There is an interesting thread on the HE-UK list at the moment. It was started by a mother who is angry that her 15 year old son is not entitled to a free place at an FE college, but will instead have to pay £3000 in tuition fees. On the face of it, this seems outrageous. But is it really?
One of the best things about home educating for me has been the complete freedom which it meant for us. If one does not want to take GCSEs, that's fine. If one does wish to do so, then there is none of that nonsense of choosing "options" at the age of fourteen; a process which all too often seems to compel children to study things in which they have no interest at all. If, as we did, you prefer to do International GCSEs, rather than GCSEs, then that is OK as well. It's great!
There is a downside to this glorious freedom; it is accompanied by complete responsibility for the child's education, including of course financial responsibility. In my case, this meant paying £120 for each examination taken. Had I wanted to send my daughter to college at fourteen or fifteen, then I suppose that I too would have been obliged to pay £3000 for the privilege. This is irritating, but quite fair. After all, if rather than teaching her myself at that age, I wanted to send her to an educational institution, then there are several free establishments in the town to choose from. They are called schools.
There is free educational provision for every child in this country up to the age of 18. A child can take GCSE's for nothing and then go on to do A levels at college if that is what is required. All completely free. If we choose not to take advantage of this provision, but instead wish to pay for an independent school or do the job ourselves, then we are at liberty to do so. What we cannot reasonably expect is for the state run educational system to bend over backwards to adapt itself to our wishes. Why should it? After all the whole structure is geared towards children attending school until 16 and then going on to college or sixth form. It would be rather as though we rejected the NHS in favour of treating our own illness, but then insisted on jumping the queue to see a specialist when something tricky cropped up. Those who had stayed in the system would get a bit tetchy about it! If we want to use the state's educational system, then that is fine; it is there for the taking as long as we follow the rules. If, on the other hand, we want to do the job ourselves, that is also fine. We can't really expect to nip in as and when though and expect preferential treatment for bits that we quite fancy the look of.
I shall be posting a piece in the next few days specifically about GCSEs and the possibility of the DCSF giving home educated children access to them. In the meantime, I will remark that I have the distinct feeling that FE colleges and also perhaps the OU are beginning to get a little tired of home educating parents and their children! It strikes me that more and more colleges are sticking to the rules and that there have been signs that the OU too seems to be making life a little more tricky for home educators. Whether this is due to pressure from the DCSF or local authorities, I don't know, but there seem more stories lately from parents who are finding these institutions less accommodating than has been the case in the past.