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New Zealand
New Zealand

February 14, 2013

Slippery Slope to Mandatory Schooling

By Barbara Smith

Greetings from New Zealand.

Right now we’re very concerned about a bill being considered by our parliament: The Social Security (Benefit Categories and Work Focus) Bill will compel parents receiving a benefit to send their preschool children to an approved early childhood education (ECE) provider, register the children with a health care provider, and make sure they attend the government’s Well Child checks.

Obviously this is a big worry to New Zealand’s home educators. Home educators on a benefit don’t want to lose the right to teach their preschool children at home, while even families who are not on a benefit will have to worry about what might happen if their breadwinner loses his job. Families who don’t fulfill these “social obligations’ will face a fifty-percent benefit sanction and “intensified case management support” which, according to government documents, means interference from social services and fraud investigation.

Even more worrying is the possibility that beneficiaries are just the beginning. The Ministry for Social Development, which sponsored the bill, previously announced a policy on vulnerable children. This policy outlined a number of goals including a 98% ECE attendance rate by 2016. Obviously the government believes that all children not physically incapable of doing so should attend ECE.

This is what noted human rights attorney Ruby Harrold-Claesson called “the tyranny of the small steps” when she was in New Zealand helping us fight anti-spanking legislation. We believe that making ECE compulsory for children of beneficiaries is just the first step toward this goal of universal ECE attendance. If this bill passes, we believe they will extend compulsory ECE to others receiving government funds and finally to everyone.

We have been carrying on a small campaign to resist this legislation and have been encouraged to read a number of submissions from other groups such as the New Zealand Law Society pointing out the discrimination involved in forcing beneficiaries to send their children to preschools. We have also been really encouraged by the number of submissions that were made by individuals and home schooling groups from around the world. The majority of submissions against this bill were from homeschoolers.

Our fight against this bill continues while the Select Committee writes up their report which is due March 20, 2013. The second reading of the bill will be shortly after that. We will also be contacting political parties and making a human rights complaint, but we do remember the words of Psalm 146: “Put not your trust in princes.” Please remember us in your prayers.

Barbara Smith is the National Director of the Home Education Foundation.

 Other Resources

Learn more by visiting HSLDA’s New Zealand page.