New data from Queensland released last week show there has been a 20% increase over the past year, with 10,048 registered homeschoolers up from 8,461. Over the last five years, there has been a 152% growth in primary students and 262% growth in high school students who are home schooled in the state.
There are concerns homeschooling needs more regulation because parents only have to report once a year and are not subjected to testing such as NAPLAN. Is this what we need?
Homeschooling across Australia
Across the country, I estimate, based on state and territory data, there are more than 43,000 legally registered homeschooled students. This does not include students whose parents do not register them with their state or territory education departments, even though it is a legal requirement.
Estimates on the numbers who do not register vary. Some home education curriculum providers suggest there are as many unregistered students as there are registered students. Accurate figures are difficult because families are reluctant to admit they are not meeting their legal requirements.
Why are numbers growing?
It found 45% of families surveyed never intended to homeschool. It also found 61% had a child with a disability or health issue, including ADHD, autism, behavioural issues and mental ill health. Many also had concerns about bullying.
Families also reported their child was not learning at school, and not wanting to go, so homeschooling became the only choice available.
While homeschooling was growing before the pandemic, the school-at-home arrangements during COVID led to a large growth in numbers. For some families, the experience showed them learning at home was possible and enjoyable and they decided not to go back.
What do homeschooling parents need to do?
Many families who homeschool are not qualified educators. Of those surveyed in the 2023 Queensland report, 20% had a teaching qualification. A further 15% had experience working in a school in a role other than teaching.
Approaches vary across other states. In New South Wales there is a home visit by a department representative. In Victoria, a family provides a plan and must submit to an audit if they are chosen at random.
To regulate or not to regulate?
The Courier Mail has reported the Queensland government is considering a “crackdown” on homeschooling rules, noting homeschoolers aren’t required to use the Australian Curriculum or do NAPLAN tests.
However, international research suggests homeschooling outcomes are as good as at mainstream schools in terms of academic success. Homeschooling can work because it suits some children better and parents are motivated to help their children learn.
There is a risk too much regulation will lead to more families flying “under the radar” and not registering. Many who do not register now say they do not comply because they are scared of authorities and feel they have been let down by schools in the past.
How to engage homeschooling families
If Queensland wants to increase compliance, it should consider doing more to work with families. For example, by including them in policy making about home education, so families see compliance as a way to support their child’s education, not as a “punishment” for not sending them to a mainstream school.
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- ^ released last week (qed.qld.gov.au)
- ^ looking at (www.couriermail.com.au)
- ^ New South Wales (educationstandards.nsw.edu.au)
- ^ Victoria (www.vrqa.vic.gov.au)
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- ^ unregistered students (euka.edu.au)
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- ^ CC BY-SA (creativecommons.org)
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- ^ bullying (eprints.qut.edu.au)
- ^ neurodiverse (www.tandfonline.com)
- ^ homeschooling was growing (theconversation.com)
- ^ large growth (www.abc.net.au)
- ^ possible and enjoyable (brill.com)
- ^ decided (www.frontiersin.org)
- ^ 'He was in fear of his life': bullying can be a major factor in deciding to homeschool (theconversation.com)
- ^ Alexander Grey/Pexels (www.pexels.com)
- ^ CC BY-SA (creativecommons.org)
- ^ Queensland report (education.qld.gov.au)
- ^ Education Act (www.legislation.qld.gov.au)
- ^ high-quality education (education.qld.gov.au)
- ^ report annually (ppr.qed.qld.gov.au)
- ^ provide samples (education.qld.gov.au)
- ^ home visit (www.educationstandards.nsw.edu.au)
- ^ because (www.australiancurriculum.edu.au)
- ^ Courier Mail (www.couriermail.com.au)
- ^ homeschooling outcomes (www.igi-global.com)
- ^ can work (home-ed.vic.edu.au)
- ^ parents are motivated (onlinelibrary.wiley.com)
- ^ do not register now (users.comcen.com.au)
- ^ scared of authorities (books.google.com.au)
- ^ research (www.igi-global.com)
- ^ Homeschooled students often get better test results and have more degrees than their peers (theconversation.com)
- ^ Victoria (www.vic.gov.au)
- ^ Tasmania (theac.tas.gov.au)
- ^ boards (theac.tas.gov.au)
- ^ Home Education Network (home-ed.vic.edu.au)
- ^ increase compliance (www.igi-global.com)
- ^ why families leave schools (intapi.sciendo.com)
- ^ Traditional school doesn't suit everyone. Australia needs more flexible options (theconversation.com)