Considerations when hiring help (and other thoughts for new home educators)

Cynthia Hancox has written a great article for new home educators especially as they consider who to help them with the exemption process and possible tutoring of their children.

As more and more teachers are loosing their jobs this is a great article for teachers to read to understand home educators before they offer their services to home educators.


NZ’s COVID situation and response has led to a big rise in interest in homeschooling, as well as to a rise in teachers and others who are offering to help in various ways in this space. Before you spend money hiring someone to help you with your exemption, to help you plan your programme, or to teach your children, there are some things you need to think about. This is quite a long read, so here’s the “in a nutshell” bullet points:
*When you get an exemption, you are taking complete responsibility for your child’s education and what it will include.
*There’s no one right way to homeschool; you can choose what works for your family.
*You can get help with your exemption in various ways, but if paying for help, there are some things to consider first, especially how experienced the person is with homeschooling & exemptions.
*You can choose to hire tutors/teachers for certain aspects of your child’s programme if you wish, but must remain in control of how and what they are being taught.
*If you do want to hire teachers etc, there are some things to think about first
*People come and go from homeschooling for different reasons and over different periods of time. We welcome you while you’re here, but ask you to be mindful of how what you do and say reflects upon the entire community.

Let’s explore these points and more further…..

Read Cynthia’s article here:


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 started


Information on getting an exemption

This link is motivational:

Exemption Form online:

Coming Events:


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


Record of Progress and Achievement

Exemption Form

“Remember, you will need to have a record of progress and achievement over time i.e weekly, termly, annually. This may also be needed when your child goes on to further education or training.”

This is enough to put anyone off home educating their children – well most people. Some people love to write up these sorts of reports on blogs and in diaries – most people don’t. So this needs to be clearer. It is enough to write up these reports for the ERO or for further education or training when required.  I mean that, it is OK to forget about the “ERO, further education or training” and get on with “teaching our children as regular and well as a registered school” until we need the “record of progress and achievement”. At that point we can sit down and collect all the information that we need which will be different for each “ERO, further education or training”.

At a recent meeting with Jim Greening (Group Manager, Schools and Student Support), Sonya Logan  (Manager, Student Engagement) and Lucy Ambrose (Senior Advisor, Learner Engagement) we talked about this. I asked them if the advice I give out to people is correct. This is what I like to tell people.

Forget about the ERO. Just get on with “teaching your child/ren as regular and well as a registered school”.

UNTIL you get the letter from the ERO informing you of a review. There are only 35 reviews budgetted for each year and the ERO has been doing far less than this over the last few years (14 last year).

Then DON’T start suddenly doing a whole lot of bookwork with your child/ren, carry on as you have been doing. This is the time for you, as the parent, to get prepared for the review. You will have roughly two weeks to prepare. Here is something I wrote up about this a few years ago which might be helpful: During this two week period there is plenty of time to write notes, collect photos, videos, samples of work etc, representing a “record of progress and achievement over time”.

They all nodded and said that this was a good and acceptable way to “keep a record of progress and achievement over time“.

Other helpful info on ERO reviews: 

NO MORE Home Schooling ERO REVIEWS!!!

What should we be doing now that there are no longer ERO reviews

Youtube short clip: Book: Preparing for an ERO Review

Here are a couple of booklets written by NZ authors to help you through your ERO Review


Help with new inquiries and filling out exemption forms

At this time of the year in previous years we have had a lot of phone calls from parents thinking about home schooling/educating their children in the coming year. This year will be no different. But this year Craig is not here and I am still figuring out all the things that Craig used to do. I also have some difficult cases on my hands with the ERO and CYPs and one person who contacted me early on who was having trouble with special education that I still need to contact back. So I need to field these calls to others so that I can still get some time with my 3 young children. If several people come forward to answer these calls then the work load can be spread, making it lighter for all of us.

As we were  heading for the Wellington hospital just before Craig was diagnosed with Stage 4 Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) I put this link on our website:

I would like to make this a more comprehensive list for the beginning of this year. I would like to make it much easier for people to find the right person to ring. Many of the websites in the link above do not have phone numbers to contact. Often people will want to ring and speak to someone rather than email.

Sometimes you get someone ringing up and they don’t know what to ask. So they will ask something like “How much does it cost to home school?” as their opening question. As we continue talking we can take that person on a journey and really inspire them about home educating their children. Often these calls take about 2 hours. It is not about just giving the person a quick answer. It is giving them confidence that they CAN home educate and giving them some tools to enable to to get started etc etc etc. This is not about just giving someone a few facts. It is about inspiring someone to home educate who is not sure that they can do it. Sometimes these calls are all it needs to tip someone from sending their children back to school or launching out to home educating their children. Other callers are needing help to fill out their exemption forms.

So I am now asking for those who would like to be included in the list above to please contact me – Please let me know if you are from a support group and would like have your name under that support group or if you are just interested in helping people in your area whether there is a support group there or not then let me know as well. Thanks

Needing help for your home schooling journey?

Home schooling exemption form now online


From the Smiths:

Updated 10 December 2011: Life for Those Left Behind (Craig Smith’s Health) page 6 click here


Needing help for your home schooling journey:


Here are a couple of links to get you started home schooling: