Melbourne’s school for open minds that hasn’t been registered for a decade

“I’ve never had any behavioral issues, or anything. I just didn’t show up,” he says now. “It got to the point where they kind of recommended…you can’t come back.”

Then his parents found Riverside Grammar and he thrived. When he decided to push himself to get the VCE score needed to get into college, the flexible learning style allowed him to work in a way that suited him, he says.

Former and current Riverside Grammar students and parents at the school with founder Jon Carnegie (left). Credit:Paul Jeffers

“Everyone here has such different needs and requirements, but not all of them are met by a normal school,” he said. age during a recent visit to the school, following an invitation from Dr. Carnegie to meet current and former students.

“I don’t think there’s anything my old school could have done.”

Several parents at the meeting said they were at an impasse trying to find an alternative education for their children, and Riverside Grammar’s flexibility meant it delivered things that other schools had not.

A father said age he wasn’t sure his son would be alive today without school. He credited Riverside with seeing his son go from being suicidal and hating school to having a purpose and “reclaiming his life.”

A Department of Education spokesman declined to say who was legally responsible for students at Riverside Grammar.

“I never worried and never asked if the school was registered or not, it didn’t bother me. It was about this guy [Dr Carnegie], what he was doing and what the community here was doing for my son. That’s all it was about.

Mother Sue agreed that the recording problem did not bother her.

“When no school takes your child and he wants to go to school, it is very difficult. I wish there were more schools and places like this that could accommodate all of these at-risk children, because there is so much missing… Checking those boxes for compliance, saying, “There there’s no handrail there”, I couldn’t careless.”

‘No borders’

But not all students were equally satisfied with their experience.

Jane (not her real name) was in her mid-teens when she attended Dr. Carnegie’s school for two years from 2013. She had been bullied at her previous school, before her parents found Riverside’s predecessor, the Jon CarnegieSchool. At the time there were around 15 students on a small High Street campus in Kew.

“Basically, I went there every day, I did when I wanted to,” she said. Age. “I was 15 at the time, rebellious and on the move all the time. There was a big room out back, and we would sit there and do our work on our laptop. It was really weird, there was no real structure, Jon would sit us down and give us random lectures.

She said age she “embarked” for several months. “I was locked in a moldy back room with two teenagers overnight, with no division, overnight, every night. I don’t know how it was authorized. The whole way it worked was horrible,” Jane said.

There were no licensed mental health professionals there, she added, even though many teenagers suffered from eating disorders, addiction issues and other serious issues. One memory in particular still troubles her.

The Jon Carnegie School in Kew in 2014.

The Jon Carnegie School in Kew in 2014. Credit:Google Maps

“I was really depressed, I was staying in my back room. It was probably 10 a.m. because I hadn’t woken up and I was refusing to get out of bed. I remember Jon giving a whole speech about ‘why don’t I won’t you get up?” In front of everyone. He said, ‘Well, if you don’t get up, what will it take to stay in bed.’ What he did was he took an entire bottle of cola and poured it over my head.

“It was awful. I’m so angry when I think about it.

This incident was witnessed by another student who attended for three years. Looking back, this woman is also troubled by her experiences there.


“I understand what he is trying to do, but there are no limits. It’s inappropriate,” she said. “When you’re a parent of a child, myself included, and their behavior is extreme, parents are at their wit’s end, you don’t know what to do, and Jon empathizes with that and gives them that hope. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. »

Dr. Carnegie agreed that in its early days, the Jon Carnegie School “was not suitable for all students”.

“We were trying to give our students a voice and create something that there was no plan for. We were trying to do a ‘good thing’, but I certainly accept that there were times when I was wrong,” he said.

Dr Carnegie said that after school enrollment was canceled he tried to maintain an environment where young people could go, which at one point meant the local library.

“Giving a place to these children has always been one of our main goals and I felt it would be sold if I stopped. It was a low point and our formal boundaries and processes were certainly not up to standard at the time.

“Impossible to legislate”

Dr. Carnegie said age that apart from a gap of about six months to a year, students have always been in school since enrollment was canceled in 2012. Until last month, he said he n had not been contacted or visited by the regulator.

A spokesman for the Department of Education did not respond when asked if the regulator had followed up after the school’s registration was deregistered nearly 10 years ago, and said declined to say who was legally responsible for students at Riverside Grammar.

“The [Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority] is currently investigating whether Riverside Grammar is in compliance with the Education and Training Reform Act 2006 and is not commenting on details of any investigations opened,” he said. “It is an offense under the Education and Training Reform Act 2006 to run or operate a school unless the school is registered. The VRQA can take action against unregistered schools.

In the decade the school operated unregistered and under the radar, all schools had to introduce child safety standards following the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, who found that isolated and highly controlled schools could “provide more opportunity for abuse”. and make it difficult to detect” and that a disproportionate number of survivors had been abused in boarding houses.

The school was once named after founder Jon Carnegie.

The school was once named after founder Jon Carnegie. Credit:Paul Jeffers

Several weeks ago, Victoria’s Education Minister James Merlino said he was “extremely concerned about any entity posing as a school without the necessary regulatory oversight”.

The comments angered Dr. Carnegie.

The 56-year-old said age his school existed due to an ‘epidemic’ of students refusing to attend school, describing how he saw ‘many, many big kids fall through the cracks’ during his time in mainstream education .

“What we try at Riverside is kind of ‘open heart, open mind.’ And where I have my conflict, it’s impossible to legislate with an open heart, an open mind,” he said.

“When the people who can’t control the people who can, the things that matter most fall victim to the things that matter least. That’s what bureaucracy does.

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