15 November 2004Submission on MoE’s Homeschooling Desk File
Draft of the Exemption Application FormI. Introductory comments:Home educators have met with Ministry of Education (MoE) staff in Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland with mixed results. A common problem is that the MoE staff, understandably, have a difficult time seeing things from the perspective of home educators. In meetings I have attended, MoE staff have wondered aloud why home educators would get so worked up over changes to the wording of an exemption application form, changes which to them were insignificant. But when this form is the only point of contact between home educating parents and the MoE, and when the MoE has the power to force our children out of our homes, thoroughly disrupting our family’s chosen lifestyle, by the mere stroke of a pen, by some subjective judgement by a total stranger to our families as to how well we relate educationally to our own children ??.when this happens, it is no mystery at all why we get very concerned about proposed changes to this exemption application form.
II. Our Presuppositions:1.While the MoE has a statutory obligation to see to the schooling of children compelled by law to be enrolled and attend registered schools, as well as the statutory obligation to be satisfied that exempted students will be taught at least a regularly and well as in a registered school, we do not believe the MoE has the primary responsibility for the education of children. We say this for two reasons:
- a. This responsibility remains firmly with the parents. We would here echo Article 26(3) of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948:??Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children. ??
b. Although Section 3 of the Education Act says that every NZ child??is entitled to free enrolment and free education at any state school ??, there is no corresponding legal requirement that any child be??educated ?? or??receive an education. ?? For example, Section 22A(2)(b), speaking of children removed from their homes and placed somewhere by CYFs, says CYFS must ensure the child??(b) Will receive education services appropriate to the person’s needs. ?? Note it says,??education services ??, not??an education ??. In a private conversation with past Chief Review Officer Dr Judith Aitkin I was advised of the fact that NZ law has compulsory schooling while other countries have compulsory education. The difference is significant.
2.The Home Education Foundation is committed to encouraging parents to take up the home education option as a way to more fully embrace their responsibility to educate their children. We are committed to seeing parents home educate within the law, yet we do not see any reason to acquiesce to requests to conform to standards, expectations or outcomes which are not required by law.
3.The Home Education Foundation is also committed to encouraging the MoE and ERO and other state agents to exercise their statutory responsibilities wisely and not to stray beyond the limits of the powers and authorities given to them in law.
4.The Home Education Foundation sees home education as the best possible way to provide a comprehensive, tailor-made educational curriculum to the children of home educating parents, one that would take him or her quickly and efficiently to heights of excellence in the realms of academics, socialisation, character training, work ethic, interpersonal relationships, spiritual understanding, emotional well being, participatory citizenship and maturity in wisdom and understanding. Parents willing to sacrifice a second income and spend 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year taking conscientious responsibility for every area of each child’s life for 16 to 18 to 20 years or so can be relied upon to accomplish these things with no state regulation, assistance or intervention ??.the logistical and relational advantages of the home education tutoring/mentoring scenario virtually assure every home educator’s relative success. Therefore we believe state involvement with the home education of exempted individuals should be kept to an absolute minimum.
5.Families are the most basic and essential centres of economic, social, educational, health and self-governmental well-being in all of society. The freedom to be different and express one’s ideas is as basic and foundational a freedom as they come. Home education families do not hand the responsibility of educating their children over to the compulsory state schooling system just because it is there or just because it is compulsory but instead pursue the perfectly legal and logical home education route. For these reasons, home educating families need to be dealt with as the unique individual, independent families that they are. They also need special protection and safeguards from overzealous state agencies and individuals who have a passion for conformity and do not appreciate, for whatever reason, diversity and independence in the education of children. Some of these people would, with every good intention, presume to tell home educators?? as unique as each of them is, and even though they are exempted from the system?? what to do and how to do it!
III. Good things about the Draft Application Form:1. In 3.1, The Information Letter: it now clarifies that a request for additional information is not a refusal of the exemption.
2. In 3.1, The Information Letter: it now says that local support groups may be able to help one prepare for an ERO review. This should go on to add the following contacts to help enquirers locate local support groups:
The Home Education Foundation
PO Box 9064
Ph. (06) 357-4399
National Council of Home Educators of New Zealand
PO Box 80144
Auckland Home Educators, Inc.
PO Box 91-530
Auckland Mail Centre
Ph. (09) 302-2866
3. There is no change to 126.96.36.199????Describe your knowledge and understanding of the broad curriculum areas you intend to cover as you educate your child. ?? While the language is sometimes unfamiliar to those outside the school system, it is clear and acknowledges in the phrase??you intend to cover ?? that the home educator is not obliged to follow the National Curriculum Framework (NCF).
4. Statement 188.8.131.52??Outline what you intend to cover with your child in different areas of your stated curriculum ?? would seem to help elicit the kind of information MoE offices are looking for; the kind of information that most often causes applications to be sent back to parents with a request for more information.
