The NSW parliamentary report on home schooling, was released last week and contains some recommendations that have drawn harsh criticism from the home education community and the Director of Homeschool Christian Academy Mr. Stuart Chapman.
A summary of the recommendations with commentary is given below:
That relevant provisions of the Education Act 1990 be amended to ensure the practice of home schooling is referred to as non-institution based education.
Good. No problem here.
That the Board of Studies, Teaching and Educational Standards commission research into ‘unschooling’ as an educational approach used by some members of the home schooling population, with a focus on whether this approach achieves acceptable education outcomes for the child.
Bad; This is based on the concerns of the committee that ‘unschooling’ may result in poor education outcomes. However, are not parents the best ones to judge what is working for their child, rather than extremely highly paid, unelected bureaucrats that neither know nor love the children concerned?
What are these so-called acceptable outcomes for students? Will the government clearly define them? Will the government sack teachers and close schools when a number of students do not meet these standards or will they continue to be hypocrites and impose higher standards on parents who home educate? Will such research take into consideration the harm that previous school education has done to children?
That the Minister for Education write to the Federal Minister responsible for the Australian Bureau of Statistics, recommending that the Census form be amended to capture more information relevant to identifying the extent of home schooling within Australia.
Bad: While a census question concerning home education certainly would be of interest, many home educators would prefer not to be mandated to give such information to the government.
That the Board of Studies, Teaching and Educational Standards review their registration forms and include a mandatory provision of the reason as to why an applicant has decided to home school their child, with this data being extracted and reviewed annually.
Bad: Giving reasons to home school should be voluntary. Instead the BOSTES could put a voluntary online poll on their website. Options could include: 1. Schools are overrated; 2. My child learns better with a parent whom they trust than a highly paid employee who does not love my child; 3. The National Curriculum is not very good. 4. Schools only measure academics and attendance and do not have any appreciation of my child’s likes and dislikes. 5. All of the above
That the Board of Studies, Teaching and Educational Standards pursue opportunities for home schooling students to participate in NAPLAN testing, except in cases where it has been demonstrated that a student has a learning difficulty, disability or other special need.
Bad: Home educated students can already do NAPLAN if desired. One of the main reasons given for not doing these assessments, is that unlike a teacher in a class of 30 students, a home school parent already knows their child’s ability without the need for further testing.
That the Board of Studies, Teaching and Educational Standards undertake further research into the outcomes of home schooling in three years’ time.
Bad: The BOSTES is not an independent body and has already shown a lack of understanding and consultation with regards to home education. The Department’s comments in this enquiry indicated that they believe that home educators cannot be trusted. It is clear that there is a strong possibility that any research done by this Department will be done by people who have no personal experience and little understanding of home education. Such research is likely to be biased.
That the Minister for Education review the registration requirements for home schooling so as to allow students from 4.5 years to 19 years to be registered for home schooling.
Bad: No registration requirement is the only acceptable option. Registration implies that the State has precedence over the family, which is extremely dangerous and wrong.
That the Minister for Education undertake a comprehensive review of the requirements and registration process for home schooling, in order to improve rigour, consistency and transparency and further work with stakeholders to ensure this outcome.
Bad: This likely would mean more bureaucratic interference and regulation. Parents have a vested interest in achieving the best possible outcomes for their children and don’t need improvement advice from government officials. Parents should not have to register to home educate their children. As recognised in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, parents have a prior right to choose the education for their child.
It is suggested that the Minister encourage the BOSTES to focus on improving its own substandard performance. As recent NAPLAN results has shown, only one in five Year 9 NSW students can figure out the area of a floor surface even with a calculator and about 90 per cent are unable to answer sums involving positive and negative numbers.
That the Board of Studies, Teaching and Educational Standards review the roles of staff involved in the regulation of home schooling, so as to create a new position of an Assessment and Support Officer, whose primary purpose is to provide guidance and support to home schooling applicants, to ensure they are providing an educational program that meets the syllabus requirements and child’s needs.
Bad: Homeschoolers don’t need more bureaucrats to offer them advice, nor do they need the heavy hand of government overseeing whether they are meeting the syllabus requirements. Parents should be able to choose their own curriculum and syllabus rather than be forced to use one that may not reflect their worldview or the individual needs of their children.
That the Board of Studies, Teaching and Educational Standards develop and commit to a professional development and training policy for all staff involved in the regulation of home schooling, with regular involvement from representatives of the home schooling population.
Bad: Whileit is an improvement that home education bureaucrats receive professional training from home educators, there is no evidence to suggest that regulation improves performance.
