January 20, 2022

Truancy and the Home Schooler/Home Educator

Craig with children and timelineThe law says that a child between the ages of 6 and 16 must be in school (unless they are under 7 and live 3km walking distance from the school or it is not convenient to catch the bus which is under 3km from your home. And for the child under 10: Exemption from attendance.)

So to keep our children at home to educate them, we have to apply for an exemption (see also Effect of exemption).

While we are in the process of applying for an exemption, our child could be six or seven or even older. All correspondence from the MoE must say that our children have to be in school during those ages, because that is the law – and the MoE has to keep within the law. So what can we do?

A problem arises when our exemptions have not been approved by the time our child turns six/seven, or when they are already in school and we want to take them out immediately. There are many reasons why our exemptions may not be approved on time. The MoE does not look at the exemption applications until our children are almost six, and then it can take up to six weeks to get the exemption. If the MoE requires more information, this usually means that our child has turned six and the parents may face a penalty for failure to enrol of $3000.00 if convicted (I have never heard of anyone being fined while applying for an exemption). There are many reasons why those pulling their child/ren out of school want to do that straight away. There may be a bullying problem, or they may have moved and don’t want their child/ren going through the stress of a new school for two or three weeks. It may be after the holidays and the parents want to capitalise on what has been achieved in building up their relationships over that period etc. If convicted of truancy the fine is $30.00 a day and does not exceed $300.00 for first offence or $3000.00 for second and subsequent offence. (Again, I have never heard of anyone being fined when they have pulled their children out of school while waiting to get their exemption – although sometimes it does make it more difficult to get the exemption.)

So what can we do when our child is six/seven and under sixteen and we still do not have an exemption? At the Red Tape Cluster Buster meeting we discussed the need for the exemptions to be processed faster than 4-6 weeks. I also asked for there to be some leniency for home educators, after reading a letter from Jim Greening to Prinicpals where he says:

In 2013, the Attendance Service received over 38,000 unjustified absence and non enrolment referrals.  This high number of referrals shows us the importance of ensuring students attend school to reach their potential.  However, with this high number of referrals we want to ensure that schools are playing their part before making a referral to the Attendance Service.  It is important that your school has an attendance management plan in place to ensure your students attend school and that all reasonable actions are exhausted before making a referral through to your local Attendance Service.

The Attendance Service is here to support you when your attempts to solve non-attendance issues are not successful and the non-attendance is on-going.  The Attendance Service is designed to help you deal with students of chronic non-attendance rather than students who occasionally don’t go to school.

For 2014, there will be a focus on decreasing the number of students who are re-referred to the Attendance Service.  The aim is to identify root causes of non-attendance, implement strategies to address these, and help ensure students are returned to a sustainable regular attendance.  We look forward to working with you on this and value your commitment and ongoing involvement in these matters.

The Head office of the MoE is far more interested in finding and addressing the chronic non-attendance at schools than tracking down the Home Educator who is currently in the process of applying for an exemption.

I talked with the Red Tape Cluster Buster team about this and asked if something can be done for us. Megan was quick to come back with what is already in place – Justified absence (any amount of time) and Unjustified absence (20 days only). So I “searched” the MoE website for these terms and came up with this:

The Law: Release from school and Exemption from attendance 

The Policy: Absence from school definitions – we can use these to our advantage when pulling children out of school, or once our child turns six and we still don’t have an exemption.

Justified absence – occurs when the reason for a student’s absence fits within the school’s policy as a justifiable reason for the student’s absence. (Any amount of time.)

Unjustified absence – are full-day absences which are either unexplained, or the reason for the absence is not within the school’s policy as a justifiable reason for the student to miss school. (20 consecutive days)

Intermittent unjustified absence – occurs when a student is absent for part of a morning (or afternoon)without justification.

Overall absence (or non-attendance) – the sum of justified absence, unjustified absence and intermittent unjustified absences.

Truancy – the sum of unjustified absence and intermittent unjustified absence.

Non-enrolment – after 20 consecutive days of continuous unjustified absence, a school removes a student from their roll (ENROL) and a referral is made to the Attendance Service .

