World-renowned education thought leader, Sir Ken Robinson, recently said that if parents are fed up of high-stakes testing, they should homeschool their children.
Robinson said that parents who think their kids aren’t getting the right education have three main options: working more closely with the school in partnership, joining forces with other parents to push back against standardised testing, or homeschooling.
In Australia, the latter option appears to be increasingly popular. Nationally, homeschooling numbers have almost doubled in the past couple of years and are still growing.
Recent data released by the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) reveals a significant increase in homeschooling applications in 2017.
Whilst school enrolments for public schools increased by 0.2%, Catholic schools went down by 0.3%, Independent up by 0.1% - and in NSW, homeschooling registrations increased 18%.
So what is driving this trend?
Just 0.45% of parents cite bullying as a reason for opting out of mainstream education, while 6.82% state that it is for religious reasons. However, a massive 22.66% of applications are due to special needs.
As the rise of homeschooling becomes more apparent, state governments are taking steps to ensure parents opting out of mainstream education deliver appropriate education to their children.
From January 1, 2018, the Victorian Government introduced new regulations requiring prospective homeschooling parents to register and submit a learning plan to the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority (VRQA).
Under the new regulations, principals have the power to force students to attend classes for 28 days while their parent's home education application is being considered.
David Roy, a senior lecturer of education at the University of Newcastle, said parents are moving towards home schooling as too often as mainstream education appears to be unable or unwilling to support the needs of the most vulnerable.
“The recent Parliamentary Inquiry in NSW highlighted the increasing number of families whom felt they had no choice other than to home school,” Roy told The Educator.
Roy added that the recent analysis by NESA has demonstrated no significant difference in outcomes for children who home school.
Roy said the Australian education system is merely “tinkering on the edge of reform” rather than undergoing the radical restructure it needs for change to happen across the board.
“For too long, we have been making small changes within the current structures to improve outcomes for all children, but this is leading to a decline not only in Australia but internationally similar systems,” Roy said.
“We need to rethink the whole schooling system, end segregation and streaming and build 21st century facilities.”
Roy said that currently low staffing numbers in schools should be increased so educators can be allowed to reduce their direct teaching hours and focus more on developing teaching programs.
“Collaboration and professional development should be mandated and supported with time and money,” Roy said.