“How do I get a new moderator?” If you’ve been around the home education community very long, you will have seen or heard this question come up a few times!
To start, and especially for the new folks who haven’t had much to do with moderators yet, don’t panic! The vast majority of home educators get along fine with their moderators – when HEWA runs surveys of the home-education community, over 90% of responses say that they are happy with their moderators. Most moderators really do want to help, and (like you!) want the best for your kids.
Sometimes, though, things can come unstuck. Whether it’s because of different communication styles, or very different approaches to education, occasionally a particular moderator is not a good fit for a particular family.
It’s worth bearing a few things in mind before requesting a new moderator. First of all, having someone “check on us” does stress most people a bit, and that tends to influence us to interpret things they say as more obligatory than they may have intended. Secondly, some people who are naturally directive in personality say things that they intend as suggestions in ways that really sound like orders to a lot of others. So some issues with moderators end up just being cases of communication breakdown.
A few years ago, our beloved Saani Bennetts wrote a wonderfully comprehensive response to someone on Facebook who asked how to request a different moderator. We have collated her recommendations here from that post, so they don’t get lost, and for easy reference by anyone else facing a similar situation.
Saani on requesting a new moderator
Original Post: I am looking for advice from anyone who has previously requested a change in moderator. Our current moderator is very curriculum and grade level focussed. My son is a natural learner, whose progress is all over the place when measured against the Education Department’s formal benchmarks (some areas very ‘advanced’, some far ‘behind’). I would like to request a change to a moderator more inclined to help me on our path rather than one who berates me, but I am unsure of the correct procedure.
I would love to hear from anyone who has successfully changed mods and has advice on the best way to go about it. TIA.
So with regard to changing moderators, here is my view and advice based on my research and experience working with home educating families over the years. It’s going to be long, but I make no apologies. If you want the info, read it. If not, don’t.
From experience, there are three main types of moderator issues. You approach each situation a bit differently. I’ll list the types and then expand on what I see is probably the best course of action.
1. Conduct Issues
These are situations where the moderator is accepting your child’s progress and that you are meeting the necessary requirements, but where he/she has behaved in a manner that you consider inappropriate, unprofessional or unacceptable in some way.
2. Compliance Issues
These are situations where the moderator is claiming that you are not adequately complying with your responsibilities as a home educating parent. This includes moderators saying the child hasn’t made enough progress, saying that you aren’t following the curriculum sufficient and so on.
3. Philosophical Issues
This is where you feel that you have a fundamental and irreconcilable difference in educational philosophy to your moderator. Sometimes this can relate to moderators who are not supportive of people using certain religious materials, or people doing natural learning and so on.
4. Inadequate accommodation for neurodiversity and/or additional needs
5. Combo Issue, where two or more of the above are at play.
So, now to examine each issue in a bit more depth.
1. Conduct Issues
The first thing you need to do in these situations is to download the Education Department’s Code of Conduct.
There are 3 main phrases in the Code of Conduct that I think are particularly relevant to Home Education issues. Those are:
a) We have a positive approach to learning and encourage it in others; we advance student learning based on our belief that all students have the capacity to learn.
This is relevant in a situation where, for example, a moderator says in front of two children that one would be “fine in school” but the other wouldn’t be able to keep up. Whether that is true or not, it’s not a statement that is taking a positive approach to learning.
b) We recognise the differing circumstances and needs of our students and are dedicated to achieving the best possible outcomes for all.
This is relevant in [Original Poster]’s situation, for example, where she has shared that her son learns differently and has different needs. She feels that her moderator is not showing a dedication to achieving the best outcomes for her son, but rather asking that her son try to meet the demands of a curriculum clearly not suited to him. It’s a case of a moderator expecting all children to learn, progress and be educated the same way, rather than adhering to the Code of Conduct which states that Education Department employees recognise different circumstances and needs of students.
c) We treat all individuals with care. Our relationships are based on trust, mutual respect and the acceptance of responsibility. We recognise the value of working in partnership with parents/carers and the wider community in providing a quality education for our students. (Has the moderator acted with care and with a true desire to build trust, mutual respect etc, and to work in partnership with parents?)
You may find other passages that are relevant also.
With regard to the issue of bullying, that is a tricky one. I’ve heard people say they were bullied by moderators before but honestly, what people usually mean is in fact a breach of the Code of Conduct – they weren’t treated with care, partnership, respect etc. That is not the same as bullying. It doesn’t mean it’s acceptable, but does not meet the department’s definition of bullying.
However, if you do think that your moderator has bullied you, you will need to read the department’s Bullying Policy.
Please distinguish between a breach of Code and Conduct and Bullying – they are not the same. Just because you feel upset, hurt, intimidated, misunderstood or whatever, that doesn’t mean you were bullied. It may mean you were badly treated, but not necessarily bullied. Bullying is a serious accusation to make so please check the definition of bullying in the department policy before making that accusation. Of course bullying needs to be reported but please check and double check what constitutes bullying versus a breach of Code of Conduct.
