6 August 2004
Thank you for your email of 8 July 2004 concerning homeschooling.
As you are aware the Ministry of Education has been modifying the form used by applicants wishing to homeschool their children. Many homeschoolers have responded to these changes with requests for greater involvement both in the detail of the changes to the forms and in discussion of broader issues that affect homeschooling. There have also been responses that support and appreciate the changes.
Homeschooling is a legitimate and recognised component of the New Zealand education system with on average about 5-6000 students receiving education in this way each year. Homeschoolers are diverse in their philosophies and motivations for their preference but united in their desire to educate their own children.
Homeschoolers and I share a common interest in ensuring all students given an exemption from regular schooling are successfully educated and that this occurs in safe surroundings.
The Education Act 1989 requires the Secretary of Education, before granting an exemption to homeschool, to be satisfied that a child will be educated at least as well as in a registered school. The ways that high quality education can be achieved can be as diverse as the reasons that motivate people to choose homeschooling as an option. Allowing that diversity to flourish while ensuring the obligations under the Act are satisfied requires some shared understanding between the Ministry of Education and homeschoolers about what everyone wants from education and how best that is achieved.
The direction of education policy in NZ and elsewhere is seeing much greater transparency and focus on outcomes?? broadly defined – and a greater focus on what constitutes effective learning and how it is supported in a range of different contexts. I am not intending to impose any particular limitation on homeschooling but rather seek some agreement on quality and how it can be articulated and developed. None of this seeks to convey any sense of curriculum regulation but highlights the need for homeschoolers, the Education Review Office and the Ministry to progressively develop greater shared understandings about learning outcomes and other dimensions of quality and how these might be best articulated in practice and in ways that meet our respective roles and responsibilities. Such understandings would be of mutual benefit for the Ministry and homeschoolers and provide greater assurance for homeschoolers and homeschooling.
Given the interest already expressed by homeschoolers for more dialogue with the Ministry on homeschooling matters, it seems appropriate to provide some more extensive opportunities for this to happen on an ongoing basis. I have suggested to my officials that the regional offices of the Ministry develop a process for dialogue with homeschoolers in each area. The structure and nature of the dialogue would be developed as appropriate in each region. The intent would be to establish a regular and ongoing forum to encourage dialogue across a range of homeschooling issues both at a practical and policy level. This would allow for systematic discussion between the Ministry and homeschoolers, and, while it would not be expected to achieve resolution of all issues, it would provide the forum for a more constructive and continuing dialogue. It would mean that issues such as ongoing improvements to documentation would take place in the context of a discussion. These discussions could be used, for example, for exploration of descriptions of quality, for dissemination of research, and for the maintenance of local support systems. Local offices of the Ministry of Education will be contacting homeschoolers to discuss appropriate forums that they may wish to attend in their area
The Ministry has already advised many of you of a process for the alterations to the application form for new applicants. I am informed that these changes are to simplify and clarify the form and are not changes in policy nor in the Ministry’s attitude to homeschooling. The responses so far are mixed with some appreciative of the changes while others reflect a preference for the status quo. Responses received through to the end of October will be considered before deciding if the changes will achieve what was intended. Some organisations expressed difficulty in giving a response by the earlier notified August date. To date many of the responses have focussed on the need for a much broader discussion rather than the detail of an application form. It would be preferable to separate the form from that larger discussion although I would expect that as the discussion progresses it may influence future forms. The Ministry has provided copies of the draft parent pack and information form to homeschooling organisations. Please contact one of the organisations listed below if you wish to make comment on the detail of the application form.
Ministry staff are looking forward to working more closely with you as part of their joint commitment to enhance education outcomes for children and young people who are homeschooled and will be contacting you again concerning arrangements for local forums.
MINISTER OF EDUCATION
Homeschooling organisations that have the draft pack:
National Council of Home Educators of NZ Inc
P O Box 80144
Home Education Foundation
P O Box 9064
Canterbury Home Educators Inc
P O Box 8544
South Island Home Educators
P O Box 186
Auckland Home Educators Inc.
PO Box 91530
Auckland Mail Centre
??Home’s Cool ??
37 Barry Avenue
Tauranga Home Educators’ Support Group
9 Ruahine St
Christian Education New Zealand
P O Box 343