Homeschooling boomed in 2020, but it was on the rise before coronavirus

Home education, sometimes called homeschooling, is when children are educated outside a formal institution like a school.

Parents of homeschooled children are wholly responsible for facilitating their child’s learning. This is different to distance education, where a student is enrolled in a school and taught by a teacher, but the lessons are delivered remotely (similar to what happened during lockdown when schools were closed).

Homeschooling is legal across Australia. Each state or territory education department requires parents to register. There have been reports more students have registered for home education due to the pandemic. But home education was actually on the rise in Australia well before COVID-19.

Growth in homeschooling during 2020

There was particularly strong home education enrolment in the heavily populated eastern states in 2020  the year of school lockdowns.

In New South Wales and Victoria, the number of students being home educated increased by 20 per cent in 2020 (1,224 extra children) compared with 2019.

In Queensland, there was a 26 per cent jump in students registered for home education.

The number of registered home educated students in NSW, Victoria and Queensland is larger than any one school in those states. For example, Varisty College on Queensland’s Gold Coast is one of Queensland’s largest schools with more than 3,000 students. Yet home education registrations account for 800 more students.

In the last decadethe number of homeeducated students has steadily increased across the country.

In Australia there are now more than 26,000 registered homeschoolers. This represents a third of the school-aged population in the ACT. This figure may underestimate the actual number of students who are homeschooled. Some states and territories limit registration to the compulsory school ages (usually six to 17), so they don’t count younger and older students.

It is also well recognised a proportion of home educated students are not registered.

There are some stateslike Victoria and Tasmania, that allow children to both receive part-time home education and attend part-time school, so these students are counted twice.

The proportion of homeschooled kids has grown, too

It is not just the overall numbers of students homeschooling that has grown. The percentage of home educated students as a proportion of the total student population has also risen.

New South Wales and Victoria have the highest population of school students in the country — at 1.25 million and 1.01 million in 2020 respectively. The proportion of students homeschooling in these states are six per 1,000 school students in NSW and seven in Victoria.

While Tasmania only had 83,175 school students in 2020 (the second lowest population of school students after the Northern Territory), its proportion of homeschooled students is the highest in the country — 14 per 1,000. This is in comparison to the average of six homeschooled students per 1,000 school students across Australia.

While these proportions are still relatively small, they are almost double what they were six years ago.

Why the proportion of homeschool students varies so much between states and territories is unknown.  In sparsely populated, rural areas of states like Western Australia, limited school choices may encourage home education. Living in remote areas such as the Northern Territory may make it easier to ‘fly under the radar’ and avoid registration.

The availability of support for students with special needs and the ease of access to distance education schools may also play a role.

Another factor could be the way different states and territories manage their registration systems.

Unlike most other states, Tasmania has a history of proactive engagement with the homeschooling community. The assessors have extensive knowledge of home education, which may instil confidence in the assessments.

Additionally, assessors can provide support, which is one of the benefits of being registered.

We don’t know enough about homeschooling

Families who are homeschooling are an under-researched group.

Evidence suggests that an increasing number of students with special education needs are being homeschooled. About 20 per cent of parents who made a submission to the recent NSW inquiry into students with disabilities were homeschooling because mainstream schools failed to meet their children’s needs. However, these students are not counted in the government’s Nationally Consistent Collection of Data on Students with a Disability.

Although research suggests mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression can be catalysts for parents removing children from school, this too has not been quantified.

In order to help students with complex needs that schools cannot meet, we need to better understand how they can be helped. Research has not been conducted on the benefits, drawbacks, and best practices of part-time schooling and part-time homeschooling in Australia. Flexibility might be a solution that may bridge the divide between schools and home education to best meet children’s needs.The Conversation


This article was written by Rebecca English, Queensland University of Technology and Karleen Gribble, Western Sydney University. It is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Written by The Conversation

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