NESA Homeschooling

Jenny lived in NSW and she was trying to work out her first Australian NESA homeschooling plan. She was swimming in a pool of paperwork that she had downloaded from the powers that be and she was buying workbooks and joining online websites all because they had the magic phrase – conforms to the NESA Syllabus. She wanted to offer her child a new way to learn but she was feeling strangled by the NESA homeschooling requirements. What should she do? She had no idea how to tick the government boxes and still give her child the opportunities she had dreamed of when she first began contemplating homeschooling in NSW.

nesa homeschooling

Australian Curriculum and State Compliance

The Australian Curriculum was introduced in 2012 for all schools in Australia and it’s goal is to standardise teaching outcomes around Australia. Schools in Queensland, Northern Territory, Canberra (ACT), South Australia and Tasmania have all followed the Australian Curriculum as laid out in the federal government website. New South Wales incorporates the Australian Curriculum into the NESA Syllabus, as does Western Australia and Victoria.

The  NESA Syllabus is the NSW wide school curriculum standard. When documenting your plan for registration the NESA Home Schooling package states your plan only needs to be based on the NSW syllabus. You do not need to follow it identically. It needs only to be BASED ON the NSW syllabus.

For more information on WA syllabus and the Australian Curriculum for homeschooling.

If you are interested in the Victorian Curriculum and Australian Curriculum Differences here is an article to help you.

NESA Syllabus Stages

Stage One: Foundation (Kindergarten) – Year Two | Ages 5-8
Stage Two: Year Three – Year Four | Ages 8-10
Stage Three: Year Five – Year Six | Ages 10-12
Stage Four: Year Seven – Year Eight | Ages 12-14
Stage Five: Year Nine – Year Ten | Ages 14 -16
Stage Six: Year Eleven – Year Twelve | Ages 16 -18

At My Homeschool we offer homeschool programs from Stage One to Stage Five (Year 10)

DIY NESA Homeschooling Plans

You can write your NESA homeschooling plan using these parts of the NESA syllabus:

  • NSW Syllabus Outcomes – what you are hoping to achieve.
  • NSW Syllabus Content – the subject content.
  • NSW Stage Statements (are summaries of the content for each subject set into two-year periods. You can use them as part of your documentation, but it probably will not help with planning).

Now I know this all sounds a little scary, but we are not required to plan to the level of a school. Many learning plans are only a few pages long. I do not recommend using outcomes for planning. It is really for school teachers not homeschoolers and it’s complicated for most of us.

The easiest way to plan is using the NSW Syllabus Stage Statements however they are vague and can be a bit hard to understand. Nevertheless, some people like the vagueness because it means they can pretty much ignore them and just teach what they want. I see the merit in that!

I find the syllabus content is the best way to work out what is expected. 

Here is the official NESA stage statements planning tool. It includes stage statements and outcomes from Stage 1 to Stage 5.

Planning To The NESA Syllabus

Now because of the push by a few states, particularly NSW, families planning to home education in Australia have found that following the curriculum has become their principal concern.

This has meant that much of a NSW home educators’ planning time is spent trying to understand and replicate the content of the NESA Syllabus to their children in order to say to the powers that be, “I teach to the syllabus.” The content, and the sequence of teaching this content, hampers NSW home educators’ ability to develop their ideas on education because they have been forced to comply with this new standard. And as a result, the quality and suitability of the children’s education has suffered.

The overfull NESA syllabus has kept many homeschooling parents preoccupied as they try to sort out how to cram everything in to their children’s timetables. This has resulted in parents choosing quick fix solutions and ‘tick-the-box’ schoolish resources just because they have been marketed as complying with the NESA Syllabus. Some parents find their children are getting bored and missing out on rich educational opportunities. Their curriculum lacks the structure of a balanced education because it has now become about meeting a stage outcome, ticking a box, and teaching to a test.

There is a better way!

Top Tip For Understanding The NESA Homeschooling Syllabus

When you plan using stage statements you can register your NESA homeschooling plan as primary or high school. Therefore if you teach out of order to the NESA syllabus it doesn’t really matter. I have found most topics you want to teach will fall somewhere into the NESA syllabus. Also you should be aware, when you plan try to make sure you have included the following things into your homeschool NESA plan.

  • Incorporate indigenous history and literature into your reading list most years
  • Include more Asian studies in your history lessons in high school
  • Teach environmental science within geography in high school.
  • Give lessons in using technology

Comparing the Australian Curriculum and NESA Syllabus

I was contacted by a homeschooler who told me at her registration visit that their homeschool NESA assessor said they must use the NSW Curriculum and not the Australian Curriculum to plan. Whilst I knew this perception was prevalent it got me thinking – what is the actual difference between the these curriculum documents and would an assessor in NSW even know if I planned according to the Australian Curriculum or the NESA syllabus?

This led me on a search to find out what the actual differences were and if they really mattered.

