Home education

Home education (sometimes called homeschooling) is an option in New Zealand. Parents and caregivers who want to educate their child at home need to first get approval from their local Ministry of Education office.

What is home education?

In New Zealand, all children aged between 6 and 16 years of age are required to enrol in and attend a registered school.

Home education is where parents or legal guardians take responsibility for the education of their children, instead of enrolling them in school.

If you, as a parent or legal guardian, wish to educate your child at home, you must first get approval from your local Ministry of Education office.

If you get approval to home educate, you will receive a Certificate of Exemption from Enrolment at a Registered School. This indicates you are legally responsible for providing, supervising and monitoring your child’s learning programme.

If you want to home educate more than one child, a separate Certificate of Exemption is required for each child.

Home educating is not the same as enrolling a child with Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu – Te Kura (formerly called the Correspondence School), which is a registered school. Enrolment with Te Kura is only available to students in certain circumstances. The Te Kura website has information on enrolling with them. Home educators can access subjects at Te Kura on a fee-paying basis. Home educators who choose this option retain the overall responsibility for the education of their child.

Who can home educate?

Any parent or legal guardian of a child aged between 5 and 16 years of age may apply to home educate.

To gain approval, your application must satisfy the Ministry that your child will be taught at least as regularly and as well as they would be in a registered school. If your child has special education needs, the application must show that these needs will be met.

How do I apply?

You will need to complete an application form and prepare the required supporting documents, then send them to your local Ministry of Education office. There are a number of ways you can do this:

Email

You can download the Ministry's application form and email it along with your supporting documents to your local Ministry office:

  1. click on the application form to download
  2. 'save as' the form to your computer
  3. open the saved form in adobe reader
  4. fill in the form
  5. click 'save as' and save the completed form to your desktop
  6. email your completed application and supporting documents to your local Ministry office.

Or you can email an application of your own design to your local Ministry office.  If you do this section one of the Ministry form must still be completed and attached to your application. Read the associated guidance documents to be sure that your application meets the criteria set by the Ministry.

Post

You can print out the Ministry's application form, or use a form of your own design and post it to your local Ministry office.

Once you've submitted your application a staff member from the Ministry will by in touch.  They may ask you for extra information. This is a normal part of the process.

The Ministry will contact the most recent school that your child has been enrolled in (if any). This is to get a full picture of your child’s educational context, providing insight into how you will need to individualise your educational approach to suit the needs of your child.

If your application is approved you will receive a Certificate of Exemption and you can start home educating your child. A separate Certificate of Exemption is required for each child.

If your application is declined you will receive a letter explaining the reason for the decision. You have the right to appeal this decision by writing to the Secretary for Education, PO Box 1666, Wellington 6140. The Secretary's decision is final.

If your child is aged between 6 and 16 and you have not received a Certificate of Exemption, then by law they must be enrolled in and attending a registered school. This includes the time period when you are waiting for you application to be processed.

What information do I need to provide with the application?

The Ministry can only issue a Certificate of Exemption when it is satisfied that you are willing and able to be responsible for an appropriate programme of education for your child (ie. that your child will be taught at least as regularly and as well as they would at a registered school).

The application form asks you to provide full details about how you intend to home educate your child, including:

  • a description of your home education approach, philosophy and/or curriculum
  • a description of intended learning areas and/or subjects
  • a description of the resources and reference materials you have available to teach your child, and an explanation of how you intend to use them
  • short- and long-term educational goals for your child
  • an example of a special project or topic plan covering learning goals, resources, teaching methods, progress and achievement measures
  • a description of intended environmental, social and community contact, including educational visits
  • a description of how you intend to measure and record progress and achievement in relation to the learning goals
  • a demonstration of regularity – when, how often and for how long you will teach your child.

Further guidance is available in the application form and guidance document.

When should I apply?

You may apply to home educate any time after your child turns 5 years old, to come into effect when your child turns 6.

Applications usually take 4-6 weeks to process. If your child is between 6 and 16 years old, he or she must remain enrolled in and attending a registered school while your application is being progressed. This is a legal requirement.

