June 2, 2023

MoE/ERO issues


I am slowly recovering from pneumonia. I was not responding to treatment and finally required surgery. It is a slow recuperation for me: https://hef.org.nz/2014/barbaras-health-update/. So I am not fully on deck yet. But here is something I began before I got pneumonia and needs to be discussed and decided how we deal with it.

I am very thankful for the families who give donations to the Home Education Foundation each year which keeps the https://hef.org.nz website going and helps with many administrative tasks. Here is a letter I sent out to the doners for this past financial year: https://hef.org.nz/2014/letter-to-those-who-gave-donations-to-the-home-education-foundation/

While writing the above letter two items of concern came to me about the exemption application letter. Please see my letter above for some of those concerns. I made many phone calls to the MoE but could never get through to the right person. So I ended up writing two letters to John Clark:


You will notice that I have received a reply from Jim Greening which is below both letters.

I am really concerned about this letter from Jim Greening. I would love to get your feed back on it – especially on this list. As people talk about it we can bounce ideas off each other. There is a great discussion about this on a Facebook page at the moment. Some of the main concerns coming up there are:

1. There is nothing wrong with the law when it says “to teach as regular and as well as a registered school”.  It is the POLICY in the MoE/ERO that we need to be concerned about and make sure that they keep to the LAW. That is what we need to be fighting if our ERO reviews fail and with new stuff on the exemption forms etc. (One person came on and said, “Actually Barbara, there is something wrong with the law – it exists, that’s what’s wrong!” I agree wholeheartedly.

2. What concerns me is that the MSD (Ministry of Social Development) in their White Paper and Supporting Vulnerable Children paper want 3 things: https://www.msd.govt.nz/…/supporting…/index.html

Early childhood education: In 2016, 98 per cent of children starting school will have participated in quality early childhood education.

Immunisation: Increase infant immunisation rates so that 95 per cent of eight month olds are fully immunised by December 2014 and this is maintained until 30 June 2017.
Rheumatic fever: Reduce the incidence of rheumatic fever by two thirds to 1.4 cases per 100,000 people by June 2017.

Assaults on children: By 2017, we aim to halt the rise in children experiencing physical abuse and reduce current numbers by five per cent.

I have just rung the MSD, The Vulnerable Children’s Bill http://www.parliament.nz/en-nz/pb/legislation/bills/00DBHOH_BILL12424_1/vulnerable-children-bill had it’s 3rd Reading a few days ago on the June 19.  But there does not seem to be any moves to make ECE compulsory in the law at this stage. It is just expected targets and policy. It is something that we need to keep an eye on in the future. When they want to make ECE compulsory for 3-5 year olds (or ECE for 3-4 year olds and school for 5 year olds) then we need to act. But it is something for us to all be aware of and concerned about and discussing now. So that when the time comes we are all up with the play and can ALL take part in defeating any Bill of this nature in Parliament. Not sure what impact we can have on policy – this needs to be discussed.
Update 8/6/14: Please read this link too: Baby charter schools raise more questions https://hef.org.nz/2014/baby-charter-schools-raise-more-questions/
3. From the Facebook page:

Is it just me or does the letter kinda contradict itself?

‘ERO would not expect evidence just for an ERO review but because it’s useful and ethical to… record the child’s achievement and progress over time. ONLY then can the parent be satisfied that their child is being educated as well (or better) than they would be in another setting.’

To which I’d say ‘it’s in my head’ – which they can’t accept as valid because:

‘this doesn’t apply adequate accountability or provide assurance that the criteria is being met. Inability to provide evidence … means that ERO can’t be assured that the intention of the Act is being realised’

But hold on a minute, I thought you guys (MOE/ERO) said it’s NOT about reviews, but because it’s useful and ethical for the parent
– now you say the reason it can’t be in my head because then ERO can’t judge that?! So it IS just for ERO reviews? No explanation how having it written down rather than in my head is actually any more ‘useful’ or ‘ethical’ for anyone other than ERO – sure it’s not expected ‘just for an ERO review’… *rolls eyes*

My response: That was how I read the letter too. In the past “in my head” was fine. That was what a review was all about – the ERO talking to me to find out what was “in my head” was more important than talking with the child and  seeing their work (although they did do this a little). After all the review is all about my “teaching” not the child’s “learning”. I think the ERO have forgotten this fact.

4. ERO reviews: There are only 35 ERO reviews budgeted for home schooling at the moment. The ERO is doing far less than this each year. The concern at the moment is that at least one family who has failed an ERO review recently has not been given a second review. In the past home educators were given two or even three ERO reviews if necessary. Schools are given even more than this. It is a concern if the ERO is now only going to be giving one ERO review to Home Educators. See my letter at the bottom of this link: https://hef.org.nz/teach/moeero/letter-to-moe-re-changes-to-the-exemption-form/

5. NSW Parliament: Craig always used to say “If it is not broken, then it doesn’t need to be fixed”. What he was meaning was that unless there is something seriously wrong with the law or policy then we should just sit tight. If we draw attention to ourselves then things might get worse. So we would always look to see if things could be fixed on a local level if it was a local issue. These issues are national and they seem to be something that needs to be fixed. But I am aware that we need to be careful how we try to fix them. This is the experience in NSW recently: “the NSW Parliament has recently announced an inquiry into home education. This has been as a result of the Home Education Association (HEA) lobbying against recent onerous changes in registration policy.” Seeing this is making me even more cautious to do the right thing:  https://hef.org.nz/2014/nsw-needs-our-help/
Would love your comments on all of this.
Barbara Smith
PS so the issues are:
1. The need to have a record of progress and achievement over time i.e. weekly, termly, annually.
2. The extra page about ECE on the exemption form plus the fact that the Govt wants 98% of preschoolers in ECE by 2016.
3. Some families being denied a second ERO review after the first failed one.


  1. Re Issue 1:

    I questioned their saying “Remember, you will need to keep records,” when I can’t “remember” something I’ve never been told before! My comment on the phone was “How about a pile of old workbooks?” and I was told that that would not be good enough. They wouldn’t say what they wanted but I got the very strong impression that if I had said “I’m going to give him standardized tests at the end of every week and keep a record of all the test results,” that would have been satisfactory. I wonder if this new requirement has come up because of the National Standards, and the MOE (perhaps even unconsciously?) are trying to get us to conform to the standards regimen.

    I took a lot of risks with my last exemption process because I just couldn’t make myself try to say what they wanted to hear. I actually said something like “Tests are for children who learn things only to pass the test and then forget them again, and test results stand as a record of things that the child has forgotten. The goal of real learning is the permanent retention of knowledge, and therefore the child himself is the record of what he has learned.” Not accepted as valid, needless to say. In the end they decided to give us the exemption and request an ERO review in a year’s time. All that taxpayer money spend worrying about one perfectly happy little six-year-old baby!

    I would be interested to hear how others have got on with this strange new requirement. By the way, in regard to Issue 3, I see that not all beneficiaries’ children are being forced into ECE. I’ve heard that it’s being handled on a case-by-case basis by case workers.

    Visit me at http://normaleducation.wordpress.com/2014/02/14/my-grumble/


  2. Thanks Tani for your comments. Sorry to hear that you have to have an ERO review soon.

    No home educating family should have to put their preschoolers in an ECE. That was one battle we fought and won during the process of the Bill going through Parliament