“Please refer to Attendance Matters [PDF: 1.13mb] pages 10-11 for more detailed information on the absence codes and definitions.

Below are the things that could apply to home educators from pages 10-11 mentioned in the above PDF.

Justified absence

Student absent due to short-term illness/medical reasons – Student is at home, with an illness or medical reason. Depending on school policy a medical certificate may be requested for prolonged illness, eg three days, or as policy requires.

Justified explanation within the school policy –

• Unplanned absences such as a bus breakdown, accident, road closure, extreme weather conditions etc.
• Planned non-attendance such as national/local representation in a sporting or cultural event in New Zealand or overseas. (See also Code O)
• Approved absence (including overseas) can also include bereavement, visiting an ill relative, exceptional family circumstances or a Section 27.

Unsupervised study – student is off-site – Code X will count as a justified absence and be used in ½ day absence summaries. Note that supervised study is recorded as a regular timetabled class

Justified overseas – check next column for justification examples– A student accompanying or visiting a family member who is on an overseas posting (the student can be held on the roll for up to 15 consecutive weeks). Eg military ordiplomatic.

Student is stood down or suspended – Student is stood down or suspended according the conditions of Section 14 of the Education Act 1989.

Unjustified absence, Unjustified absences , Intermittent unjustified

Unknown reason  – This is the initial entry for a student not in class and the reason is unknown. It will be edited as relevant information becomes available about the reason for the
non-attendance. The system can be configured by the school to automatically change (or not change) the “?” code to a “T” after a configurable number of school days (eg seven).

Student is absent with an explained, but unjustified reason – The explanation for the absence is accepted by the school as the reason for the absence, but the reason does not fit within the school’s policy as a justifiable reason to take the student off school (even though the parents may consider the absence was justified and may have provided a written explanation). Eg “Molly had to stay home to look after her younger brother” or “We went for a two-week family holiday in the South Island.” This includes overseas absence not approved by the principal. (A parent’s note does not provide justification.)

No information provided – truant (or throw-away explanation) – This code is for an absence where no verifiable explanation is received, or the explanations are like the following:
• I don’t like my maths teacher so I took the period off.
• I had an assignment to be handed in next period so I took this period off to finish it.
• I was hot so went down to the river.
• We had a test and I wasn’t ready for it.
• I was at the shops.

My Conclusions

From reading the PDF above it is clear that principals are being encouraged to work hard on Unjustified absence, Unjustified absences , Intermittent unjustified absence. There is a challange out there for them to have the lowest percentage of unjustifed absence in their school. Some schools have a zero tolerance approach to truancy.

So I believe that it is in our best interests to have a Justified absence while applying for our exemptions. I think that this will keep the principals happier – we won’t make their total Unjustified absences worse. (An example of a justfied absence would a Doctor’s certificate)

I have asked the Red Tape Cluster Buster team to make “justified absence” a part of the process of applying for an exemption  application if our children are aged between 6-16.


Policy – Advice: Non-attendance of students under the age of six

While a parent may enrol their child who is five years old in school, the parent is not legally required to ensure they attend until they turn six.


• A school board still has a role to, by any means it thinks appropriate, take all reasonable steps to ensure the attendance of students enrolled at its school.
• If intermittent attendance by an enrolled five-year-old is a concern, the school can seek help from the attendance service, community agencies, CYF or the Police.
• The greatest concern for principals is not knowing if a child is at home or whether something untoward has happened on the way to school. Schools can contact Attendance Services to support them to confirm the safety
of a child if they have been absent from school. Also a visit from CYF or a community constable to a parent may be enough.

Non enrolment

• A parent is free to withdraw their five-year-old at any time and not re-enrol them at another school until they turn six.
• After 20 consecutive days of unjustified absence schools may remove a five-year-old from the school’s roll.

I wanted to know exactly what the law was and how it was applied – the policy, and then how we can use the policy to keep within the law.