5. Statement 184.108.40.206 says that the NCF is not compulsory but is included only as a guide.
6. Statement 220.127.116.11 about teaching methods seems very reasonable and addresses clearly and directly what the Act requires: as assessment of teaching.
7. The statement that a sample timetable is required has been dropped.
8. The definitions of regular and well in Appendix A are brilliant: account is made of maturity level and ability of the child and there is a total avoidance of any reference to learning outcomes, accurately reflecting the concerns of the Act.
IV. Bad things about the Draft Application Form:1. Although the??updating information ?? statement in the Information Letter that accompanies the exemption applications has been used for a few years already, it says,??From time to time you may be asked to provide the MoE with an update of your homeschooling programme. ?? Theoretically this could amount to a whole new exemption application. It raises the issue of the MoE’s interpretation of Section 21 of the Education Act that they need to be not just??satisfied ?? but satisfied on an on-going basis. This appears to be the MoE going beyond the clear statement of the Act. Once the exemption is issued, according to the Act, the child is exempt until he turns 16 or until the MoE revokes the exemption. Revoking the exemption can only happen after an ERO review. There is no provision in the Act for??updates ??. This statement also says it would be used rarely, as the MoE relies upon the ERO reviews to remain satisfied on an on-going basis. For these reasons, this entire section on??Updating Information ?? should be dropped altogether.
2. Statement 18.104.22.168 says:??Describe your child’s educational needs. ?? This request is far too ambiguous, subjective and personal as well as being outside what is required by Section 21 of the Act. It should therefore be dropped.
3. Statement 22.214.171.124 on special needs is unclear. The first draft had a sufficient statement which also alerted applicants to the fact that the Act specifically addresses the exemption of children with special needs. The statement read, ??In accordance with S21(1)(b) of the Education Act 1989 please describe any special educational needs of your child including a special education assessment and report if applicable. ?? The Foundation suggests the MoE drop statement 126.96.36.199 and replace it with this underlined statement.
4. The final part of statement 188.8.131.52 says,??you should be specific about the skills you want your child to learn and you should be clear about the maturity level and abilities of your child in relation to your curriculum ??. This statement is fishing for information way outside of what is required by the Act’s wording that the child be??taught at least as regularly and well as in a registered school. ?? Learning outcomes do not need to be specified; maturity levels and abilities do not need to be described. This should be dropped, for it is the teaching, not the learning, which is being assessed in the application.
5. Although Statement 3.2.6,??Describe study area in the home… ?? has been there for many years, it is superfluous and unnecessary as it is outside the requirements of Section 21 of the Act. It should be dropped.
6. Statement 3.2.8 about social contact has also been there for years and is still as irrelevant to and totally outside of the requirements of Section 21 of the Act as ever. It is time to drop it.
7. The first part of statement 3.2.8 has been there for years????Outline how you are going to assess and evaluate the progress your child is making ?? – but needs to be dropped as it is the teaching, not the learning that is being assessed and evaluated. The second part, newly added in this draft????Please include how you will also evaluate your teaching methods ?? – is accurately addressing the concerns of the Act: evaluating the teaching. But the final phrase,??in terms of your children’s learning ?? is again outside the Act’s requirements and should be dropped.
8. The exemption application includes a privacy statement which is totally unacceptable. It says,??The personal information collected by the Ministry on this form is for the purposes of assessing your application for exemption from enrolment at a registered school. The information collected may be used by or disclosed to other agencies, such as the ERO, the principal of your child’s school or (in the case of a child who has never attended school) the Public Health Nurse, for these purposes. Your information will not be disclosed to any other person or agency unless it is authorised or required by law. ?? It is unacceptable for the following reasons:
- a. The statement raises the question of whether the information collected can be passed to other agencies unless??authorized or required by law. ?? The MoE has not shown that it is authorised by law to pass on this information to either principals or to public health nurses. The Home Education Foundation does not believe that it is, but that it hopes to have parents waive their right to privacy in this area by endorsing signing the statement.
b. MoE staff have informed me privately that the reason the MoE may pass on this information to a principal or a public health nurse is to flush out any suspicions the principal or health nurse may have in regards to the family making the exemption application. This is unacceptable.
c. This privacy statement says the information collected??is for the purposes of assessing your application for exemption ??, that is, that the child will be taught at least as regularly and well. It is clear that passing this information to a Public Health Nurse will not further such an assessment.
This privacy statement’s second sentence,??The information collected may be used by or disclosed to other agencies, such as the ERO, the principal of your child’s school or (in the case of a child who has never attended school) the Public Health Nurse, for these purposes ?? needs to be amended to read as follows:??The information collected may be used by or disclosed to the ERO for these purposes. ?? The rest can be kept as is.