School boards have generally used the guideline entitled "Determining Satisfactory Instruction," issued by the ministry in 1981, to develop policies with respect to determining satisfactory instruction for those children whose parents have notified the board of their intention to home school their children. Recent changes such as the increase in home schooling, the formation of provincial home schooling support groups, and the reorganization of school boards have led to an opportunity to review home schooling practices in Ontario.
Key stakeholder groups, along with the Ministry of Education and Training, are reviewing the criteria for determining satisfactory instruction. The purpose of the review is to promote and encourage the use of successful practices with a view to ensuring greater consistency of practice in the province.
The groups involved included the Ontario Association for Counselling and Attendance Services (OACAS), the Ontario Federation of Teaching Parents (OFTP), the Ontario Christian Home Educators' Connection (OCHEC), the Home Schooling Legal Defence Association (HSLDA) and school boards in consultation with the Catholic Home Schoolers' Association.
This draft document resulted from a series of consultations designed to explore possible best practices for Boards in relation to home-based education under Ontario's current laws. Taking part in these discussions were: Jim Sebastian, Provincial School Attendance Counsellor (PSAC); Pierce Thomas, president of the Ontario Association of Counselling and Attendance Services (OACAS); Glen Purcell, Scarborough attendance counsellor; Des Brennan, attendance counsellor from the Hamilton-Wentworth School Board; Betty Brown, Superintendent of Education, Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board; Jack Barbibeau, Director from Home Schooling Legal Defense Association (HSLDA); Jake Zwart, Secretary of the Ontario Christian Home Educators' Connection (OCHEC); Albert Lubberts, president of OFTP and Donna Sheehan, executive member of OFTP.
SECTION 1: NOTIFICATION TO HOME SCHOOL
1. When a school board has been informed or has reason to believe that a family is home schooling, the school board should provide the family with:
- a copy of this document;
- a copy of the Notification to Home School Form (sample to be provided);
- resources and services that the school board is able to offer in assisting the family;
- a directory of home schooling support groups the family may contact. (Support groups within the board's jurisdiction will provide the appropriate information to the board.)
Parents will return the completed form to the school board within 14 days. For statistical purposes, the school board will request parents to complete a Form annually.
2. Notification to Home School Form
On the Notification to Home School Form, parents or guardians are requested to provide their name, address and phone, the name and date of birth of school age children. Parents will sign the Form and return it to the board selecting one of the following options:
- I/we as parent(s)/guardian(s) of the child/children named herein assume sole and full responsibility for the education of the child/children.
- I/we as parent(s)/guardian(s) of the child/children named herein wish to involve the school board in assisting in the education of the child/children.
3. School boards which receive a Form where option 1 has been selected, that is parents/guardian(s) indicate that they assume sole and full responsibility for the education of the child/children, will issue a letter of acknowledgement to the family (sample to be provided). A school board will inquire further into the matter only if there are compelling reasons for believing that satisfactory instruction is not occurring.
SECTION 2: FAMILY AND SCHOOL BOARD COLLABORATION
School boards which receive a Form where option 2 has been selected, that is parents/guardian(s) indicate that they wish to involve the school board in assisting in the education of the child/children, will issue a letter of acknowledgement to the family (sample to be provided). The school board should indicate the services and resources which it is willing to make available to parents.
SECTION 3: DISPUTE RESOLUTION
School boards may have reason to inquire further into cases when they have reasons to believe that satisfactory instruction is not occurring in order to ensure that the needs of children are being met. Examples included:
- parents do not submit or refuse to submit a Notification to Home School Form;
- credible evidence exists that satisfactory instruction is not occurring;
- a child is suddenly withdrawn from school to be home schooled and there is reason to believe that home schooling is not the reason for the withdrawal.
In such cases, the school board attendance counsellor will request the parent to submit a Form and will request to meet with the parent to discuss the situation and concerns. The school board could refer the parents to one of the provincial home schooling organizations if it is appropriate.
SECTION 4: PROVINCIAL INQUIRIES
When a school board is unable to resolve the situation at the local level, it may request the Provincial School Attendance Counsellor to inquire into the case under s. 24(2) of the Education Act. The provincial School Attendance Counsellor appoints ministry staff to conduct an inquiry. If an inquiry determines that a child is not receiving satisfactory instruction and the Provincial School Attendance Counsellor orders that the child attend school, the school board must decide what action is appropriate.