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 startedhttps://hef.org.nz/getting-started-2/


Information on getting an exemptionhttps://hef.org.nz/exemptions/

This link is motivational: https://hef.org.nz/2012/home-schooling-what-is-it-all-about/

Exemption Form online: https://hef.org.nz/2012/home-schooling-exemption-form-now-online/

Coming Events: https://hef.org.nz/2013/some-coming-events-for-home-education-during-2013-2/

Beneficiaries: https://hef.org.nz/2013/where-to-for-beneficiary-families-now-that-the-social-security-benefit-categories-and-work-focus-amendment-bill-has-passed-its-third-reading/

Education Law in New Zealand- updated with extra links

We are often asked:

“What does the law say about homeschooling in New Zealand?”

Here is the Act: New Zealand Education Act 1989

The law: New Zealand citizens and residents between 6 and 16 to go to school

20 New Zealand citizens and residents between 6 and 16 to go to school
  • (1) Except as provided in this Act, every person who is not an international student is required to be enrolled at a registered school at all times during the period beginning on the person’s sixth birthday and ending on the person’s 16th birthday.

    (2) Before a child’s seventh birthday, the child is not required to be enrolled at any school more than 3 kilometres walking distance from the child’s residence.

    Compare: 1964 No 135 ss 108, 109

    Section 20 heading: amended, on 1 January 1993, by section 5 of the Education Amendment Act (No 4) 1991 (1991 No 136).

    Section 20(1): amended, on 30 August 2011, by section 13 of the Education Amendment Act 2011 (2011 No 66).

    Section 20(1): amended, on 1 January 1993, by section 5(1) of the Education Amendment Act (No 4) 1991 (1991 No 136).

Home Education: Long term exemptions from enrolment

21 Long term exemptions from enrolment
  • (1) An employee of the Ministry designated by the Secretary for the purpose (in this section and section 26 referred to as a designated officer) may, by certificate given to a person’s parent, exempt the person from the requirements of section 20,—

    • (a) on the parent’s application; and

    • (b) 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.

    (2) A certificate under subsection (1) continues in force until it is revoked or expires under this section.

    (3) If a designated officer refuses to grant a certificate under subsection (1), the applicant parent may appeal to the Secretary who, after considering a report on the matter from the Chief Review Officer, shall confirm the refusal or grant a certificate.

    (4) The Secretary’s decision is final.

    (5) Every certificate under subsection (1) or subsection (3) shall state why it was given.

    (6) Subject to subsection (7), the Secretary may at any time revoke a certificate under subsection (1) or subsection (3).

    (7) The Secretary shall not revoke a certificate under subsection (1) or subsection (3), unless, after having—

    • (a) made reasonable efforts to get all the relevant information; and

    • (b) considered a report on the matter from the Chief Review Officer,—

    the Secretary is not satisfied of whichever of the grounds specified in subsection (1)(b) the certificate was originally granted on.

    (8) If the Secretary thinks any person exempted under subsection (1) would be better off getting special education, the Secretary may revoke the certificate and issue a direction under section 9.

    (8A) A certificate for the time being in force under subsection (1) or subsection (3) expires when the person to whom it applies turns 16 or enrols at a registered school, whichever happens first.

    (9) Every certificate of exemption under section 111 of the Education Act 1964 that was in force on 30 September 1989 shall be deemed to have been granted—

    • (a) on the ground specified in subsection (1)(b)(i) if it was in fact granted—

    • (b) on the ground specified in subsection (1)(b)(ii) if it was in fact granted—

    and may be revoked under this section accordingly.

    Section 21(2): amended, on 19 December 1998, by section 10(1) of the Education Amendment Act (No 2) 1998 (1998 No 118).

    Section 21(6): amended, on 23 July 1990, by section 10 of the Education Amendment Act 1990 (1990 No 60).

    Section 21(8A): inserted, on 19 December 1998, by section 10(2) of the Education Amendment Act (No 2) 1998 (1998 No 118).

    Section 21(9): inserted, on 1 January 1990, by section 8 of the Education Amendment Act 1989 (1989 No 156).

