If your child’s school is applying for additional resources to support your child under the Program for Students with Disabilities (PSD), DET is expected to respect your privacy and confidentiality as outlined above. As stated in the PSD Guidelines Handbook, (you can download the latest copy from the DET website) you can also expect DET to provide ‘clear and concise’ materials to support your child’s application, meet the deadlines listed in the Handbook, and respond to any queries in a timely manner.
No additional costs required
The law and government policy requires that ‘instruction in the standard curriculum’ be provided free in all Victorian government schools, and that the costs are not passed on to families. Schools can request voluntary contributions from families under three categories: essential educational items, optional extras, and voluntary parent payments.
In addition, Victorian law states that families of a student with a disability should not be required to contribute to the provision of additional support for their child’s education because of their disability. Some schools are open to families offering to fund more resources for their child in school, but this must never be asked or required of you.