Further comments from Craig Smith:
I was greatly encouraged by our meeting. The objective of improving and/or maintaining good PR with the ERO and MoE was, I believe, met quite nicely. I was very pleased to hear Rob Williamson say precisely what I’ve been telling home educators for years: that the exemption application is just a statement of intent rather than any kind of contract with the MoE or a list of promises that we home educators are making. It was again confirmed that the ERO and the MoE know and expect us to change from what we originally write, with Rob adding some highly quotable words: “That’s what a good practitioner does.”
A minor difference of understanding on an historical fact was Rob’s saying that Brian Donnelly (newly elected MP in Winston Peter’s party which went on to form a coalition government with National in 1996) re-introduced blanket reviews because of a need to see home educators somewhat accountable for the allowance they were receiving. Well, we’d been receiving this since 1990, and the blanket reviews were, in fact, illegal until the Education Legislation Amendment Bill #2 was passed in 1998. There was also a home schooling group operating at the time known as the NZHSA (NZ Home Schooling Association) or The Federation which seemed to be politically connected here and there. They had a document in every public library in the country at the time proposing that the MoE give the review process over to them for a mere $6M a year. When then Minister of Education, Dr Lockwood Smith cancelled blanket reviews of home educators back in 1994, The Federation went ballistic in the media, saying how the MoE had “abandoned” home educators and how we all wanted reviews to come back to give us assurance that we’re doing a good job. (Let me assure you, those sentiments were the very last things that would ever cross my mind.) But you see, they saw their plans for $6M a year rapidly fading with Smith’s decision, plus their current income of the day from charging people for coaching before a review had come to a sudden and decisive halt. I’ve often wondered if they had the ear of Brian Donnelley, for he brought the issue of re-introducing blanket reviews of home educators to the bargaining table, very high on his list, when his party, NZ First and National were negotiating as to whether NZF would be part of any coalition government or not. Donnelley ended up as Minister in Charge of the ERO for that Parliamentary term of 1996-1999.
We home educators then retired from the ERO building in Lambton Quay to a nearby café for lunch and had what many of us considered to be a much more informative and profitable meeting over chai latte. We talked a lot about the history of home schooling and of how our various regional organisations operate. We all had a passion for seeing the reputation of home education preserved and built up and wondered how we could reach more current home educators with offers of the services we have on tap and how to reach non-home educators with information that would definitely motivate them to seriously explore the option for themselves.
Craig Smith, scribe
Home Education Foundation
Home Educators meeting with ERO and MoE 12 July 2011