    Section 21 compare note: repealed, on 20 May 2010, by section 11 of the Education Amendment Act 2010 (2010 No 25).

walking distance, in relation to travel between a person’s residence and a school,—
  • (a) where there is no public transport that the person can conveniently use, means the distance (measured along the most direct route by public road, public footpath, or combination of both) between the residence and the school; and

  • (b) where in both directions there is public transport that the person can conveniently use, means the sum of the following distances (each measured along the most direct route by public road, public footpath, or combination of both) or, where the sum is greater in one direction than the other, the greater sum:

    • (i) the distance between the residence and the place where public transport must first be taken (or, as the case may be, finally be left); and

    • (ii) the distance between the school and the place where public transport must finally be left (or, as the case may be, first be taken); and

    • (iii) every intermediate distance between one element of public transport and another

Extra links:

Special education
Secretary’s powers when excluded student younger than 16
Employment of school-age children
Ensuring attendance of students
Effect of exemption
Penalty for failure to enrol
Exemption from attendance
Burden of proof on parents


Greens announce 20 hours free ECE for two year olds

The Green Party today announced that its key social platform for this election will be to tackle child poverty and inequality by ensuring every child in New Zealand has enough to thrive. The Green Party will make a series of policy announcements in the run up to the election which will cumulatively form a plan to ensure that every child has enough of what they need to thrive.

This aim by the Green Party seems reasonable until we continue reading the

press release below.

This is an investment in families and our kids’ education and in reducing poverty.

In the first of these announcements, made today, the party has announced a package to support families by extending access to free early childhood education and improve the quality of all ECE.The key policy points in the Green Party’s plan for supporting families’ access to ECE are:

  1. Extend the 20 Hours free early childhood education subsidy to cover two-year-olds, at an initial cost of $255 million. As the benefits of this successful scheme are opened up to at least another 40,000 children, more kids will get a good start in life and the burdens on their families will be eased.
  2. Provide $32 million a year to restore funding for 100 percent qualified teachers, as part of an ambitious plan to boost the quality of early childhood education and make sure every child gets the right care and support.

This does NOT give MOST children a “good start in life” and most parents do not see their children as “burdens needing to be eased”. The “right care and support” for most children is in their own homes. This press release does not help most families feel that they are doing the best for their own children.

“The total package will cost $297 million a year immediately rising to $367 million in four years.”Every child should have enough to thrive. Any less is a failure of our society,” said Green Party Co-leader Metiria Turei. “One in four children lives in poverty, and 205,000 Kiwi kids are now living in severe poverty, and going without the basics.

“The cost of ECE in New Zealand is too high. According to a 2010 OECD study, New Zealand working families pay 28 percent of their net income on childcare – the fourth highest percentage of family income in the group.Extending 20 hours free ECE to two-year-olds will make a real financial difference to thousands of families. We estimate that families with two-year-olds in ECE could be up to $95 a week better off under our policy.

There is a need for some families to be using an ECE for their preschoolers when parents are working, for other personal needs etc. Families should be able to use these facilities without the rhetoric that ECE is better for their young children. The use of an ECE will not bring MOST children out of poverty – it will keep them there.

“By reducing the high cost of ECE in New Zealand we can both help struggling families access ECE and directly assist in reducing their weekly outgoings.The Green Party will help families out financially by reducing ECE costs, at the same time as improving access to quality education.

“Quality education” for most preschoolers happens in the home.

“It is a major investment in our kids. About two thirds of all two-year-olds are currently enrolled in ECE, but their parents miss out on the ’20 Hours’ subsidy given to three and four year olds. We will make the system fair by extending the same subsidy to the large number of two-year-olds in ECE. Despite the relatively low level of current subsidy, around 40,000 two-year-olds are still enrolled in ECE, significantly more than a decade ago. Our policy helps will make a big difference to those families straight away. This is an investment in families and our kids’ education and in reducing poverty.

As mentioned earlier the best children’s education is in the home not in an ECE. Keeping children in the home not sending them to an ECE is the best way to reduce poverty.

“Good-quality ECE helps children reach their full potential, both in education and in leading healthy and productive lives.

This statement is plainly wrong.  It is designed to erode parents’ confidence in their parenting skills and encourage them to use ECE instead, for their preschoolers down to the age of 2 and, as seen in some articles, even younger.

“It can even make the difference, according to recent research, between being in or out of poverty in later life.

