© Beverley Paine 2002
Parents face jail for truant kids under new NSW laws
An article in the Daily Telegraph by Simon Benson on the 1st of April (and no, it wasn't an April Fool's joke), reported on new laws introduced into NSW parliament which could inadvertantly adversely affect many homeschooling families.
The laws grant powers to the Department of Education to seek court orders which could force parents to enrol their children at school. Magistrates will be empowered to impose jail sentences for parents of habitual truants, with fines up to $10,000.
Premier Morris Iemma stated that it was time that the issue of school enrolments and truancy "became one of parental responsibility".
However, if parents are coerced to send their children to school, doesn't this remove some of that parental responsibility? It was my understanding that education - not school attendance - is compulsory for primary school aged children in NSW. Homeschooling is a legitimate and legal alternative that addresses the educational needs of children.
How will the new laws affect existing home educating families, especially those not registered with the Board of Studies?
There is a trend across Australia for tightening of regulation of home education. Let's hope it is done in an enlightened way, where the needs of home educating families are assessed in an thorough way, given an understanding of the unique and distinct from schooling nature of homeschooling.
Home educating families do not fall into the category of negligent parents - they take parental responsibility seriously, to the extent that they are willing to forgo a second (and often necessary income) to supervise their children at home and in the community. It is a shame that politically motivated laws which appear to have been hastily created as a reaction to a much publicised case of child abuse will catch in its net innocent and dedicated parents.
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Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active support of national, state, regional and local home education groups.
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We began educating our three children in 1985, when our eldest was aged five years. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn as they grew and explored and discovered this amazing world since the moment they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. I hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was!
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Beverley Paine, The Educating Parent
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