How the Supervision Allowance came about
As part of this process, Brian Picot led a taskforce to investigate education in NZ, and wrote a report of recommendations, which was published in 1988 entitled Adminstering for Excellence - more commonly known as the Picot Report.
In the Picot Report, in respect of home education, was written the following:
"Each successive Education Act since 1877 has included the right of citizens to educate their own children, provided that a standard of education similar to that available in a state school is maintained. As part of our commitment to increased choice in the system, we wish that right to be continued and suggest that the procedures under which it is exercised be kept as straightforward as possible. We propose that the Review and Audit Agency [ultimately called ERO] be able to grant an exemption from enrolment and subsequent attendance. We also recommend that the children involved have the right of access to appropriate Correspondence School lessons. The parents of children studying at home should receive an allowance based on that currently given to parents of Correspondence School students: and they will - as now - have their programme and work checked by the Review and Audit Agency." (section 7.7.4)
"Home-Based Schooling (section 5.4)
- Parents will continue to be able to educate their children at home, provided that a standard of education similar to that available in an institution is maintained.
- Exemption from enrolment at school and subsequent attendance will be granted by the Review and Audit Agency.
- A standard charter for home-based schooling will be used as a basis for negotiations between the parent(s) who wish to educate their child at home, and the Review and Audit Agency. This charter will allow the agency to monitor the student's educational progress, and so ensure that it is regular and comparable to that provided by institutions. [NB: they did attempt this charter system, but it was dropped]
- Children being taught at home will have the right to enrol in Correspondence School courses. Their parent(s) will receive a home-based schooling allowance based on that currently given to the parents of Correspondence School students."
Supervision Allowance for Correspondence Students
Be that as it may, the policy resulted in home educators being paid the following amounts for exempt students:
- first child $743
- second child $632
- third child $521
- subsequent children $372
- First child $760
- Second child $646
- Third child $533
- Fourth and subsequent children $380
1) If the home education supervision allowance is tied to the Te Kura supervision allowance, why has one changed and the other not?
2) The policy sets out on what basis the allowance is paid to Te Kura families. It is clearly linked to the parent's role in ensuring the student is completing work set by the school, keeping in regular touch with the school, and being available for meetings with teachers etc. In other words, the parents are being paid to support their children's learning by supporting the teachers who are providing the program. Much like the families originally argued - they are doing a part of the teacher's job, and this is being recognized. But the situation with home education is very different, so is the link/comparison appropriate?
I would also note, for clarity, that families with children enrolled full time in Te Kura under one of the free gateways are not considered to be home educating (under law), because their children are enrolled full time in a school (Te Kura is a registered school); they will receive the supervision allowance from Te Kura if they fulfil the criteria. Some families, however, have home education exemptions and choose to pay fees for Te Kura subjects for their 6-15yo students. These families ARE home educating; Te Kura is just a resource they have chosen to use for selected subjects, and eligible for the home educator's supervision allowance.
The Perpetual Argument Against "Rocking the Boat"
- We didn't ask for the allowance, they just gave it to us - we should be grateful
- The allowance is not actually written into law or policy; if we ask for more and they investigate, they might just decide to stop paying it all together
- If they give us more money, they could attach "strings" - these could be things like having to submit annual reports, routine ERO reviews, standardised curriculum or testing etc etc
- Home education is a choice - we chose this, so it's up to us to cover the costs, and not look to the government
- It's better to "fly under the radar" and not draw attention to ourselves
We didn't ask for it - maybe not, but someone decided it was appropriate to pay to home educators - ie parents who have chosen to educate their children at home but still pay taxes that pay for the school system - a token amount in recognition of the supervision they are providing to their children at home. We don't have to take it - they ask every six months whether you want the supervision allowance, and only pay it to you if you say yes. Just because we didn't personally ask for something, does that make it wrong to accept what is offered, or to suggest a revision of the amount if it seems inappropriate? Consider Working For Families tax credits. Did you or a group of families you know lobby for this? Do you receive it, possibly even count on it to make ends meet? I'm sure you are grateful it exists if you qualify for it and need it, and we certainly should be grateful for the supervision allowance. But that does not make it wrong or inappropriate to point out that it has not changed in over 30 years and needs looking at. We don't have to do this with WFF, because revising it is part of the government's annual budget and policies - some years it changes, some it does not, but clearly it has increased a great deal over the last 30 years. Family Support tax credits were introduced in 1986; then the maximum rates for Family
Support were $36 for the first child and $16 for subsequent children. Imagine if that had not changed since!
