The graphic below shows the dates for each region.
After the big overhaul of the NCEA system that has been conducted over the last couple of years and is now coming into force, I was recently informed that the Ministry is conducting a series of Teacher Only training days at local high schools. Home educators may attend - they need to contact the principal of their local high school in order to arrange this. Note that I expect you would need to make other arrangements for the care of your children during this time.
The graphic below shows the dates for each region.
The Ministry's "Official" Application Forms
The current Ministry of Education application forms (published 2016) are designed to be used for a single, individual child. This is because at the time of publishing, the Ministry felt strongly that "each child must have an individual application." However, since that time through ongoing meetings and conversations with the Ministry, they have come to see the sense in being able to include more than one child in a single application in some circumstances. As a result, they have promised updated forms that allow for the inclusion of information on more than one child in a single form, but that hasn't happened yet.
Meanwhile, keep the following in mind:
Including multiple children in one application
If you are writing exemption applications for 2 (or more) children who are very close in age and/or in stage of learning - eg twins, or often children 1-2 years apart in age, or where one is behind or advanced, bringing them closer in level, or in some cases where the program is very multi-child, such as unit studies based - then it often makes a great deal of sense to combine their information in one application. Otherwise you might be essentially supplying two almost identical sets of documents, with just the name changed. If you feel like that's you, or close, then yes, write them in one document if you like.
Note, however, that is is absolutely ESSENTIAL that if you choose to do this, that you show sufficient and suitable information that demonstrates that you are taking into account each child's particular needs, which might include areas of strength or weakness, particular learning needs, next steps in learning, or individual preferences in things like sports, music etc etc.
Here are some examples of applications I would write as one, and the ways I would personalise them:
Note: No matter how you format your applications, you must have different topic plans for each child (even if you are planning to have them all take part in each topic). So if it's all in one document, have Topic Plan 1, Topic Plan 2 etc, each centred around a different child.
For the last few years, I have written or supported families writing quite a number of multi-child single applications through all regions of the country. Most have been twins or children just 1-2 years apart working at the same level. In only one case I know of, did the Ministry turn around and insist they needed completely separate documents for each child (it happened to be twins). So the parent changed the name/s in the document and printed two copies. I hope that that office later realised it was a bit silly. If someone strikes this, I would be happy to discuss the situation and provide support if needed.
When should you NOT put them all in one document?
The reality is that a lot of the time it's actually EASIER to write the applications separately. That doesn't mean it's double or triple or whatever the work - you write one, then use it as as template for the others, saving a lot of time. It's ok to have a lot of similar or same content in applications for different children - that is normal - so long as their individual needs are covered where applicable.
But by doing them individually, it can be much easier to just focus on the one child at a time and what their individual program looks like. Unless your children are very close in age/ability and are therefore doing essentially the same program as discussed above, it makes more sense to write them up individually. If you're trying to cram a lot of different info about multiple children into one document, it could become very long and potentially confusing.
After you've written the first application, just save an extra copy, use the Replace function to change the name throughout, and then go through and edit the parts that need modifying for the next child - likely to be primarily English and Math, then Science and Social Studies depending on your planned approach, and the rest is most likely just about individual interests where they apply. You also must have a different Topic Plan for each child, regardless of the format of your applications.
The Ministry of Education divides the country into 10 "regions." When sending in an exemption application or needing to contact your regional office about home education matters, it's useful to know which ones cover what region. So here is the current list. Note, there are additional local offices in each region, but those do not deal with home education matters as such - they are only handled by the specific regional offices outlined below.
COVID-19: While we are under lockdown, Ministry staff are working from home. Exemption applications which are emailed to the regional offices will be processed, but those posted in cannot be processed at this time. For all matters during lockdown, it is best to EMAIL your regional office. Put "Home Education" in the subject line.
The email addresses given below are the central ones for each regional office. To ensure your email is directed appropriately, always put Home Education in the subject line.
If you are wanting information and forms to apply to Home Educate, you do not need to contact the offices. Just visit the Ministry's Home Education page, where you can download the forms and find current information.
(And for help understanding and completing those forms, see my Exemption Guide)
Regional Offices dealing with Home Education
The following include the contact details you can use when sending in an exemption or are needing to get in touch to update your address, advise your intention to begin/end a school trial, dates for leaving/returning to NZ or anything else related to your child's home education. The lead contacts named below are the specific staff members, where known, who deal directly with home education matters, or oversee such matters in their region.
