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.