Wednesday, 15 April 2020

PRESS RELEASE: NESA tightens regulations for homeschoolers during COVID-19 situation.

Home Education is the only part of the education sector which has not experienced huge upheaval in recent weeks. Ironically, as the wider education sector has looked to home educators for advice on managing their children at home, the NSW Department of Education (NESA) has taken this opportunity to tighten regulations for homeschooling, giving shorter registration periods to some applicants.

Until 2 April, NESA continued to conduct home visits as part of the homeschooling registration process, causing concern for some applicants and seemingly inconsistent with the social distancing policies of the Government. Only on April 2 did NESA decide that electronic meetings would replace the face to face visits, but then also announced that shorter registration periods would be given as a result of this. Members of the home education community are reporting being given 4 month initial registrations, and 6 months for renewals. Usual practice is 12 months for initial registrations and 2 years for renewals. Short registrations are especially problematic due to the need to re-apply 3 months before expiry. This has placed some home educators in the position of needing to reapply just 3 weeks after receiving their registration certificate.

Also announced by NESA is the intention to give 6 month extensions to some home educators. There has been no explanation of how these decisions might be made. The process lacks transparency and fairness. Some home educators are being given extensions, while others are experiencing a tightening of the regulations.

The Home Education Association, Inc. (HEA) has been advocating with NESA and the NSW Education Minister’s Office to provide 6 month extensions to all renewals of registration, as well as 6 months automatic registration for new applicants during the pandemic. This would allow a fair, consistent approach to all home educators. It also has the advantage of allowing NESA to focus on other areas of organisational priority at this time, along with maintaining engagement in the home education registration process, which will mean it is easier to resume visits when life returns to normal.

NESA are stating that they are taking a “risk based approach” to justify the shorter registration periods. It is disappointing that they are not taking a flexible commonsense approach like the regulators in other jurisdictions, where a range of teleconferencing options are being implemented, without penalty to the applicants.

The HEA today calls on NSW Minister for Education, the Hon Sarah Mitchell MLC, to intervene on behalf of home educators and instruct NESA to provide flexible, fair options to home educators at this time, such as:
Six month extensions/registrations, or
Registration by documentation, or
Teleconferencing options without penalty - ie, it is treated as a normal home visit and the usual regulations applied.

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