File picture: Nokuthula Mbatha/African News Agency (ANA)
In the coming weeks, thousands of parents in Gauteng will be hoping their applications to place their children in schools of their choice will be successful.

At the end of last month, the Gauteng education department said it received a record number - 300000 - of online applications for grades 1 to 8 placements next year.

What is topical about 2020 applications is that they are happening against a backdrop of a changing schools admissions landscape in the province.

Until recently, many Gauteng public schools prioritised applicants living or working within a 5km radius of their schools.

This diminished the chances of children living further away from better-resourced schools from being admitted to these schools.

But for the past 18 months, the department has been acting on a 2016 Constitutional Court ruling to address this. And in November 2018, new regulations regarding the province’s feeder zones were officially gazetted.

While this gives more children access to better quality public schools, the reality is it will also place a greater demand on the better-resourced schools, with the possibility existing that a parent may not get their child into the school of their choice.

But there is an affordable, viable alternative that is growing rapidly in popularity: that of home-school education. Ever since being legalised in South Africa in 1996, home education has been on a steady growth path, becoming more mainstream.

According to the 2011 census, there were 56857 home-education learners in the country at the time. As the country’s biggest home-education provider, Impaq had just 400 learners in 2002 - but this number grew to 16000 in 2018, and this figure is expected to surpass 18000 in 2019.

A big reason more children are doing home education than ever before is that it is incredibly flexible.

Learners who use Impaq’s solutions also fall under examination bodies overseen by Umalusi, such as the South African Comprehensive Assessment Institute or the Independent Examinations Board.

This means that a child between grades 1 to 12 can enter home education and even return to mainstream schooling at any point, without missing a step in their educational journey.

In addition, home education can give learners more choice. For example, learners at Further Education and Training College-level (grade 10s to 12) can do subjects such as visual arts or drama via a provider like Impaq.

Home-education learners through Impaq can also take their subjects in Afrikaans while Zulu, as a first additional language, is on offer for grades 1 to 3 learners from next year.

Impaq learners can also take robotics and coding as supplementary subjects as from 2020.

Home-education parents, who use the likes of Impaq, also get very detailed facilitator guides, which tell them how to teach a subject.

Finally, doing home education doesn’t mean that your child misses out on social and integration activities either. In fact, home-educated children can have more time to engage in several extra-curricular activities and interact with a variety of peers.

* Schoonwinkel is the general manager of Impaq, a subsidiary of the FutureLearn Group.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.