"Not written into law or policy" - this is not correct. The Picot Report and Tomorrow's Schools both form part of government policy, and both recommended the payment of the allowance. While the 1989 Education Act did not explicitly lay out the payment of a supervision allowance to either home educators or correspondence school parents, it must be understood that a government department cannot pay out any of the public funds they adminster unless there is a law that grants them the power to do so. For correspondence families, the funding is part of the bulk funding to Te Kura, who in turn pay the families the allowance. For home educated families, I would posit that the section of the Act which makes this possible is this one - quoting from the now-in-force Education and Training Act 2020 (wording is very similar to the previous Act):
Section 556 Grants to educational bodies
(1) An educational body may, on conditions that the Minister thinks fit, be paid grants out of money appropriated by Parliament for the purpose.
(2) However, a grant may not be paid to a tertiary education provider or a workforce development council unless the Minister is satisfied that the payment is in the national interest.
(3) The Minister may determine the amount of, and the conditions that apply to, each grant.
(4) Before a grant is paid, the Minister may give the educational body written notice that the grant, or a part or parts of the grant (specified as a particular sum or as a proportion of the total grant), is not to be used except for purposes specified in the notice.
(5) If notice is given, the educational body must ensure that no part of the grant to which the notice relates is used for purposes other than those specified for it in the notice.
(6) Apart from this restriction, an educational body to which a grant is paid may apply the grant as it sees fit.
(7) In the financial year during which a grant was paid to an educational body, and during the next financial year,--
(a) the Secretary may, by written notice, require the educational body to provide the Secretary with any financial report, or statistical or other information, relating to the educational body, within a time specified in the notice and in writing; and
(b) the educational body must take all reasonable steps to comply with the notice.
(8) The Minister may, for the purposes of this section and section 557, recognise a body that provides any educational or developmental service or facility, including a tertiary education organisation, as an educational body.
Compare: 1989 No 80 s 321
As discussed HERE, since 2008 the government has not wanted to pay for routine reviews of home educators by ERO - it cost too much for too little return. The six monthly declarations are their way of continuing to be "satsified" that the child continues to be taught "as regularly and well as" - in other words, they take care of their need to show some sense of checking in with families by having families sign a six monthly declaration to this effect. BUT, the law does not require this declaration. They cannot revoke the exemption if you refuse to sign and return them. And if you don't, they would have to follow up another way, which would involve the far more costly process of paying staff and attendance services to investigate the family and whether they are still homeschooling, and consider whether an ERO review is needed, and if so, pay for it. Therefore, they use the declaration as the "carrot" to get you to sign and return the form. Ultimately this saves them money; in government-think this is cost-effective and value for money to them.
Now, if we ask for more, might they add more strings? Maybe. But again, they would be weighing up the cost. They already know that ERO reviews cost more than they returned. If they ask us to write annual reports on our children's progress, who is going to read them all? That's over 6,500 reports each year. If each one only took an hour to read and deal with (highly unlikely), that would require over 3 full time equivalent staff doing NOTHING but reading reports all day every day, year round to get through them all. For what? What would that cost? I cannot see it being considered cost effective either. (By the way, the Ministry did think this was a good idea once upon a time. They abandoned it soon after). Any time staff at the Ministry come up with an idea they want to put into action, they have to go through a bunch of internal wrangling, including applying for funding. Each department has limited funding they can ask for. A lot of ideas never make it even to the point of asking, because they have higher priority items to pursue and try and get money for, so they simply drop those of lesser priority.
So what strings might they realistically attach? If some are proposed, bear in mind that there would be room for discussion and negotiation (or outright pushing back) by the community, AND that they can only attach those strings to a payment which you would have the right to refuse if you did not like the conditions. Refusing payment does not in any way, under law at present, affect your exemption itself.
So shouldn't the home education community also consider risk vs reward? i.e. IF we ask for more, we may risk further conditions being attached, but on the other hand we could gain an increased amount which may not actually have any additional conditions at all - or at least none we can't live with. If we say/do nothing, then the status quo remains, and we're stuck with the same unchanged amount. Not just us, but those who come after us also. Worth thinking about!
