Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Will GCSEs be made freely available for home educated children?

Recommendation 10 of the Badman Report says that local authorities should help home educated pupils find examination centres and pay for them to take GCSEs. Hurray! This at least was my initial reaction on skimming through the recommendations. It looks good, especially for those of us who have bankrupted ourselves paying for the damned things. However......

Let us not skim through Recommendation 10, but read it slowly and see exactly what it actually says on the subject, "......Local authorities must provide support for home educating children and young people to find appropriate examination centres and provide entries free to all home educated candidates....." Wow, that sounds great doesn't it? Free entry for GCSEs. Oh, just a minute, there's more,"... who have demonstrated sufficiently their preparedness through routine monitoring, for all DCSF funded qualifications". Now as regular readers will know, I am not a ferocious critic of the Badman report, but even I can spot a gigantic hoop to jump through here. "Who have demonstrated sufficiently their preparedness". What can this mean?

It is pretty clear to me that what it means is that the local authority will be given the job of deciding which children can and cannot be entered for exams. I am guessing that it also means that the LA will be able to choose exactly which exams are taken. From here, it is only a very short step to imagining that they will after a while be expecting all children to be studying for GCSE's and following a particular syllabus. How will they demonstrate their preparedness, by having work checked by teachers at the local school? In short, I can see an awful lot of scope here for meddling and interference on a massive scale. Instead of being one item on a menu of services available to home educators, I can see this quickly becoming something which is actually expected of parents, that they will be required to prepare their children for public examinations.

When I raised this subject with Graham Badman, I had in mind parents telling the LA that Jimmy wanted to sit a GCSE in English and that the LA would simply arrange it and foot the bill. Perhaps I was a fool, but I don't think that anything even remotely like that is on the agenda. I do not think, looking closely at the matter now, that these examinations will be a freely available option for parents. I think that they are likely to come with so many strings and restrictions that they may well be more trouble than they are worth. I can also see the LA insisting upon English and Mathematics and arguing against astronomy or Greek. I hope I am wrong about this, but the harder I look, the more potential problems I can see in this recommendation.


  1. Yes, the LA visitors are going to have to become experts in many things now in order to do their jobs properly.

    Some poor retired primary school teacher will now have to become an expert in child protection (as they will have the LA's government-imposed burden of 'ensuring' the child is safe and well), experts in all Special Educational Needs (in order to be able distinguish between a child with a, possibly as yet undiagnosed, developmental disorder and one who is not being taught adequately. Oh and to be able to determine if the SEN is being adequately catered for), an expert in planning individualised educational programmes a year in advance AND experts in detecting exam readiness in a huge variety of subjects, in a huge variety of children.

    Anyone with those abilities/experience/training ought to be running the LA. Or the DCSF? LOL!

    Mrs Anon

  2. I think a scheme a bit like this is being rolled out in one of the Somerset areas - ie LA advisor arranges free entry to approved students. They seem quite happy about it (after all, who wouldn't be if offered a free way instead of the current system...and more significantly, there is an exam centre provided) but it will be interesting to see what happens if somone doesn't get approval for an entry.
    Obviously though such schemes may work well in time of optional registration ie families who don't want to engage withthe LA at all can opt out of doing so, but may not be so satisfactory if we do get compulsory registration.

    My own feeling is that most home educators would be happy with
    1) better access - ie being able to find a school who is willing and able to enter external candidates
    2) paying the exam cost only rather than having to pay a lot more.
    This shouldn't be impossible - but it really needs LAs to identify a school locally which would be willing to be "the centre" (and lean on them to do it!). However since most state schools don't offer IGCSEs that won't help families who choose that option and with the increasing burdens caused by "controlled classroom assessments" a lot of GCSEs are becoming inaccessible to home ed students anyway. Oh well....

    I am seeing our local LA bod next week though to discuss what progrress he has made on this issue - he thinks it will be a doddle -I can see all the difficulties....

  3. Yes Julie, the IGCSE thing is also a concern, The recommendation is about "DCSF funded qualifications", which I don't think is likely to inculde IGCSEs. They couldn't really do this just for home educated children ,becuase a lot of other parents with kids at school want them for their children. It would be unfair.

    The controlled assessments could possible work, but it would entail home educated children in a sense becoming integrated into schools.

    I would have been happy with IGCSEs or GCSEs at cost price. "Demostrating sufficient preparedness" is probably not something I would have been happy to do though.

  4. The difficulty faced by home educators is in finding an exam centre. The local authority is not being given new powers to direct state schools to assist home educators. "Provide find..." could be done very cheaply by saying "here's a list from this exam board" "here's the address of a home education support organisation who will tell you more". There is no obligation on the part of the LA to follow anything through. I believe Graham Badman was over-optimistic about 21st Century Schools being open to the whole community. Home educators are being given exactly nothing by this recommendation.

    Fiona Nicholson
    Education Otherwise

  5. I am very much inclined to agree with you, Fiona. Even at my age I can be taken in by dazzling promises that do not stand up to closer inspection!

  6. JULIE your seeing the LA bod? what for hampshire? is it that idiot Jack Cawthra? He hates home eudcation but is very sly and pretends to other home educators that he likes it but works agianst home educators by saying something different. he also belive in forced entry into a parents lhim the good news we still here and speaking out he like that!

  7. I think that access to GCSEs would be a hoop jumping exercise - if it happens at all. It is ridiculous that access to public exams is so difficult - not just for home educated children but for the general population.

  8. yes Allie your sooo right it is just plain ridiculous but its done to try and control people! it a joke but on us?

  9. Mr Anon from Hampshire - it is the South East Hampshire man ( Havant to the Itchen Bridge and up to middle - you come under Winchester sub office, we come under Havant. So different bloke - who so far is deliveriung on his promises, but I will tell you more when I see him again next week.

  10. Alle, I agree with your last comment in particular - someone posted on a home ed board I run last week - her mid twenties partner wanted to sit exams ...but nowadays schools are so reluctant to have strange men in particular on the school sites that may be impossible!!


  11. Julie-what promises? i bet he know good old Jack Cawthra who hates home education and want to abolish it. i bet the pair of them send sly emials to each other? your get nothing out of him.
    Still want to give you that apple?

  12. Ah, I am an optimist - he seems to have delivered on one promise...but I will let you know when I know more!

  13. Julie- Jack Cawthra wrote the answers to question Badman sent to Hampshire LEA and he was quite clear he want forced home visits and does not trust the parents or the children.Jack Cawthra is a grave danger to home educators and must resign at once.he tell lies as well and lost education work he is a fool and we must find a way to remove him from his job!
    still want to give you the apple always wanted to give a teacher an apple! but all the teachers i ever met where always shouting and moaning!