Where is their research? Here is some research that I have found:

“ECE has been shown to benefit children from disadvantaged backgrounds because these children often lack what their more advantaged peers have: a nurturing home environment. Educational researchers regularly report that a nurturing home environment will have a more profound impact on a child’s educational achievement than preschool programmes – a reason often stated for why more advantaged children are not often found to gain much, if anything, educationally from ECE. https://hef.org.nz/2012/should-preschool-be-compulsory/“Investment in ECE is a great education spend today, but it can also reduce poverty and inequality overtime. Supporting families by extending free ECE provides more choice for all families with young children. All the evidence shows that to get the full benefit of improved access to ECE it must be good quality. That’s why we’re also including an ambitious plan to boost the quality of early childhood education at the same time.


I believe that we can stretch this research out way beyond pre-school though to the end of school years. “So making preschooling compulsory for the children of beneficiaries actually dodges the most critical factor for a child’s future – their home environment. Most child development experts will tell you children need a good home in which they are able to form an attachment to their parents for proper development. For that to occur, parents need to be nurturing and interacting with their children: talking to them, cuddling them, and generally taking an interest in their lives.”https://hef.org.nz/2012/should-preschool-be-compulsory/


“An early start in formal institutionalized schooling deprives children of the free exploration so crucial to the development of genius.” https://hef.org.nz/2012/14177/


“Neufeld is against four-year-old kindergarten. He’s also against five year-old kindergarten. And possibly even six-year-old kindergarten. Unless, of course, kindergarten is all about play and not at all about results.” https://hef.org.nz/2012/ece-preschool-is-no-good-for-4-5-and-possibly-6-year-olds-expert-says/


“We found that children whose primary care arrangement between 1.5 and 4 years was in daycare-center or with an extended family member were around 50 per cent more likely to be overweight or obese between the ages of 4-10 years compared to those cared for at home by their parents,” lead researcher Dr. Marie-Claude Geoffroy said in a statement Monday. ” https://hef.org.nz/2012/ece-linked-to-obesity-in-kids-study/


” The Swedish Government claims that research shows that children in day care develop and learn much better than home cared children. But the Swedish statistics tell another story. Psychosomatic symptoms such as regular headaches, tummy aches, worries and anxiety tripled for girls and doubled for boys during the years 1985-2005. A Government investigation quoted a study showing that Sweden has the worst development in psychological health among our youth in relation to eleven comparable European countries. The school results went down during the same period and are now, in some scholastic subjects, below the OECD average. The quality of parenthood has deteriorated, and adult sick leave is high, especially for women. As Sweden is materially rich with a wealth of public social insurances and good wealth distribution and low child poverty this is hardly the cause. The most realistic cause is the early separation of children and parents for too many hours per working day as strongly encouraged by our Government.” https://hef.org.nz/2012/about-early-child-care-in-sweden/


“METIRIA TUREI to the Prime Minister: When he said “we don’t want to see any New Zealand child suffer … children don’t get to make choices, they’re often the victim of circumstance” does that mean he will take tangible steps to ensure children don’t suffer because of circumstances beyond their control?” https://hef.org.nz/…/new-zealand-sweden-and-the-johanssons/ I am not sure we can trust the Government to “ensure children don’t suffer because of circumstances beyond their control.” The Government is more interested in policy, money and their own philosophy – which is at odds with the majority of New Zealanders – read the link to see what has happened in Sweden where the Swedish Government thinks that they know what is best.


“Long hours in nurseries or with childminders lead to mental health problems and difficulties at school for children, a leading expert claimed yesterday.
According to researcher Jonas Himmelstrand, falling educational standards and a wave of disorder and bullying in schools are directly connected to state subsidies for daycare.” https://hef.org.nz/2013/long-days-at-nursery-or-with-childminders-raising-a-generation-of-school-tearaways/


