Teaching qualifications

Regulator investigates unregistered Hawthorn school

Riverside also says it offers “animal therapy” at its Otways retreat, an annual desert camp program and a survival camp on Stradbroke Island.

In a statement, the Ministry of Education said Riverside Grammar School is not a registered school and is not registered to provide upper secondary courses such as VCAL or VCE.

The Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority is currently investigating the entity’s compliance with the Education and Training Reform Act 2006, a spokesperson said.

All Victorian Schools must be registered with the VRQA and are required to meet minimum standards in governance, financial management, curriculum, teaching practices and the provision of a safe environment for children. The VRQA reviews independent schools, usually every five years.

Unlike “university”, the word “school” is not a prohibited term. However, it is an offense under the Education and Training Reform Act to “operate or direct a school” unless it is registered. Violations may result in fines.

When contacted, Dr Carnegie said: ‘Riverside Grammar has not been notified by either DET or VRQA of a formal investigation and therefore cannot comment.’

The VRQA said it was in contact with Dr. Carnegie this week.

Dr Carnegie previously worked at Trinity Grammar School, Kew, where he received media attention and a teaching award for helping pupils in his class write a letter to Nelson Mandela, who later went on to traveled to Australia at their invitation.

The 56-year-old describes himself on his website as an “educator, writer and advocate for educational and social reform”.

In one newsletter published several years ago, Dr. Carnegie said the Carnegie School would become known as Riverside Grammar School from January last year.

“The name change represents a transition to a new era, where we take the best of the old school and merge it into a more professional sustainable independent model,” he said.

The Riverside High School logo. Credit:Justin McManus

Riverside Grammar is listed as a “charity program” under The Carnegie Inc Schoola charity registered with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission.

In his financial statement 2020 filed with the ACNC, the charity said it had one full-time employee and three volunteers. He received $85,000 in donations and $144,124 in fees that year. Its 2021 balance sheet has not yet been filed.

Paul O’Halloran, a labor relations lawyer who helps schools address allegations of school staff non-compliance, said he would be concerned about any institution operating outside general regulations.

“Failure to meet minimum standards occurs even in the most regulated and compliant schools,” he said.

“I would be concerned that an organization that was essentially off the grid could hypothetically escape external scrutiny.

“No school should be immune from external scrutiny.”

Dr. Carnegie, a registered teacher with the Victorian Institute of Teaching, founded the Carnegie School in 2006, which aimed to provide an “alternative model of education” for students who fall through the cracks of mainstream education.

School enrollment was first suspended between December 2009 and mid-2010 for failing to meet minimum standards such as not having toilets on site.

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The state’s education regulator announced in June 2012 that it planned to close the school for “significant” infractions, including failing to respond to a parent’s complaint and employing a teacher before registration. The school’s registration was canceled in September of the same year.

In 2013, Dr. Carnegie fought the decision by filing a claim in the Civil and Administrative Court of Victoria. He argued that by canceling the registration, the regulator had discriminated against him because of his personal association with people with disabilities.

During the hearing, he admitted that the school had failed to meet the standards.

“He said he recognized there had been failings and he was not fighting the fact that the school had been closed. Dr Carnegie expressed his belief that it had been discriminatory to close the school without consulting the children and their families,” according to a decision published by the court.

“Dr. Carnegie…has described himself as fighting on their behalf and on behalf of all abused children.”

The regulator said the decision to cancel the school’s registration was made because the school did not meet minimum standards.

It was deemed that there was no chance that Dr Carnegie would succeed and the application was rejected in early 2013.

Dr. Carnegie has won several teaching awards and previously worked as a journalist.

A spokesman for Victoria’s Independent Schools said the organization which describes itself as Riverside Grammar School was not a member of its supreme body.

“ISV membership is limited to bona fide independent schools that meet the standards required for registration by the VRQA, Victoria’s education and training regulator,” the spokesperson said.

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