What’s the Difference Between the Terms ‘Curriculum’ and ‘Syllabus’

‘Curriculum’ refers to the overall content that is presented – the big picture. In this case everything taught in all subjects from Foundation to the end of high school along with teaching ideas and goals.

‘syllabus’ is more specific referring to particular subjects and it’s usually more descriptive – the details.

The NESA syllabus has much more information to absorb than the Australian Curriculum.

The Content is Similar

There is not a lot of difference in the content however not all state subjects have an Australian Curriculum equivalent.

Within the WA curriculum and NESA syllabus, Australian Curriculum (ACARA) codes are referenced and matched.

For example the NESA Syllabus for English Key shows how they reference the Australian Curriculum content codes and the NESA Syllabus codes.

Look at the Western Australian Curriculum and you will also see all the ACARA codes. 

Main Differences – Outcomes and Order

In the Australian Curriculum Technology and Design is embedded across the curriculum rather than a specific part of the science curriculum. 

In the math curriculum there is also a slight difference in the higher grades on when certain concepts are taught such as simultaneous equations.

In most cases the Australian Curriculum’s learning content has been rephrased into an assessable NESA Syllabus outcome by adding a verb to the content statement like: identifies, describes, explains or demonstrates. This slight difference is a philosophical one about children being tested on their knowledge rather than a teacher just making sure she taught it – this theoretical debate is one for academics and teachers and home educators needn’t worry about it.

Here is an example shown from NESA Syllabus Science Stage 2 – Physical World

  • NSW Outcome Syllabus – Code ST2-7PW: identifies ways heat is produced and that heat moves from one object to another
  • Australian Curriculum Content – Code ACSSU049 : Heat can be produced in many ways and can move from one object to another.

See how the difference is just in the phrasing.

The Australian Curriculum is divided into four general stages whereas NSW is divided into six stages:

  • Foundation to Year 2 (which is Stage 1 NSW)
  • Year 3 to Year 6 (which is Stage 2 and 3 in NSW)
  • Year 7 to Year 10 (which is Stage 4 and 5 in NSW)
  • Year 11 and Year 12 (which is Stage 6 in NSW)

The Australian Curriculum is written in grades/years even though the curriculum is actually still based on the concept of teaching students in stages.

At times one NESA outcome can meet a few Australian Curriculum content requirements. For example in the NSW Syllabus for English Stage 2

NESA OUTCOME: Uses effective handwriting and publishes texts using digital technologies (NSW Syllabus Code EN2 -3A) meets four codes in the Australian Curriculum:

  • Year 3 – ACELY1684 – Write using joined letters that are clearly formed and consistent in size (or begins cursive) 
  • Year 3 – ACELY1685 – Use software including word processing programs with growing speed and efficiency to construct and edit texts featuring visual, print and audio elements
  • Year 4 – ACELY1696 – Write using clearly-formed joined letters, and develop increased fluency and automaticity (or becomes confident with cursive)
  • Year 4 – ACELY1697 – Use a range of software including word processing programs to construct, edit and publish written text, and select, edit and place visual, print and audio elements

The Australian Curriculum Achievement Standards are almost the same as the NESA Stage Statements. They both use the same content and both have an outcome based approach that describes the learning expected in each subject’s stage or year. However the Australian Curriculum gives a little more instruction on the content.

The Australian Curriculum has general stage statements for each stage; this is not the same as the NSW stage statements.

The NSW Syllabus spends more time explaining the depth to which content is to be covered. Whilst these can be helpful, if you need clarification, you are not required to use these elaborations when planning.

Can I Buy A Plan?

Yes! When you use My Homeschool we give you the essential building blocks for your personalised learning plan.

We’ve done 75% of the work. We provide idea prompts and suggestions to help you personalise your application to suit your child’s specific needs.

With each grade we include:

  • A learning plan in an editable Word document. Just fill in the sections we recommend.
  • A scope and sequence with all syllabus outcomes and codes linked to resources.
  • Editable Term Reports to make re-registration easy.

100% of our members report passing their registration and reregistration when using our templates.

You’ll find more information on home education registration and planning here.

What a relief and blessing for homeschool families to have all the nitty gritty details of daily homeschool and homeschool registration designed for us. It is wonderful to see how simple registration can be. Michelle you have created a method for recording that oozes simplicity and that is what we all want. Michelle and Jo you are a very present listening ear and help on the My Homeschool forum and your advice is all about making homeschool work for each one. I have absolute freedom in how I use this resource. I have not followed the schedule as is but have felt encouragement from you to make it work for my busy family lifestyle, quirks and passions. Year 5 is helping our ten year old to move into written narrations and I have found Our Sunburnt Country broken into small chunks with a notebook page for each reading, is so simple and achievable. My daughter’s confidence in writing has grown in the first term of using My Homeschool following this very natural method. Thank you Michelle and Jo, for your commitment to making homeschool simple. What a blessing you are.

Renelle from NSW

Home Educator, My Homeschool, Year Five