“Daycare or preschool stress can be measured by the levels of cortisol-—a stress hormone—-that children produce during the day. In normal, healthy people, cortisol levels follow a daily rhythm, peaking when they wake and then falling over the course of the day. Cortisol levels are the lowest just before sleep (Sapolsky 2004). But stress changes the pattern. If you are under stress, your cortisol level rises, regardless of the time of day. In the short term, this helps your body respond to the crisis. But chronic stress, and chronically elevated levels of cortisol, can cause health and developmental problems (Sapolsky 2004). Because cortisol levels are easy to measure in young children, researchers have collected samples from children who attend daycare and children who stay home. In study after study, the results are the same. When children stay home, their cortisol levels show the healthy pattern–rising at waking and decreasing throughout the day. When children attend daycare, the pattern  changes. Cortisol levels increase during the day (Geoffroy et al 2006). See more at: http://www.parentingscience.com/preschool-stress.html#sthash.DxbP97o1.dpuf


The July 12-18 2014 Listener has a balanced article in it: http://www.listener.co.nz/lifestyle/the-best-start/. Dame Lesley Max wrote in Endangered Species “if parents-to-be learnt nothing more than the crucial importance of talking to and with their children, something greatly significant would have been achieved.” Once a teacher herself, she is dismayed that the impact parents could have as early educators is still being “studiously ignored”, and makes the point in the foundations’s annual report: “Currently, education policy is build around the fallacious principle that teachers have more influence on educational outcomes than parents and the home do.”


Read more here… 

The Greens would be doing far better by helping parents to have the confidence and skills to parent their own children rather than separating parents and children


What are you going to do when your homeschooled children grow up and have to face the “real world”

Here is Billie Walker Glazier‘s answer

Frequently I ignore the rude comments that roll from my back suggesting that homeschool is not “normal” school, or that public school is “real” school.

But I could not help it today. It was just really poor timing for the poor lady who mistakenly asked me what I am going to do when my homeschooled children grow up and have to face the “real world”. I smiled at this lady. I paused and collected my thoughts to make certain I did not leave any of them unspoken.

I said, “I will be glad on that day and I will rejoice in it! I will know beyond a shadow of a doubt that my children have been raised in this world and have been equipped to handle anything it throws before them. I will know that they will be answering more questions than they ask while walking along the beach. I make certain that is where they learn about marine life. I know they will have a plan to help world hunger as I have carefully exposed them to a physical environment of meeting the needs of those who have stumbled to a point of homeless. I can trust, should they choose a medical field, that they are successful sooner than many as they have learned health at a hospital. I know they will balance their finances as an expert due to their studies conducted at the bank in lieu of a textbook. Should they find themselves lost in this world, they will soon recall their guide in the heavens as they have learned to navigate with the stars as their milestones.

I am confident my children will never face the real world acutely, as they have been in it all along, daily, taking full advantage of its wonders, and the natural educational tools that surround them will not, to any homeschooled child, be new or unexpected. How about you… when your child breaks from the brick confinement directed by strangers… what will you do?


Ten Ways to Make Your Children Hate Learning

Ten Ways to Make Your Children Hate Learning — by Victoria Botkin

1. Exasperate them with bureaucratic micro-management (ie. Insist that they do everything just the way the Teacher’s Guide told you they have to do it) making them wait while you re-read the Teacher’s Guide to figure out exactly what it is you’re supposed to do next.

2. Teach them that their worth or intelligence is tied to how fast they get schoolwork over with, and how they perform on standardized tests.

3. Interrupt them when they are reading something interesting and useful, and insist that they follow the lesson plan for the day.

4. Complain that you have always found the subject being studied boring or hard.

5. Harangue them about how burdensome their education is to you and whine about impending homeschool burnout.

6. Waste their time with fill-in-the-blanks workbooks designed solely to keep pupils busy.

7. Insult their intelligence by choosing badly written, badly illustrated, or blatantly politically correct books. Assume that they have vulgar, puerile tastes and are unable to process pictures of actual people, choosing instead books illustrated with demeaning cartoon characters.

8. Reinforce the message that learning itself is not rewarding by bribing them with computer games, TV time, and movies as a reward for finishing their schoolwork for the day.

9. Encourage them frequently with reminders that they will graduate some day and never have to learn anything again, ever.

10. Express your longing for that day often and fervently.

What would you add to this list?

Used with permission



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