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Beneficiary parents 'can't home school' under Bill

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Minister of Social Development Paula Bennett last week told parents that under the new Social Security (Benefit Categories and Work Focus) Amendment Bill, beneficiaries will face increased government discrimination in seeking exemptions to home educate their children.

In a letter dated October 18, Ms Bennett told the concerned Kiwi dad who contacted her that "in general, a beneficiary parent will not be able to home school their child."

Under the Education Act parents currently have the right to apply to the Ministry of Education for an exemption to home educate their children. Exemptions are granted if the Ministry is satisfied that the child will be taught "at least as regularly and as well" as in a registered school.

But according to Ms Bennett, the Social Security Bill will only allow beneficiary parents to home educate in strictly limited circumstances, where the parents can prove that it would be "unreasonable" for their child to attend school where transport is unavailable or because of severe physical or learning disabilities.

Ms Bennett alleged that these draconian terms are intended to provide "better outcomes for children".

But Barbara Smith, National Director of the Home Education Foundation of New Zealand, says that they are harsh and discriminatory.

"These new hurdles will effectively make it impossible for beneficiaries to choose the kind of education their children will receive-which is a basic human right under the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights," Mrs Smith says.

"All the research on home education shows its superiority to the school system. This bill makes it impossible for beneficiaries to give their children an excellent education."

Mrs Smith says she has heard from hundreds of concerned parents who treasure the opportunity to learn with their children at home.

"Everyone has questions. What about the many responsible, dedicated home educators across this country? If their breadwinner loses his job, will they be forced to choose between their way of life and food on the table?

"What about the single-parent home educators, some of whom have left dangerous situations and gone on the benefit to keep their children safe? Will they be forced to part from those children because Paula Bennett doesn’t think they’re doing a good enough job of raising them at home?

Mrs Smith emphasises that current law already requires home educators to prove their children are being taught at least as regularly and well as in a registered school.

"Requiring beneficiaries to prove that it would be ‘unreasonable’-according to the Ministry of Social Development-to send their children to school gives no benefit whatever to children," she says. "By law, if the parents are home educating, they’ve already proved that their children are better off at home than at school. Why would Ms Bennett force them into an inferior education?

"It’s time the government stopped treating beneficiaries and home educators like second-class citizens."

Mrs Smith encourages all concerned Kiwis will make a submission to the Select Committee by the deadline on November 1. Ms Bennett’s letter and materials for writing a submission can be found at www.hef.org.nz.

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