Sunday, 22 March 2015

Home educated students in NSW excluded from TAFE- Urgent help needed from all home educators

Many of you may have heard about problems with the new TAFE funding system called Smart and Skilled. What you may not have heard is that home educated students have had extra difficulties. 

When home educated students sought to enrol in TAFE this year many were told that they did not qualify for a funded place at TAFE because they were “still at school” and funding is only available to individuals who are no longer in school. Many home educating families argued that their students were not at school and they were provisionally enrolled. The HEA sought clarification from Smart and Skilled, provided them with detailed information on how excluding home educated students from funding would affect them. The HEA argued that our students should not be considered to be school students or they should be routinely exempted from the requirement to no longer be at school under an existing exceptional circumstances clause.

Yesterday, after six weeks of deliberations, the HEA was informed that home educated students are considered to be school students and so cannot access Smart and Skilled funded places at TAFE. This affects 15 and 16 year old home educated students undertaking Certificate II, III and IV courses. It means that TAFE courses are going to cost home educating families up to $10 000 or more for a 6 month course (versus free for students with a disability, or a few hundred dollars for those eligible for a concession or a few thousand for those without a disability or concession).

The funding agreement between the NSW government and education providers like TAFE describes this exclusion. http://www.training.nsw.gov.au/forms_documents/smartandskilled/contract/contract.pdf The exclusion of school students is described on page 50 the exceptional circumstances clause that would allow home educated students to attend TAFE is on page 51.

Many home educated students undertake TAFE courses as a pathway into formal and further education, including University. The effective removal of this pathway will cause enormous hardship to many home educating families who will either have to pay horrendous TAFE fees or not have their students attend TAFE at all.

TAFE directs school students who wish to undertake TAFE to access school-based apprenticeships or traineeships or TVET courses. However, these courses are not available to home educated students, are limited in scope and cannot meet the needs of the many home educated students with disabilities or other special needs for whom the school environment has proven unsafe or ineffective.  Ironically the Department of Education does not allow home educated students to do school based apprenticeships or traineeship or TVET courses because they do not consider them to be school students.

You may not currently have an older student looking at TAFE but years go by quickly and we must retain this option for our kids.

Our only hope in getting this change reversed is to bombard Liberal candidates before the election about our distress on this matter (Labor already has a policy to ditch the Smart and Skilled funding system).  We desperately need home educators across the state to contact their Liberal candidate to ask them to fix this problem and to get their friends and family to do the same. We have one week until the election! We must get them to change this now! After the election our chances will be very slim. We must make sure that every candidate in every electorate gets multiple contacts on this over the weekend and early next week.

Your local Liberal Candidate can be contacted at  http://nsw.liberal.org.au/contact-your-local-liberal/

The Premier can be contacted at   http://www.nsw.gov.au/your-government/contact-premier-new-south-wales

If you are in an electorate with a Nationals candidate but no Liberal one contact the Nationals candidate.

Look out for candidates at community events this weekend and during next week and accost them about this!   Many candidates also have a Facebook page you can post on.

You can use the following text in messages to your candidates or put it in your own words or just add in your own distress/anger (but keep it civil). If you feel you can add that this will influence your voting decision do so.

The Home Education Association was notified yesterday by Smart and Skilled that home educated students are not eligible for any government funding to attend TAFE. Liberal policy on TAFE has effectively excluded home educated students from TAFE by excluding them from any funding under Smart and Skilled because they are considered to be “school students”. This means that parents are being asked to pay $10 000 or more for their kids to do TAFE.

Home educated students receive no funding or support from the State government, many have been failed by the school system, many have disabilities or other special needs and many use TAFE as a pathway to further education including universities.

Liberal policy is directly harming this already disadvantaged group of students.

Smart and Skilled should consider that home educated students are not school students or use the already existing “exceptional circumstances” clause to exempt them from the school leaving requirement.

The Liberal Party will lose votes at the election over this issue. There are up to 10 000 home educated students in NSW and their parents, friends and extended family all consider this policy and unfair.  The Labor Party has promised to remove the Smart and Skilled funding policy, which will allow home educated students to continue to study at TAFE for a reasonable price. I urge the Liberal Party to change their policy.

Friends or family may not be willing to send a long message to candidates but many might be willing to say something like:  “I am the [grandparent, cousin, sister, friend, work colleague- insert relationship] of a home educating family. I have heard that the Liberal government is excluding home educated students from TAFE by making them pay full fees of up to $10000 for certificate courses. This is unfair and wrong. Please change this policy.”  Again, if they feel they can add in that this decision will influence their voting decisions it would be helpful for this to be added.

In recruiting family or friends to help (and out of NSW home educators might like to do this) you can post the following on your Facebook wall or via email

“Friends and family in NSW please help us. As you know we are a home educating family. The NSW government has just confirmed that home educated students are excluded from funded places at TAFE and so families are being asked to pay up to more than $10 000 for certificate II, III and IV courses. The home education community is lobbying Liberal candidates at the election to change their policy. Will you help us?? I can send you a short message you can send to the Liberal candidate in your electorate.”

Please we must get as many people as possible involved! We need this decision reversed this week.

- Karleen Gribble, HEA Lobby Committee Chair   (For further info or clarification you may contact Karleen directly on 0431118485)

- HEA Lobby Sub-Committee

- HEA Executive Committee 

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Lobbying: Home education is legal. Domestic violence impedes the right of a parent to home educate.

Your help is needed.

 In NSW, the Board of Studies, Teaching and Educational Standards (BoSTES) requires  applications for home education to have the signatures of both parents where (in the case of divorce or separation), shared responsibility for their children’s education is court ordered.

While the Parliamentary Inquiry into homeschooling considered this issue it also failed to address it. Marginalised and traumatised people are being negatively impacted. Custodial parents should have equal access to home education registration without the discriminatory impediment of dual parental consent, a condition not imposed for a child to enrol in mainstream school.

click here to see full article..