The Ministry may ask you for additional information once it has received your application. This is a normal part of the process. Your application may take more than 6 weeks to process while additional information is being gathered. You should factor this in when considering the best time to make a home education application.

Can I get any financial support?

Home educators are eligible for the home education supervision allowance. It is calculated on the number of children you are home educating. The annual total paid per child is as follows:

  • first child $743.00
  • second child $632.00
  • third child $521.00
  • subsequent children $372.00

The allowance is paid in instalments twice annually - in June and December each year – for the preceding 6 months. The first payment for a child new to home education will cover the period from the date of the issue of the Certificate of Exemption until the next payment round, either in June or December of that year.

You must continue to meet the requirements of your Certification of Exemption to keep receiving the allowance.  You must complete a declaration to confirm this in April and October each year.

It is important that the Ministry has your current address to post the declarations to you.

What other support or resources can I get?

Curriculum and other support documents

Though it is not a requirement to use it, you are eligible to receive The New Zealand Curriculum or Te Marautanga o Aotearoa free of charge. The Te Kete Ipurangi (TKI) website has information on the New Zealand Curriculum or Te Marautanga o Aotearoa.  You can also get a hard copy of these documents - contact:

Ministry of Education Customer Services
P O Box 932
DUNEDIN 9052
Phone: 0800 660 662

Fax: 0800 660 663

You can also access the Literacy Learning Progressions and the Number Framework.

Down the Back of the Chair is the Ministry of Education's catalogue of teaching and learning resources for schools. Some resources are available to the general public for purchase at retail price.

Home Education and special education needs

If your child has special education needs, then it is important that you can provide the same level of support that is available through school. The Ministry cannot approve your application to home educate without first being satisfied that these supports are in place.

Support for home educators

Children and young people who are home educated and have identified special education needs can access support from the Ministry’s specialist services. Any request for services will be treated in the same way as they would be in a school context.

The focus of the Ministry’s services and support is increasing the capability of the adults around the child.

Information about these services is available in the special education needs section. Parents can apply for the Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS) on the same basis as a school for children with the highest needs.

Your local Ministry Special Education office can give you more information.

Support only available at school

Some special education supports are not available to home educators. This is because they are services which are designed to support teachers in a school setting. They include:

  • Resource Teachers: Learning and Behaviour (RTLB)
  • Resource Teachers: Literacy
  • the Severe Behaviour Service
  • the School High Health Needs Fund
  • direct teaching services related to children who are blind or low vision and deaf or hearing impaired
  • additional teacher and teacher’s aide time as part of the Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS).

Support after the age of 16

If your child has been verified through the Ongoing Resourcing Scheme, and has a current certificate of exemption at age 16, this exemption can continue until the end of the year in which he or she reaches the age of 21. 

To qualify for the supervision allowance and to continue receiving specialist services for their child, beyond compulsory school age, parents need to contact their local Ministry of Education office.

Resources

Inclusive Education website - this site provides New Zealand educators with practical strategies, suggestions and resources to support learners with diverse needs.

Much More than Words -  a booklet about children’s communication development so you can think about how your child is talking and support them, using their skills and interests.

About Dyslexia - information for teachers and parents about students who show signs of dyslexia.

Ministry of Education Special Education booklets - a series of booklets looking at how different special education needs influence learning and providing strategies for teachers:

Access to Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu – Te Kura (formerly the Correspondence School)

Once you have a Certificate of Exemption, you can purchase tuition from Te Kura. You still retain responsibility for your child’s education. You can enrol at Te Kura when aged 16 and over, free of charge, through the Young Adult Gateway. However, if you enrol full-time your exemption to home educate will become invalid.

Access to NCEA

If you are eligible to access courses through Te Kura, then you may earn credits through that school towards a National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) at Levels 1 to 3.

It is also possible for home educated young people to be assessed against NCEA standards through a school that has been granted “consent to assess” by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA). There is no obligation on the part of any school to act as a link school for home educated young people.

