The MoE had a shuffle around with their staff and offices on 1 July 2014; you can read about it here: http://hef.org.nz/2014/
Recently, I have been part of two meetings with the new MoE staff.
The first meeting on 15 July was with Jim Greening (Group Manager, Schools and Student Support), Sonya Logan (Manager, Student Engagement) and Lucy Ambrose (Senior Advisor, Learner Engagement). The purpose of the meeting was for the MoE to meet with a Home Schooling organisation to establish that they were a valid and recognised representation of home educators, and to lay groundwork for scoping: consulting with ERO, evaluating MoE resources and policies and opening communication with home schooling groups. These meetings are to be ongoing.
Our discussions were fairly general for the first part of the meeting where we were getting to know Jim, Sonya and Lucy and they were getting to understand home educators. We talked very briefly about the history of home education in New Zealand. See A Brief History of Home Education in New Zealand by Craig Smith.
We did talk about some nitty gritty things, and I believe ended up with some good outcomes.
Jim would like to see consistency of information and approach within the ten MoE offices. The two main questions are:
- is the child getting a good education?
- is the child safe?
Need to keep records
These three from the MoE National office want to unpick this one with home educators. Here is what we talked about, and it is not about keeping records at all, but preparing when we need to for either the “ERO, further education or training”. See more here: http://hef.org.nz/2014/record-
Need for MoE to contact Schools during the exemption process
We considered this statement: “Principal notified of your intention to homeschool (in the case of a child currently enrolled in a school). The Principal of your child’s current school (or most recently attended school) will be asked to comment on the suitability or otherwise of home education as an option for your child.” We also discussed the way different local MoE offices use this statement. They stated that the school’s input is to highlight any special needs or learning needs that the child has. This is part of the process in working out what is best for the child. Our response: The MoE should not contact the school as a normal process of approving an exemption application. They could check online to see if the child is on the school’s role. When the MoE contacts the school this can cause all sorts of problems for the child in the school until the exemption application is approved, and also for the parents. It has nothing to do with the school whether a child is home educated or not. It is the parents’ decision not the schools. A child can have difficulty learning at school, or be naughty, and when they come home and the parents are working with them one on one and using different approaches to what the school uses, the child can flourish. Principals don’t see this but we do. They may not take that into account when “commenting on the suitability or otherwise of home education as an option for your child”. Most schools are good about this, but there are some schools that are one-eyed and they will, out of prejudice, say that home education is not suitable for some particular children. Jim, Sonya and Lucy seemed to understand this and agreed that this statement needs to be changed. They had also heard from others who are concerned about this.
Failed ERO review
We looked at the wording in the letter that goes out to parents after a failed ERO review. “There is provision for the MoE to request that ERO reviews a programme again in six months, following an ERO review, if parents indicate that they accept the findings of the ERO report, intend to address the relevant issues and have already made progress.” If the ERO has made a report and we feel that it does not reflect our home educating of our children, how can we “accept the findings of the ERO report” without incriminating ourselves? They agreed the wording needs to be changed.
As regularly and well
Unfortunately Jim feels the need to define the words “regular” and “well”. We told him that these words do not need to be defined any more than they already are in the exemption form. We have not needed these words defined in the past and it could be detrimental to home educators if they are defined for the future. Thankfully the MoE want to be in discussions with us over all aspects of home education – the forms, the processes and anything else. So if these words are defined more than what is in the exemption form, we will be able to comment on it.
Jim would like to see ERO reviews done not on the basis of a complaint but in a more supportive role. He feels that this would give a better overall view of Home Schooling. He is questioning why these reviews are so limited – up to 35 done per year (14 last year). We know why – because the MoE was looking to see how they could cut their budget and found that home educators are a low risk group. At the meeting I thought that Jim was considering taking the reviews from around 14 a year up to the full quota of 35 a year with non-compliant based reviews. We need to discuss the purpose of the ERO reviews more. Are they to find out where parents are not “teaching as regular and well as a registered school” or for the MoE to get an overview of home education or both?
Part of the aim of this meeting was to form a group of people who can work with the MoE – a sector group to look at all aspects of home education. Jim, Sonya and Lucy are still meeting with home educators to find who should be part of this group. They are meeting with NCHENZ on the 19th August 2014. I am not sure who else they are meeting with, but they did say that they would be meeting up with some Home Education Support Groups.
I also want to explain my role (representing the Home Education Foundation) at any MoE/ERO meetings. I am not representing any other home educators – only my family. I asked another couple to be with me at this meeting, who have finished home educating seven children and are looking forward to having grandchildren who will be home educated too. I have eight children and have already been home educating for 28 years, with an exemption. I still have an eight year old being educated at home along with her 13 and 16 year old siblings, so I will be at this for a long time yet. As I see it, my role at these meetings (if I am a part of them) is to be there with the 28 years of experience I have at home educating and supporting Craig in the work he did with the Home Education Foundation, then to share the outcome of these meetings with you, the home educators of New Zealand, so that you will be able to represent yourselves by either contacting me (I’ll pass on your comments and concerns), your local MoE office or Lucy Ambrose from the National Office.
Please be patient
As you can see there are new staff at the MoE and they are wanting and needing to make changes to the forms and processes the MoE uses for home educators, and it would seem that the changes could be good for home educators. Both teams are still meeting with home educators. They plan to involve home educators (not sure who yet) in the changes.
At this stage most changes have not happened yet. The ten MoE offices have been set up – but not all of them are able to approve exemptions yet. It will take awhile for these changes (once approved) to be operating in the local MoE offices. So we need to be a little patient.
From the Smiths:
Updated 22 April 2014: Two years on (Craig Smith’s Health) page 7 click here
Needing help for your home schooling journey:
Here are a couple of links to get you started home schooling:
Information on getting started: http://hef.org.nz/getting-started-2/
Information on getting an exemption: http://hef.org.nz/exemptions/
This link is motivational: http://hef.org.nz/2012/home-schooling-what-is-it-all-about/
Exemption Form online: http://hef.org.nz/2012/home-schooling-exemption-form-now-online/