I have been looking into the question of what sort of plan of education the local authorities will be expecting, always assuming the Children, Schools and Families Bill becomes law. The information on this, such as it is, is contained in the Impact Assessment published by the DCSF. Unfortunately, this document itself was apparently written by a particularly crafty and dishonest weasel. I say this for several reasons.
Firstly, have a look at this. After some waffle about the use of curricula and how good it would be if home educators could be persuaded to use them, the author of the Impact assessment has this to say;
"We assume that with this new legislation this pupils will progress from obtaining 1 -4 A*-C to 5 + A*-C GCSEs. In this case, the lifetime returns amount to £88,500 for each child. Assuming that 46.8% of these children achieve this level, the total benefits of the proposal is £99.5m for those affected in the first year."
I am always suspicious of such precise percentages, especially when they are to be "assumed". Why assume 46.8%? Why not 47% or even 50%? Why exactly 46.8%? The answer is revealing. Observe if you will that if we assume 46.8% of children now get five good GCSEs then the financial benefits in the first year will be £99.5m. Earlier in the Impact Assessment we are told that the costs in the first year are likely to be;
"Costs in the first year are estimated to be between £20 million and £99 million."
The upper limit of £99m was chosen for the same reason that shops would rather price a television at £99.99 instead of £100. It looks so much less. So in order to show that the whole scheme will be effectively self-financing, the benefits must be just a shade over the initial outlay. What a coincidence. It will cost £99m in the first year, but the financial benefits will be £99.5m! What has actually happened, and I won't weary anybody with the detailed calculations, is that the person writing this has been told to demonstrate how it will all cost nothing at all in the long run. He has added half a million to the initial years costs and then reverse-engineered the figures back from this to calculate how many kids would need to get five good GCSEs to make it all worthwhile. Hence that eerily exact figure. You have got to admire the nerve of somebody who can be so cunning.
To return to the plan of education that parents will be required to submit. The same person who made those clever calculations earlier says;
"we have not yet defined the content or rigour of a "statement of education", but it is likely to be a short, word-processed document. Exemplar curricula which parents could use successfully are freely available from the DCSF and QCA websites".
This is a barefaced and categorical lie. You will not find "curricula" on either the QCA or DCSF sites. Instead, you will find material relating to only one single curriculum. Which curriculum is that? Anybody? Gentleman in the back row? Yes sir, that's right. The National Curriculum. Regular readers of this column will know that I am not a fan of the National Curriculum. It is very big, unwieldy and bloated. It is also massively prescriptive, covering in great detail all that must be covered in every aspect of every subject. This is not the only objection to the idea of parents being directed to the DCSF and QCA sites in search of a curriculum for their children.
Anybody looking there will indeed find a lot of material, but it is in the main designed for teachers instructing a classroom full of children. The various schemes of work and lesson plans would be utterly useless and irrelevant for any home educator. As God he knows, I was the most meticulously structured home educator in the world, but even I would have found no use for such detailed instructions. I do not believe for a moment that any parent would be able to make use of them. Except of course, unless you just wanted a load of impressive stuff to show the local authority officer when she called. In that case, a cut and paste job from those sites would be great.
The reason that I find this all so irritating is that I am a great believer in a curriculum for the home educating parents. Nothing fancy, just the basics and some rough idea of what might be covered at different ages. What will in fact happen from all this is that parents will end up producing some sort of cobbled together nonsense from these two sites and presenting it as their "curriculum". Since their kids will not be taking the SATS, there will be no way to verify any of the alleged outcomes and the whole thing is likely to become an exercise in deception. This is a complete waste of time for all concerned and will not benefit the children in the slightest degree.