Northland/Tai Tokerau (everything north of Wellsford)
PO Box 911
Phone: 09 436 8900
Lead Contact: Lyndsay Whitehead
Auckland (from Wellsford to Mercer)
Private Bag 92644
Phone: 09: 632 9400
Lead Contact: Julie Spedding
Waikato (includes Thames-Coromandal, Matamata-Piako, Waipa, Otorohanga, Waitomo and part of Ruapehu including Taumaranui)
PO Box 774
Phone: 07 850 8880
Lead Contact: Candida Hamana
Bay of Plenty/Waiariki (includes BOP, Taupo, Rotorua, Opotiki) - all home education matters are currently handled out of the Tauranga office
PO Box 15564
Phone: 07 571 7800
Lead Contact: Elizabeth (Liz) Moli
Whanganui (includes: Taranaki, Whanganui and Manawatu regions. Southern boundary is Himatangi corner. Tokomaru is included. Piahiatua and anything that side of the Tararuas is not)
Private Bag 3012
Phone: 06 349 6300
Lead Contact: Charles Quirk
Napier (Hawkes Bay and Gisborne)
PO Box 147
Phone: 06 833 6730
Lead Contact: Hana Ruth
Lower Hutt (from Foxton south including most of the Horowhenua, Kapiti, Porirua, Wairarapa and parts of Manawatu south of the Tararuas including Paihiatua)
PO Box 30177
Lower Hutt 5040
Phone: 04 463 8699
Lead Contact: Gail Vinnell
Nelson (all of Marlborough, Tasman, West Coast)
PO Box 282
Phone: 03 546 3470
Lead Contact: Alison Locke
Canterbury (includes Chatham Islands)
PO Box 2522, Addington
Phone: 03 378 7300
Lead Contact: Averill Manning
Otago/Southland (home education matters are handled in both Dunedin and Invercargill offices; the lead adviser is based in Invercargill)
Private Bag 1971
Phone: 03 471 5200 (Otago office)
or 03 211 8000 (Invercargill office)
Lead Contact: Trina Eastwood
The role of Lead Contact: A lead contact is a Senior Education Adviser who holds the portfolio for home education in their region. This means they take overall responsibility to ensure applications are processed and other enquiries responded to, but they may or may not directly process all exemptions themselves. In four of the offices, the lead contact is also the person who processes all exemptions. In all the other offices there are a number of advisers who process applications, reporting to the lead contact, who may peer review applications before a final decision is made. (All applications are peer reviewed, but by whom varies from office to office).
This department deals with the six monthly declarations and Supervision Allowance payments. They are also an alternative department to contact to update your contact details.
PO Box 1666
Phone: 04 463 8383
Map & Further Contact Details:
There are two important numbers assigned to home educating families and students which should be known and understood. Here's some info on how to find and use these numbers.
Family Homeschool Number
When a family applies for their first home education exemption, the Ministry staff processing the application create a record on their homeschooling database known as RAD. In doing so, the family is assigned a number which is personal to that family only. This number is displayed on the exemption certificate and all subsequent correspondence from the Ministry in respect of home education, such as the six monthly declarations.
The number will have, currently, 5 digits (older ones had 4), followed by a -1 for the first child exempt, a -2 for the second child and so on. For example, if the Smith family are homeschooling 3 exempt students, their family numbers might be 12345-1, 12345-2 and 12345-3.
You will seldom need to use this number, but it will come in handy if corresponding with the Ministry about anything to do with your family exemptions. So keep a record of it in a safe place.
National Student Numbers
Every student in New Zealand has a National Student Number or NSN which is assigned to them from the time they first enrol in an ECE, school, or gain an exemption. This is the number they are linked to on ENROL, the national schools database, as well as on the NZQA framework, Studylink, at tertiary institutes etc. NSNs are 9 digits long and are personal to each individual student rather than family.
If at any time you wish to enrol your child in a program which has credits or funding attached to it, then you will need their NSN number. You will also need it to complete an NZQA registration, which is also needed for earned credits to be recorded on the Framework, and to access those records.
You will also need an NSN to check eligibility for Fees Free via the Fees Free website.
It is mostly families of older students who need their NSN. Until now, finding out your student's NSN has required contacting the Ministry of Education and requesting it* - an often frustrating process. Last year at our meeting with the Ministry, in my role as Government Liaison for the National Council of Home Educators of NZ (NCHENZ), I requested that student NSNs be made easily accessible by including them with future exemption certificates and also adding them to the six monthly declarations. The Ministry agreed, and as of the current round of declarations (March 2020), these have been added.**
Now on your declarations you should see a line for each student which states:
Family homeschooling number, student's full name, students NSN.
Just one more reason to keep a copy of your declaration and not just shove it back in the post and return it. :-)
The student's NSN will also be stated on any new exemption certificates issued. An exemption certificate is a legal document, and should be kept in a safe place.**
Below is a made up copy of part of a declaration for a fictious student - the family number is in red and the NSN in blue for clarity. This format is what you should see on declarations from now on.
*Note: if you're reading this at a time when you don't have a declaration handy, and need your student's NSN, you can still ask for it by contacting the regional Ministry office in your area. You are most likely to be successful by contacting the staff member there who processes exemption applications, if you are a home educating family.
**Note: there is an exception - if you have applied for and been granted an exemption for a 5 year old, which doesn't legally come into effect before they turn 6, and have been sent out a declaration and/or exemption certificate in advance, post dated, then the NSN won't be on it/them as it won't have been generated yet; Ministry staff will have diarised adding your child to ENROL on their 6th birthday, at which point the NSN will be generated, and you will see that on your subsequent declaration. This is because Ministry staff are doing their best working with a sadly outdated and clunky database system, which causes all kinds of frustrations. Procedures in regional offices do vary - some will wait to send out the exemption certificate until the time of the birthday rolls around (in which case it will likely have the NSN on it), others will send them in advance, post dated (so they will not).
