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Home Education and the BELA Bill

4 min read   •   February 27, 2020
Suzann Prinsloo – Head: Client Engagement

Lately, there has been a big upheaval around the Basic Education Laws Amendment (BELA) Bill and its implications for parents who are home educating their children. Likewise, many clients have asked Impaq what this means for home education in South Africa.

Firstly, it’s important to note that the new bill is not all that different from the current South African Schools Act in terms of home education, and it remains legal for a parent to home educate (or homeschool) their child(ren). Indeed, much of the detail can be found in the 2018 Home Education Policy, while the regulations, which will become law, are still in draft form. For more information on how the BELA Bill could affect home education learners, please read the article recently written by our head of academics, Prof Rita Niemann.

Under the policy, up until the end of Grade 9 (7 – 15 years old) children are legally compelled to attend school. However, home education is a legal alternative to formal schooling on condition that the parents register their children with their Provincial Department of Education to obtain approval for not attending a school. The policy, therefore, describes the regulations in terms of this. For a more detailed layout of what the current policy requires from parents and how Impaq addresses this, please visit Impaq’s legal considerations page. Learners from Grade 10 onwards are no longer considered of compulsory school-going age and therefore only need to be registered with an examination body through a curriculum provider. In the case of Impaq, its learners are registered with the assessment body (examination board) SACAI to obtain the National Senior Certificate (NSC).

Secondly, it is important to understand the role of tutors in terms of home education. Under the current policy, the parent may, if necessary, enlist the services of a tutor for specific areas of the curriculum. A tutor may not replace the primary responsibility of the parent in respect of providing home education to the child (Par 18.4 (2)). Many parents see the tutor centre as a form of a private school or independent education institution with smaller classes and/or individualised learning. The biggest danger in this is that the tutor centre may under no circumstance act or claim to be a school. When the relevant Provincial Department of Education becomes aware of a tutor centre acting as a school, they are well within their rights to close such an “illegal school” down.

It is the “acting as a school” which becomes problematic – a tutor may only act as a tutor and not engage in acting as a school by, for instance, having fixed timetables, learners wearing school uniforms, tutors presenting themselves as teachers (if they are not registered with SACE), claiming to be schools, and people calling themselves principals. Equally important is the fact that no tutor may provide any learner with a report card. Tutors may assist parents in uploading marks to my.Impaq, and generating progress and final report cards via my.Impaq. At no point may a tutor withhold marks for any learner. This often happens when a parent defaults on their payments to tutors. Tutors may follow actions to recover their fees as per the contract between the parent and the tutor (including ending the contract and not providing a service going forward), but not to the detriment of the learner in terms of any work that has been done.

Furthermore, the tutor must make parents aware of the difference between their offering and how it differs from a school to ensure that the parent does not expect the same level of engagement and/or responsibilities that they have come to expect from a school. The parent needs to know that you, as the tutor, support their role as the responsible party for home educating their children.

We, at Impaq, acknowledges that there are many tutors making use of our products and services in supporting the Impaq-registered learners and do so because they truly believe in bettering the lives of young people. We are also aware of the vital role tutors play in the lives of children for whom home education is the only option. Because we know this, we aim to keep you updated on any changes in the legislation and will continue to do so to empower you to continue doing what you do best – supporting each child on their learning journey.

A webinar on the legalities of home education will be presented on Tuesday, 10 March 2020. Register Now.