Creeping Red Tape Adding Burden to Home Educating Families

by Beverley Paine

It is going to be increasingly difficult as family payments/benefits are tied to checks, reports and interviews - the aim of which, I believe, is to cut back on the cost to the government of social welfare. The tax paying population of Australia demands that their taxes are spent wisely with accountability: the only way governments know how to do that is to increase red tape and bureaucracy, make the hoops higher and tighter to jump through. Sadly this often means that the disadvantaged, the very people welfare is supposed to help, often miss out.

Home education does offer a way to stay outside the system but comes at a cost: it will be increasingly harder for families not meeting the limited criteria prescribed in regulations to stay within the tax payer funded public system of welfare and benefits. Most home education authorities consider home education a form of self-funded private education and tell us 'you're on your own', and feel no compulsion to offer funding or access to resources (unlike other private education) or any other support.  

Will this ultimately mean that home education is accessible only by those that can afford to live without social security support? Perhaps.

With an estimated 50,000 Australian children currently home educating a case for official recognition as an alternative to school based education can be made. However, because a large proportion of those students are not registered as home educating students state and federal governments can feign ignorance: claiming that the numbers of home educating students are too small to worry about, a passing fad by a tiny minority of families.

I've been involved in building and supporting home education community for over two decades and I'm still not sure as to what is the best way to advance the cause of these families, many of whom are initially reluctant refugees from a system of education that is failing their children by not meeting those children's individual educational needs. It would be extremely sad to see this option denied these families for bureaucratic, red tape reasons.

The essence of home education is that it offers the opportunity for true diversity in education. And a diverse bunch of families are attracted to home education for a range of diverse reasons. That is itself is a valuable asset for any society.

Official recognition of home education will inevitably translate into yet more bureaucratic hoops and red tape. Hopefully the benefits will outweigh the disadvantages. In the meantime, home educating families will continue as always to build supportive networks that help families offset the cost of providing self-funded, quality education for their children.

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