That the NSW Government investigate mechanisms to identify children who are not receiving compulsory education.
Very Bad: The government intends to use birth records or other means to find unregistered home educating parents, because without registration the government is unable to exercise control. There is a concern that private information given to commonwealth departments will be shared illegally with state authorities. There was no evidence presented in the enquiry that unregistered home educators were providing a lower standard of education. In fact, research in the USA has shown that extra regulation of home school children makes no difference to educational outcomes.
That the Board of Studies, Teaching and Educational Standards Board establish a consultative group to:
oversee consultation between the BOSTES and home schooling population
provide input to and review the design and implementation of home schooling
policies and procedures
provide ongoing advice and assistance to the BOSTES.
That the consultative group be chaired by the Executive Director of Regulation and Governance from the Board of Studies, Teaching and Educational Standards Board. Membership of the consultative group to include at least four home schooling representatives and at least four others nominated by BOSTES for their knowledge and expertise in primary and secondary education and the education of children with disabilities.
Bad: This is better than the current situation where the BOSTES introduced new regulations without substantive consultation with the homeschooling community. However, the NSW Education Act needs to be altered so that there is no registration. At the very least, changing the Act, so that it is closer to the Victorian model, which requires no visits and no documentation would be far better than this minor improvement.
That the Board of Studies, Teaching and Educational Standards continue with consultation with the home schooling population and ensure that this happens on a regular basis.
Good. The Board of studies should consult more, rather than think that they can just impose their regulations without consultation.
That the Board of Studies, Teaching and Educational Standards undertake a review of the Registration for Home Schooling in NSW – Information Package, in consultation with key stakeholders, with this review to be finalised by June 2016.
Bad. What are needed are not better policies but changes to the Education Act. Unless the Act is changed the registration policies will still be problematic.
That the Board of Studies, Teaching and Educational Standards ensure that any registration assessment recognise that educational experiences outside of the home can be valuable and incorporated into an educational program, subject to these activities contributing to syllabus outcomes
Good. The previous regulation stating that only at home experiences ‘counted’ was bureaucratic insanity.
That the Board of Studies, Teaching and Educational Standards develop, in consultation with stakeholders, a strategy that promotes membership of home schooling organisations to applicants of home schooling.
Bad. The key word is “applicants”. The committee clearly has a mindset that parents must apply to the government to get permission before they can home educate. This is an infringement of the parent’s fundamental right to choose the education for their child. Home educated parents are well connected and don’t need government strategies to find help.
That the Department of Family and Community Services review their policies and systems, with the objective of identifying and improving the collection and reporting of data related to child protection matters within the home schooling population.
Extremely Bad. No evidence was presented to show that home-educated students were at higher risk than school students. This is simply outrageous and an attack on the privacy and fundamental rights of parents.
That the Minister for Education investigate and report on the barriers to home schooling students participating in and being awarded a Higher School Certificate.
Good. No problems here.
That the Department of Education and Communities review their policies to ensure that home school students can access and participate in Hospital School Programs.
Good No problems here.
That the Department of Education and Communities investigate and report on the impacts of home schooling students accessing schools, either on a part time basis, or for particular components, on schools educational delivery and child protection and safety.
Extremely Bad: The Department has no role to play with regards to child protection and safety of home-educated children. The Department should be ashamed that at least 30% of school students report that they have been bullied under the so-called protective eye of the Department. The Department cannot even get its own house in order and has no authority to report or check on students not under its jurisdiction. This recommendation is heinous.
That the Board of Studies, Teaching and Educational Standards provide information to home schooling applicants about options that exist for financial assistance.
Bad: Many homeschoolers do not want any special funding because this may be seen as an opportunity for registration and control.
That the Board of Studies, Teaching and Educational Standards and the Minister for Education take whatever action is necessary to ensure students registered for home schooling receive a student card for the purpose of obtaining student concessions.
Bad: Child rates should be available for all students under 18; after that age, students should all have part time jobs so that they understand they are not totally dependent on the taxpayer or their parents.
That the Board of Studies, Teaching and Educational Standards identify and develop, in consultation with parents and students, additional resources that may provide assistance to home schoolers in providing quality educational programs.
Bad; Many home educators would far rather use a public library than a school library for resources. It is highly unlikely that the government would provide Christian resources and Biblical worldview material in public schools, which would make such additional resources of extremely limited value to half of the home school market.
That home schooling organisations be encouraged to develop and implement strategies that promote increased support for home schooling parents and students.
Silly: Home schooling organisations do not need to be encouraged by the government to provide more support.
Very Bad 1
Extremely bad 2