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August 18, 2014

Annual Home Visits for Homeschoolers? No Thanks!

Staff Attorney Mike Donnelly is HSLDA’s director of global outreach. Read more >>

With over 30,000 homeschooling families, Australia has one of the larger homeschooling populations in the world. Currently, homeschooling is legal in all states and territories, where regulations vary. One of the largest states is New South Wales with a population of about 7 million. Homeschoolers in New South Wales must submit lengthy applications and are then subject to an intrusive “home inspection” to confirm that they measure up to standards. Since parents must reapply annually and go through the same process it’s no wonder that many homeschooling parents simply choose not to comply.

As a result of a protest against more regulation, a petition of over 10,000 signatures was submitted to the New South Wales parliament, resulting in the initiation of a “parliamentary inquiry.” (See HSLDA’s story on the petitions.) It is encouraging that the state parliament is open to reconsidering the regulatory regime for homeschoolers. The legislative council formed a Select Committee on Homeschooling, announced on June 16, and will inquire into and report on homeschooling in New South Wales. The committee will be reviewing homeschooling practices and comparing the current system with other jurisdictions in Australia and New Zealand.

Looking to Improve

HSLDA commends the committee for seeking the opinions of those most affected: homeschoolers. The committee chair, the Hon. Paul Green, MLC said, “We want to hear from all stakeholders, including unregistered home schooling families. We assure those families that this inquiry is not about identifying individuals that are not complying with the registration process; it is about looking at the challenges within the home schooling system with the aim of developing recommendations that may lead to improvements in this area.”

The committee set up an inquiry process whereby interested parties and individuals may register their opinions directly with lawmakers. This represents an exciting opportunity for homeschoolers to directly influence for the better the laws and policies that will affect their lives, and HSLDA has submitted a letter to the committee recommending a significant reduction of the regulatory burden on parents.

HSLDA Director of Global Outreach Mike Donnelly said that “the current regulatory framework in place in New South Wales is unnecessarily, burdensome, intrusive and discretionary. It places undue and unjustified bureaucratic burden on parents who wish to exercise their basic right to determine how their children are educated. When the state exercises authority over the education of children it must respect the prior and pre-eminent right and role of parents in making decisions about how their children are educated. This includes location, methodology and curriculum. Homeschoolers should not be subjected to mandatory and annual home visitation or teaching a national curriculum.”

Setting an Example

HSLDA is working with local advocates and policymakers to support the development of a regulatory regime that recognizes that parents, rather than the state, know what is best for their children. A positive change in homeschooling policy in New South Wales is an important step for homeschoolers living there, but the effects could be far more reaching. A change in the policy in New South Wales has the potential to also affect the other states and territories in Australia and would set an example for other nations.

Research indicates that there is no correlation between regulation and academic or social outcomes. Homeschooling can best flourish when unimpeded by onerous regulations. Although the window for submissions to the inquiry on homeschooling has closed, the committee is still in deliberations and has yet to publish its findings.

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