What the Home Educator's Supervision Allowance is For
When the Ministry Promised (and Failed) to Revise the Allowance
Their summary of the feedback they had received regarding funding is as follows:
"There was consensus amongst home educators that the amount of funding paid to home educators is too low. They noted that funding has not been reviewed or increased in at least 15 years and is not inflation adjusted. Respondents were of the view that current funding is not enough for home educators to purchase the resources they need. A number of respondents considered there were significant inequities compared to students in schools who are funded at higher rates than home educated students. Respondents also considered that funding should not decrease for consecutive children who are home educated. A few respondents said they would like funding to start at age five and continue until the child finished their education (eg up to age 18 if they can prove they are gaining qualifications). A few respondents said they would like extra funding for activities that require specialist teachers, such as music lessons." (page 14 of report)
It didn't happen by then (many of the next steps were delayed) but NCHENZ, in a subsequent meeting with the Ministry's national office, followed up on this (along with other agreed next steps) and the Ministry promised to make sure that this was looked into. The outcome of this when they reported back on the matter was that they had a number of matters requiring funding, and could only ask for so much, and considered this a low priority compared to other matters, so had not even presented it to more senior staff in the funding round. Nothing has been done about it since.
Because this is how it works internally, if we as a home education community ever do decide to pursue a request for additional funding, I believe we would need the support of an MP or similar person who can advocate for additional funding at a level outside of internal Ministry of Education processes.
A More Equitable Basis?
Home Educators, however, pay for all resources out of their own pockets. They do not have access to teacher guidance or support unless they pay for it (or have willing friends/family members). Their children cannot get funding for STAR or Gateway courses, or for internet, devices or most other things. Meanwhile the family still pays the same taxes as everyone else, funding the state education system.
In my view, there is no reasonable comparison between the two groups of families, other than that their children happen to be learning in their own homes.
A far more reasonable comparison would be between home educators and private schools. Private schools are an optional choice that parents have made, usually with the intention that their children will receive a superior education, or better access to particular courses or options, or because they in some way meet the needs or preferences of their children or family better than state schools available. Parents who choose this option pay significant fees, because private schools do not receive the same government funding that state schools do - they are expected to pay for teachers salaries, buildings, resources, STAR and Gateway etc mostly out of funds they raise from the fees they charge. They do, however, receive some funding. The amount is on a per-student basis. It does not go down because there are more than X number of kids in the school. There is some additional allowance for new entrants, who are recognised as having higher costs than established students; otherwise the funding is at a flat rate for primary students and for secondary students in two groups. The total pool of funds, however, for private schools is fixed (with periodic revisions); schools get a share of the pool based on the number of enrolled students. In rough figures, the amounts are around $1000 for Year 1-8 students, $1300 for Year 9-10 students, and $2000 for Year 11-13 students.
I think a good argument could be made for funding home educators on a similar basis to private schools. It should not be directly linked to private school funding (because sometimes governments target this and consider dropping it all together). It's more about pointing out the similarities in independent responsibility for students' education and resources, with responsibility to continue ensuring "as regularly and well", and some available funding that the schools can use at their discretion (appropriately of course). Like the funding for home educators, the wording of the Act says that the Minister has the right to require certain reporting etc from private schools, but I'm told that they are not currently required to write reports or anything similar.
Equality for Students
Some would argue that they should have access to the same funding for these resources as state educated kids That would be tricky for a number of reasons, not least of all administration. A far easier way to address this inequality would be to increase the supervision allowance, so parents had additional funds available and could pay for such courses for their students if appropriate.
Weighing It All Up
If we ask for more, yes, there is some risk of the Ministry wanting "something in return" - but realistically anything they ask for will cost THEM in resources to administer it. I consider the risk fairly small, but it should be up to the home education community whether they want to pursue this.
For those of us who represent sections of the home education community, such as myself in the role of Government Liaison for NCHENZ, our roles rightly require that we act in accordance with the overall desires of the communities we represent. NCHENZ has been reluctant to pursue additional funding (other than following up on the Ministry's own stated intention as described above) because we have not had the mandate of NCHENZ membership to do so.
In the interests of full disclosure, since I no longer home educate my own children (they're all grown), any outcome of pursuing a revision of funding will have no direct effect on me and my family (other than for my likely soon-to-be-home-educated grandchildren). This makes me very conscious of not pursuing something as significant as this just because I think it is the right and sensible thing to do, without having the majority support of the NCHENZ community to do so.
Seeing change come about would need many voices with clear leadership and the enlisting of support from a suitable MP or similar.
I encourage you to weigh up the situation for yourself, and to think also not just of your own family, but of others who may be in a more difficult financial position, and those who will come after you.
The upcoming NCHENZ survey will ask you about what you think about pursuing additional funding. Please cast your vote so we know where the community stands. If you are not yet a member of NCHENZ, you can join here (it's free): www.nchenz.org.nz/online-form-for-individual-membership/. Only those who are home educating (with exemptions) or intending to home educate, or have previously held exemptions for at least 4 years, are able to join NCHENZ (but even without membership you can find lots of great info and resources on the website).