Once you’ve identified that your moderator has breached the Code of Conduct (in your opinion), you will need to submit a complaint in writing to your moderator’s Line Manager.
The Line Managers are different for different districts, eg North Metro, South Metro etc. If you don’t know your moderator’s Line Manager, address your letter to:
Moderator Line Manager
INSERT EDUCATION DISTRICT NAME
INSERT EDUCATION DISTRICT ADDRESS
In your letter, you should do the following:
• State what has happened and how it breaches the Code of Conduct. Keep this non-emotional and stick to the facts. Getting emotional, making accusations, calling names, putting the moderator down and so on is not productive. It also needs to be facts that you state. For example, if you “got the vibe” that they are against your religion, it doesn’t matter. What matters is what they said or did, not feelings or vibes you got. Stick to observable evidence.
• Present any evidence you have (anything the moderator put in writing, recording obtained with permission, notes from an observer etc)
• State the effect that the behaviour had on you but again, keep it simple. Do not waffle or rant. Don’t get angry. Just state the effect on you as factually as possible.
• Ask politely if you could please be assigned a new moderator and provide your contact details for them to get in touch.
• Make sure you keep a copy of EVERY piece of correspondence with the department and date everything too.
That is the first step in cases of Conduct issues. If you don’t get assigned a new moderator, contact HEWA and we can advise further.
Please note: following these steps is not a guarantee of any particular outcome. Please also note that it is important to keep in mind that your moderator is a person too. He/she might truly believe that he/she is doing their job and doing their best to help you, even if it doesn’t seem that way to you. I’m not supporting unacceptable behaviour at all, but keep in mind that moderators are people too.
2. Curriculum Issues
You will need to write a complaint to your moderator’s line manager. As above, lay out the facts and reference the Education Act, Home Education Policy or Assessment principles.
Keep it factual – what did the moderator say or do that you disagreed with and how is that in breach of their roles and responsibilities or Education Department philosophies? Explain how you are meeting your requirements as per your understanding of the Act, Policy etc.
End with your request for a new moderator who is able to assess your educational program and your child’s progress against the curriculum in such a way that takes into account your educational philosophy and your child’s individual needs as well as their right to learn at their own pace.
Here are the 3 most important documents you can use to back up your claims that a moderator is acting unfairly in their assessment, is making unreasonable requests or is exceeding their responsibility.
You don’t need to read the whole thing, just section 6 on Home Education. It’s not long and probably isn’t much use in a request for a new moderator letter, but it’s worth reading anyway.
This is an internal Education Department document that moderators are required to read and abide by. It’s actually not intended for home educating parents but it is an important document that shows what the expectations are of a moderator, what’s allowed and not allowed. The vast majority of curriculum issues that people have with moderators are because each moderator essentially interprets the Home Education Policy differently. It is therefore up to you to read the policy and find where you feel that your moderator is making requests beyond the scope of their job description or interpreting the policy in a way that is unfair or unreasonable.
The Principles provide an excellent resource for checking whether your moderator is assessing you fairly. As with the Code of Conduct, read these principles and see which one/s your moderator might not be practicing. If you can identify a principle that your moderator isn’t using and provide evidence, you can then request a moderator who will apply those principles to their assessment of your situation.
Here is an example from Principle 3: Assessment should be fair.
“Assessment needs to take account of the diverse needs of students, to be equitable with regard to gender, disability, background language and socio-economic status and not discriminate on grounds that are irrelevant to learning.”
If you feel that your moderator is not taking into account the diverse needs of your child, their background (this includes past school history, mental and physical health issues where relevant, life background such as traumatic events or loss etc), any disabilities or learning differences and so on, then you can explain why you feel they are not taking those things into account.
If you want a new moderator due to curriculum issues, make sure you know what your responsibilities are too and that you are meeting them. If you are doing that and you can show how your moderator is assessing you in a way that doesn’t reflect the Education Department principles or is requesting things that you feel are not reasonable, you have good grounds for requesting a new moderator.
3. Philosophical Issues
This is a tricky one because there’s really nothing in the law or policies about any particular educational philosophy so moderators have no guidance on the subject of different philosophies.
Basically the way to handle this is the same as above – write or speak to your moderator’s line manager. In your letter, you could reference that the Code of Conduct states that “We recognise the differing circumstances and needs of our students and are dedicated to achieving the best possible outcomes for all” and that you feel that your moderator does not have a full appreciation of your educational philosophy and as such, isn’t able to really work together with you to achieve the best outcomes for your child. Or something like that.
I would go on to explain your educational philosophy. This can be a combination of well-recognised philosophies, or a philosophy you name as you wish. For those doing natural learning, don’t say “unschooling.” Child/Student-led learning or interest-based learning are better options.