Ministry employees are working from home
All regional Ministry staff are working from home. They will be able to process exemption applications received via email (ie electronically), but not those that are sent by post, as they cannot access the mail until after the shutdown.
As doing it this way is new to most of them, they are unsure about whether timeframes for processing will be affected. However I've had a number of reports back from families who have submitted applications during lockdown so far that they have been approved very swiftly.
Regional staff will contact families to let them know that their application has been approved. At this point some regional offices are saying they will email the exemption certificate to families, others are saying they will have to wait until they are back in the office to access printers and will post them out. Some plan to do both.
This is the wording that the Ministry has added to their website on 2nd April:
"The Covid-19 lockdown has restricted how we process home-school applications and declarations. However, we will do our best to ensure no family who wishes to formally home-school their child, or children, is disadvantaged.
As our staff are having to work from home, local offices will only be able to process emailed applications.
If your application is approved you will receive your certificate of exemption by email.
If you have any queries please contact your local Ministry office."
Six monthly declarations and allowances
The April declarations were mailed out before lockdown. Families are starting to receive them now. I have today (Monday 30th) spoken to Resourcing Division and here is the situation and advice:
The lovely staff member I spoke to, who like everyone was taken by surprise by the announcement of impending lockdown, hastily printed off all declarations, took them home with him, and personally stuffed envelopes and sent them out, so families would get them (big ups to Kenneth!)
He advises me that while families can send the declarations back, they have no way of processing them, regardles of whether they are posted or emailed. This is because the system they are working with is complex and antiquated, partly paper based, and significant parts cannot be done remotely. IF the lockdown ends of schedule, they hope to make the payment as intended in the week starting May 18th, but if it is extended, it may be June or so before payments can be made.
Some families have already contacted the Ministry and emailed their forms. That is fine. HOWEVER, it would be much more helpful if the bulk of forms were posted to the Ministry, so they can work through them systematically as soon as they are able.
We discussed various aspects, and the following are important recommendations:
1) If you can, please post your declarations back. BEFORE you do this, take a scan or clear picture of it as a back up so that if there are issues later, you can then email that back up copy to them. But if you're one of the efficient ones who already sent it back in without keeping a copy, then don't worry about it; if later it turns out we need to submit electronically then at that time you can ask for a new copy to be emailed to you.
Note: this time around, for the first time ever, students NSNs are included in the declarations. You are going to want a copy so you have that info for the future too. See THIS for more.
2) If you have no access to mail services at this time and/or have not received your declaration in a reasonable period of time (say the end of this week), then you can email firstname.lastname@example.org and ask for a copy to be sent to you electronically. They do have the capacity to send them out by email on request, but not to reprint any at this time. Please give it a bit of time first though - post is likely to be slow currently.
3) If you cannot access postal services to return your declaration, then you can also email the completed return to email@example.com. But again, only do this if you cannot post, as if we overwhelm their inbox, mistakes are more likely to be made than if they're working through a physical pile of paper in due course.
Further wording the Ministry have added to their website re allowances on 2nd April:
"As stated, the Covid-19 lockdown has restricted how we process applications and declarations.
The date when declarations are due and allowances paid may be subject to change. We will seek to provide further advice over the coming weeks.
If you have any questions you can contact resourcing support at: firstname.lastname@example.org"
And for anyone looking for the postal address, it's:
Ministry of Education
PO Box 1666
During these difficult and unprecedented times everyone is doing the best that they can, but disruptions are unavoidable. Let's be patient and kind to ourselves and each other.
May 4th Update on Supervison Allowance Payments:
I phoned Resourcing today; the same diligent staff member who made sure declarations were sent out has had the boxes of received declarations delivered to his home, and is working on processing them. He will have another delivery in the next few days, to ensure that all declarations received by the cut-off date (last Friday, May 1st) are also processed. He has been working with the payments team and they believe they have come up with a way to ensure that payments can be processed remotely. At this time, therefore, they hope that all payments related to declarations received on time will be made on schedule, in the week of 18-22nd May. Note that this is an untested way of doing this, so they cannot yet guarantee success, but it is their intention to make it work.
Any declarations which were not received by the Ministry by the deadline will still be processed, but will have to wait until staff are able to return to the office; a date which is as yet unknown.
May 19th Update on Supervision Allowance Payments:
Today Resourcing confirmed that payments are being processed "as we speak" and everyone should have them by the end of the week. All declarations recieved by post or email by the May 1st cut off have been processed for payment.
Those who sent declarations in late can expect that they will be paid on a later cycle, as is usually the case. (The Ministry normally has payment cycles roughly every two weeks)
If you have not yet received a declaration, contact Resourcing at the email address above and ask for one to be emailed to you.
If you think you've returned a declaration but are worried it has not been received or processed, you can call the Ministry to check. I suggest waiting to see if you get the payment this week first, so as to limit calls to just those who have not.
This page is where I will share information on various topics relevant to home education. The Information Index page lists all topics by group, or use the Categories below.