For many years, home educated students have been excluded or limited in participating in secondary school sports and competitions in New Zealand under School Sports New Zealand (NZSSSC)’s rules. The organisation effectively oversees all secondary school sports in New Zealand – any student who wants to compete in secondary sports competitions must meet the NZSSSC’s eligibility rules.
Their main reason for limiting home educator’s participation has been a “fear” that homeschooled students may have an “unfair advantage because they can practice all day at the cost of their academic studies.” Home educated students are also being viewed as individuals making them ineligible (as a group) for team sports.
Some individual schools and sports organisations have been willing to allow some home educators to take part, but when it comes to the actual competitions, the above rules have continued to limit what students can do and achieve. In many cases, however, sports organisations have used the NZSSSC rules to simply say they don’t have to accept home educated students and have not let them take part.
Working towards change
There are currently approx. 11,000 registered homeschooled students in NZ (excluding the next generations to come) who deserve to have the opportunity to play team sport and compete against their peers.
In 2019, Peter Gore (a homeschooling dad) initiated discussions with the NZSSSC to effect a rule change. Krystal Ward has also been involved in assisting Peter on an ongoing basis. NCHENZ has provided some support, mostly in an advisory capacity.
The Board of NZSSSC and CEO Mike Summerell are now onboard with the need for home educated students to have access to sport. The hope is that this, with all the associated rule changes, can be in place for the 2024 season.
However, to bring this to fruition, Peter and Krystal need a few more people with the right skills to assist them. If you have strong administration skills (especially if you have experience in sports administration) and want to see generations of home educated children able to freely participate in secondary sports competitions, please consider joining the team. There is simply too much work for only two people (who also have other commitments) to get it all done in time. A team of about 6 people with the right skills would be ideal to to share the load and progress this more effectively. If you are able to help, please contact Peter at Peter.Gore.NZ@gmail.com.
What needs done
NZSSSC is required to protect the integrity of all Secondary Sports competitions. As home educators, we need be able to satisfy/ prove our eligibility to enter competition.
To do this, there needs to be a governing sport body for homeschool sports created. This would be an organisation run by volunteers, with a formal structure (incorporated society or similar), much as NCHENZ currently is, to represent the interests of homeschool sports and provide a governing function. This governing body would then become a member of NZSSSC, having the same standing as a school. This would allow us to select teams, enter tournaments, participate and even win national honours.
The role of the governing body is important because they sign off on a student’s eligibility to compete. NZSSSC have traditionally held that home educated students cannot be bound to code of conduct or health and safety requirements because they are individuals. Having a governing body provides home educators with a mechanism to meet these criteria and opens the pathway for our students to compete.
It is envisaged that future parents/coaches would send a team application to the home educator’s governance body, with proof of eligibility and signed consent forms, and the governance team would validate this application and endorse the team entry. On receipt of this endorsement, NZSSSC would confirm the team’s application to compete. These things are normally attested to by a school principal and are binding upon participants from their school. Home educated students need this homeschool sports body to serve that function in the absence of a school. Home educators participating in individual sports will also register with the governance body to be endorsed.
The intention is that home educated students will be able to participate in both individual and team sports without undue restrictions – they would be able to win medals and trophies, and home educators could enter a composite team made up of home educated (exempt) students.
To avoid any appearance of “cherry-picking” elite teams, there will need to be some rules around how a team can be formed, such as drawing members from a particular geographic area or similar. Only such necessary restrictions that ensure overall fairness and avoid having things turn back against the participation of home educators would be imposed.
Peter and Krystal have our sincere thanks for their tireless efforts to date. If you have the right skills to assist them, please do get in touch with Peter.
School Sport New Zealand’s current rules regarding home educated students:
i. Where event organisers wish to do so, home-schooled students that provide current evidence of MoE approval for home schooling may participate in a School Sport NZ sanctioned event.
ii. Home-schooled students are not eligible for medal placings however organisers may recognise a merit performance with a separate award/s.
iii. The parent of the home-schooled student must sign off a document with the event organiser accepting full responsibility for their student including the event health and safety plans.
i. For events below the premier level of a School Sport NZ sport, and where agreement of the event organiser is given, Home-schooled students may be included in the Composite Team of a member school, provided that the home-schooled students have been a part of the member school team for the season and not simply joining for the event.
ii. The member school principal of such teams is responsible for providing to the event organiser current evidence of MoE approval for home schooling for each home-schooled student included in the Composite Team.
iii. All other School Sport NZ regulations relating to Composite Teams will apply to such teams in (i) above, including the principal of the member school taking responsibility for all team members.
iv. Composite teams made up entirely of home-schooled students, i.e. not part of a member school team, will not be permitted in School Sport NZ sanctioned events.