Do some research and find schools that use that philosophy (there are schools that use a natural learning/unschooling approach too – see Sudbury Valley schools or Democratic Schools, Summerhill or Free Schools) or books or articles that discuss that philosophy. You don’t need to have read every book or article. Just list them.
Once you’ve listed some books and articles on your philosophy or its use in schools, point out that it’s a valid and accepted philosophy and you request that you have a moderator who is able to support you to educate your child in your chosen philosophy. Explain that you feel that a moderator who has some experience with child/student-led learning or whatever or who is open to learning about and supporting your chosen philosophy.
One philosophy that you might find conducive to home education is Reggio Emilia. The majority of the basic principles really reflect what home educators usually do naturally, and it’s a philosophy that has gained growing recognition.
Here’s the important thing about philosophical issues – you still have to show evidence that your child is making educational progress, and you still have to show that your child is working toward the curriculum outcomes. You can do this using any educational philosophy including unschooling. To know how to do this, read HEWA’s new Curriculum book I’ve nearly finished or attend HEWA’s Curriculum workshop.
If you are asking for a new moderator on the grounds of philosophical difference, you will need to be sure that you are fulfilling your curriculum requirements. If you are, but your moderator isn’t accepting HOW you plan and implement your educational program, then you have good grounds for requesting a change.
I’m currently in the process of writing a book with evidence as to the validity and benefits of student-led learning and hopefully showing the research in that to moderators or using it when dealing with line managers will help. For now though, if you want to run your letter or ideas by me, you can.
4. Inadequate accommodation for neurodiversity and/or additional needs
If your moderator simply will not understand or make allowances or accommodations or be flexible for students with additional needs/neurodiverse learning styles and needs.
I would throw in the Education Department’s Guiding Principles, and I now teach people how to use these to hold the Education Department accountable for what they say they believe in.
The statement on Student Diversity is a good one to use in letters regarding moderators not understanding or catering for additional needs. https://k10outline.scsa.wa.edu.au/…/student-diversity
And most of these principles have useful bits in them – but especially the value of “Inclusivity and Difference.” That one is relevant to any category of moderator complaint.
I don’t tell people to be aggressive or confrontational, but to stand up for their rights calmly and assertively.
If the Education Department is going to publicly publish/state that one of their core values about Teaching, Learning & Assessment is that they acknowledge that
“Students develop at different rates and also learn new ideas more or less quickly. They should be provided with the time, conditions and encouragement they need to learn in stimulating ways, and be discouraged from superficial learning that gives the impression of keeping pace at the expense of long-term and sustained learning,”
then they ought to make every effort to walk their talk and apply their value to practical situations. (Quote is an excerpt from the value “Inclusivity and Difference” – just one example of useful info in the Principles).
When moderators are pushing for kids to be at a certain year level, for example, regardless of their additional needs or differences as a learner, pointing out that excerpt can be very effective.
The Education Department can’t really say, “well, I know we said this is one of our values but actually, we don’t care about your child’s background, circumstances, health, differences etc – we just want them to be doing work of their year level. And we just want to see lots of written evidence and superficial worksheets that you’re doing just to keep moderators happy, rather than because they produce long-term, sustained learning.”
How can they insist that home educators act/program/teach/educate/guide children in a way that is contrary to their own principles and values?
This is why it might be a bit more work to look at the policy and things like the Principles, but it’s worth it.
When you reference these Principles, it’s suddenly not just a random homeschooler demanding to do things in a way that is against what the Education Department believes in, but it’s showing how you are upholding the Education Department’s values, whereas demands/behaviour/attitude from a moderator does not align with what the Department themselves says.
If you have a situation where you have two or more of the other issues happening, you can either choose which one you think is really the main problem, or you can write a letter that addresses each issue. Divide your letter into parts and reference the relevant policies.
Please know that there are people who won’t agree with me and that’s fine. There are people who will believe that the steps I’ve outlined aren’t necessary.
There are people who will tell you that they just made one phone call to ask for a new moderator and were given one. There may be some people out there who have had that happen, however it’s the exception, not the rule.
I sincerely encourage people to follow the protocol, even if it takes you a little extra work. Firstly, you have a better chance of having your request granted and your claim is more legitimate. Secondly, it helps the home ed community retain a reputation of intelligent people who know our rights, rather than adding to the idea that homeschoolers are whinging or something like that. Thirdly, it’s more consistent. If home educators are all following the proper process, the Education Department takes us as a community more seriously.
I know this is not the answer that people want to hear. As mentioned before, there will be people who tell you not to worry about this but just call up the department or write a letter and ask for a new moderator and you can give that a try if you wish. There are likely people who have done that and been successful. But not everyone is successful with that method.
I know that this may all be quite overwhelming, but it’s worth the effort to write a polite, factual letter outlining the issue, referring to relevant policies etc and making a request for a new moderator.
HEWA has an online workshop called Understanding the WA Curriculum, Planning & Reporting that will cover many curriculum issues [available here]