Draft Exemption Application Comments

We have until the end of this month, November 2004, to make submissions on the Ministry of Education’s Draft Exemption Application Form. The??Privacy Statement ?? the MoE has included on this form is, in my opinion, totally unacceptable. (See my comments below under point 8 of section III, Bad things about the Draft Application Form.) Please consider writing a submission on this Application Form to the MoE’s Kay Phillips today!Below is my take on the Draft Exemption Application in a condensed form. Lengthier comments appeared in the TEACH Bulletin 82 of June 2004, the monthly legislative/political/educational trends update newsletter published by the Home Education Foundation. The material below also appeared in TEACH Bulletin 86 of October 2004.

    I. Background
    II. Good things about the Draft Application Form
    III. Bad things about the Draft Application Form

I. BackgroundThe MoE proposed some changes to the exemption application form at the end of June this year. A few draft copies of these proposed changes
leaked out with the covering note that the changes were to be finalised by the end of that week. When it was found that the MoE had not widely consulted with home educators regarding these changes, as previous MoE staff had always assured us they would do, the MoE was flooded with hundreds of prickly emails, MPs were alerted and even the media took an interest.

The MoE relented somewhat and re-drafted the changes (that is, they actually went to the trouble to write a new draft exemption application form ??.it would seem the prickly emails had an effect!) They said they’d receive submissions on this new draft from home education organisations (implying they did not want to hear from individuals) until the end of September. Then they changed it to the end of October. The latest is that they’ll receive submissions until the end of this month, November. So we need to act now! (Lengthy comments on this draft were printed in TEACH Bulletin 82, June 2004.)

The Education Act 1989, Section 21 states that the MoE may exempt a person from the compulsory enrolment required in law??If satisfied that the person (i) will be taught at least as regularly and well as in a registered school; or (ii) in the case of a person who would otherwise be likely to need special education, will be taught at least as regularly and well as in a special class or clinic or by a special service. ??

II. Good things about the Draft Application Form(These comments are condensed and, after much further thought, different in places to my earlier comments as they appeared in TEACH Bulletin 82.)

1. The covering information letter now clarifies that a request for additional information is not a refusal of the exemption.

2. They’ve added that local support groups may be able to help one prepare for an ERO review.

3. They make no change to 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 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. It is simply asking to flesh out the broad curriculum areas a bit.

5. They’ve stated in that the NCF is not compulsory but is included only as a guide.

6. Statement about teaching methods:
?? Teaching methods?? It is also important to explain how you intend to teach your child, by outlining your method(s) of teaching for each subject area. This does not require you to give a detailed description of every method used in every lesson. An overview of some of the usual methods you may employ is sufficient. ?? This seems very reasonable and addresses clearly and directly what the Act requires: an assessment of teaching.

7. The statement that a sample timetable is required was dropped.

8. Definitions of regular and well in Appendix A are brilliant: account is made of maturity level and ability of child and total avoidance of any reference to learning outcomes, accurately reflecting the concerns of the Act.

III. Bad things about the Draft Application Form1. 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. Perhaps it is time home educators challenge this interpretation by the MoE. 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 ??, so we should object to them.

2. Statement 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 on special needs is unclear. It says:?? Needs – Describe your child’s educational needs. Please describe any special educational needs of your child. The Ministry of Education Group Special Education can assist you if assistance is appropriate and sought by you. ?? The original first draft the MoE came up with had what seems to be a sufficient statement that 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. ?? We reckon the MoE should adopt this statement in place of the present statement

4. The final part of statement reads,??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 ?? and is fishing for information which is not needed to satisfy the Act’s requirements 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 saying,??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 that I personally consider 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. ??

I’ve written to Kay Phillips of the MoE in August, September and again in October asking more pointed questions about this privacy statement each time. No replies at all so far. Here are my latest questions:

A) Is the MoE authorised by law to pass on this information to either principals or to public health nurses? Is it a blanket authorisation or restricted to certain instances? Please refer me to the exact statute, section and sub-sections that give the MoE this legal authorisation.B) Can you please confirm or correct my understanding 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?

C) How, specifically, does personal information collected by the MoE in the exemption application further the purpose of assessing the application by being passed on to the Public Health Nurse? How does the Public Health Nurse help the MoE assess whether the child will be taught at least as regularly and well as in a registered school?

I don’t think it wise for us home educators to let this kind of information passing become established without some clear answers from the MoE as to whether they even have the legal right to do it.

The MoE will receive submissions until the end of November. I’ve given a few ideas above as to what the issues are and how one might like to respond. Post your submissions to Kay Phillips,
kay.phillips@minedu.govt.nz PO Box 1666, Wellington.
She should also provide you with a copy of the draft exemption application. Or you can view it by clicking the link below.

The Draft Application Form

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