An Open Letter from the NEWB
by David Newton, Home Assessor, July 2006
Dear Homeschool-Ireland Website Visitor,
I wish to thank the webmaster for publishing this update on home education within the NEWB.
Allow me to give you my background. I have worked on home education assessment with the National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB) since 2003. During this time, I have met a whole host of home educators and prepared over 225 reports. I wish to say that it has a real privilege to be invited into the homes of these home educating families and I continue to be deeply impressed with the full commitment, warm attention and overall richness that so many parents/guardians are bringing to the challenging task of home education.
My numerous journeys out into the home education community confirm the following well-considered statement on home education researcher and author, Dr. Alan Thomas. He writes in his excellent book, Educating Your Child at Home,
‘Of necessity (home educating parents) become pioneers of a different pedagogy (from that of school) more suited to learning at home. Their experiences as they adapt, yield very different perspectives on education and challenge many professional assumptions about the nature of teaching and learning.’ (1998, pp. 1-2)
You may be surprised to learn that the legislative framework for home education in Ireland is more progressive than in many other western European countries. The Irish Constitution acknowledges the role of a parent/guardian as the primary educator of the child and has enshrined in law that a parent/guardian may home educate a child. Under present legislation an authorised assessor must determine that the child is in receipt of ‘a certain minimum of education’ (See articles 42.1, 42.2 and 42.3.2 and the judgements found in DPP vs. Best).
Under the Education (Welfare) Act, 2000, the NEWB is charged with ensuring that every child receives an education and as part of this remit it must ensure the registration of children who receive their education through home settings. This requirement exists in order to support parents in their right to home educate and to safeguard a child’s rights to a minimum education.
The assessment process is straightforward and usually involves a visit to the home setting after a home education application has been received by the NEWB. The meeting between parent and assessor can also take place at an agreed location, as long as the assessor can speak with the primary educator about specific educational activities on offer, the materials available and the educational philosophy followed.
The child need not be present at this meeting but the examination of representative samples of the child’s various work efforts is necessary. Key information is gathered on the child’s talents/abilities and strengths as it relates to his or her intellectual, social, emotional and moral development. Essential to this evidence gathering is identifying that there is a clear correspondence between the various holistic needs of the child and the educational provision. Literacy, language and numeracy skills should have an integral place within that provision.
Home education has the potential to create a unique, unrivalled learning environment. It is important to note therefore that it is not essential that the educational provision replicate any firm feature located in any State or other curricula materials, including set schedules, delineated subject area strands and various structured assignments. In the case of teenagers, preparation for the certificate exams is not a requirement.
The preliminary assessment interview generally takes around 2 hours. Occasionally, in order to ensure that the ‘certain minimum of education’ criterion is being met, it may be necessary to carry out a follow-up comprehensive assessment. During this assessment the assessor will observe the parent/guardian and child interacting in the educative process in the home environment.
Following the assessment a report is then generated. The parents/guardians receive a copy of this report and are invited by the NEWB to revert with their comments. The NEWB reviews and subsequently approves for registration assessments which clearly reflect that a child is in receipt of a certain minimum of education. The present cycle from application submission to formal registration is generally around 3 months.
Some Key Home Education Facts
- There is no formal educational requirement that a parent must meet to be allowed to home educate their child. Information on educational background may be provided if desired.
- Each child reflects his or her own unique strengths. What is important for the registration process is that the home education provision is seen to be meeting the child’s overall holistic needs.
- In most assessment cases, the curricula points made between the assessor and the parents/guardians centre around content choices, teaching approaches and work flow and, in most cases, these points remain as suggestions. The role of the authorised assessor has a clear advisory function encompassing the overall progressive welfare approach taken by the NEWB.
- Under the Education (Welfare) Act, 2000, parents / guardians who home educate their children are legally obliged to submit an application to register children with the NEWB. Failure to submit the home education application and follow through with the registration process could potentially lead to legal action against the parent / guardian.
- Since June 2004, when the first home educated child was formally registered, 225 other registrations have been completed. It is estimated that a further 1500-2000 children are currently being educated at home.
- All home education documents remain confidential.
- Children currently in receipt of home tuition may not be registered by the NEWB as being home educated.
- Once the age of 16 is reached, Child Benefit monies will continue for those young people that are registered by the NEWB. The parent / guardian should make contact with officials in Child Benefit and offer a copy of the NEWB registration letter.
If you wish to have an application form and a copy of the NEWB’s Guidelines on the Assessment of Education in Places Other Than Recognised Schools sent out to you, please contact Grainne McLoughlin at .
If you have any questions or concerns about home education in general, please feel free to contact me at 086-10-78778 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As you know, the NEWB has the challenging task of ensuring that all children in Ireland receive an education. By registering a child with the NEWB, a home educator meets their legal obligations under existing law. The entry of this child onto the Register of Children in Receipt of Education in Places Other than a Recognised School then allows the NEWB to meet its statutory obligations relating to this home educated child under existing law.
Thank you for your attention to this important matter!
NEWB Home Assessor
BA, M.Sc, M.Ed