The NZQA website has information about the eligibility of home educated young people to access NCEA through link schools.

Access to healthcare services

Your child is entitled to a number of free or subsidised healthcare services, including but not limited to:

Doctor

Your child may be eligible for zero–fee visits to general practices.

Eyesight and Hearing

For information about eyesight and hearing checks that occur when students are age 11, contact your local District Health Board.

Dentist

Under the Talk Teeth programme, children get free basic care for their teeth until they are 18. For information on this service, including arranging access, contact your local Community Oral Health Service.

To find out about other healthcare services your child may be eligible for, contact your local District Health Board.

Advice and guidance

There are a number of independent home education groups around the country. These groups can give you information about learning activities, outings, social events for the group. Joining a local home educators group is one way to receive support when home educating or considering home educating.

How do I report to the Ministry of Education?

You must complete a declaration twice a year, in April and October. This will:

  • assure the Ministry that the home educating is continuing
  • ensure your Certificate of Exemption is valid, and
  • allow you to receive the home educator supervision allowance.

Even if you do not want to receive the supervision allowance, you must still complete the declaration twice a year.

The declaration will be sent to your home address, so you must advise your local Ministry of Education office if you change your address.

If you do not return the declaration by the date specified, you will receive a reminder letter. If the Ministry has still not received the declaration by the date set in the reminder letter, your child's Certificate of Exemption will be automatically cancelled and your payments will stop. If your child is under 16, they will need to be enrolled in a registered school.

What if my circumstances change?

You need to let the Ministry know if:

  • you change address
  • you are no longer home educating your child
  • you have registered your child in school (full time or for a trial period), or
  • you go overseas long term (a period longer than 28 days).

Trialling a school

Home educated students may trial attending a school. For more information about this process, contact your local Ministry office.

Your Certificate of Exemption and home education supervision allowance may be impacted, depending on how long your child attends school:

  • 0-28 days – no effect on your Certificate of Exemption or allowance
  • 29 days – 10 weeks – no effect on your Certificate of Exemption, but your allowance will be reduced, based on the length of time that your child was attending school
  • More than 10 weeks – your Certificate of Exemption will cease. If you want to go back to home educating your child you will need to apply for a new Certificate of Exemption.

Travelling overseas

If you and your family plan to be away from New Zealand then it may impact on your Certificate of Exemption and your home education supervision allowance:

  • 0-28 days – no effect on your Certificate of Exemption and allowance
  • More than 28 days, but less than 6 months – no effect on your Certificate of Exemption, but your allowance will be recalculated and only paid for the time in New Zealand
  • More than 6 months – no effect on your Certificate of Exemption, but your allowance will stop and you will need to apply for it again when you return to New Zealand.

If you are going to be away for more than 28 days then you need to let your local Ministry of Education office know.

Who monitors home education?

Home educating parents and legal guardians have the primary responsibility for monitoring the quality of their children’s education. By designing a robust curriculum and regularly reflecting on progress made, you can ensure that your child’s needs are met by the education you provide.

As the administrator of the Education Act 1989, the Ministry of Education also has obligations regarding the monitoring of home education. To meet these obligations, staff from your local Ministry office may contact you for information about your home education practices from time to time.

In some circumstances, the Ministry may request the Education Review Office (ERO) to conduct a review of a home educator. The Ministry will inform you if you have been referred for a review and explain why. ERO will then contact you to provide information about the process and arrange a time for a review.

To help ERO, the Ministry will provide them with a copy of your application. You do not need to provide ERO with a separate copy of this unless your approach to teaching has changed since your original application.

You will be given the opportunity to comment on the draft ERO report. If the ERO report raises concerns, the local Ministry office will ask you to show how you intend to address these. If ERO and the Ministry are not satisfied that these concerns will be addressed, your Certificate of Exemption may be revoked.

Unlike school reviews, the ERO home education reviews are confidential and are not published on the ERO website.

See the ERO website for information for parents about home educator reviews.

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