Friday, 19 March 2010
College for fourteen year olds
The Government Response to the select committee's recommendations sets out the provision which would be made for funding if and when the Children, Schools and Families Bill is passed. For those who will be taking examinations as private candidates, there will be about £300 a year from central government. There should also be additional funding for those who wish to study for GCSEs and other qualifications at a Further Education College from the age of fourteen. The claim being made is that this funding is already available, although in practice it is not easy to obtain.
I have to say that I find this idea of rejecting school in favour of a college very strange. I know that it happens and that some well known home educated teenagers have taken this route. Never the less, I simply can't see why anybody would want this. I can perfectly well understand why people would wish to avoid schools; my daughter and I felt this way ourselves. But if you feel that way, wishing to reject the state system in favour of your own educational methods, why would you then want to send your fourteen year old off to college? There are quite a few reasons not to do this. If you have taken your child out of school due to bullying, then college is likely to be a really bad idea. In some colleges, the bullying is worse than anything at school. The main problem is the age difference. Most of the students are aged sixteen to eighteen, but there is usually a fair sprinkling of nineteen year olds and even some twenty year olds. This is a great age difference for a fourteen year old to cope with, particularly girls! I am bound to say that when my daughter was fourteen, I should not have wanted her to go off and spend the day with a load of eighteen year old boys! This is one advantage of schools, that the children tend to stay in their own age group. In many ways this is safer for them. A lot of the older students at colleges go to the pub at lunchtime, or even smoke dope. This is not really the social scene many of us would wish our fourteen year old children to get drawn into.
There can be other problems. Often, the other fourteen and fifteen year old students at college are likely to be fairly rough types who may have been sent there as an alternative to being excluded from school. Some are from Pupil Referral Units. All in all, not necessarily the sort of crowd whom many of us would wish our fourteen year old children to fall in with! So what motivates parents to take this step?
Sometimes parents find their children approaching fourteen, the age when schoolchildren are beginning to work seriously for GCSE's, and realise that they are simply not going to be able to coach the child through a batch of GCSE's. Some home educating parents have a problem not so much with formal education as specifically with school. They and their children have the idea that they will be treated more as adults if they go to college than would be the case if they returned to school. Then again, if you are lucky enough to have a cooperative local authority, college can be a sight cheaper for GCSE's than entering the child as a private candidate somewhere. If the local authority will play ball, then the whole enterprise shouldn't cost one a penny.
I do have, as I said, a slight difficulty understanding this whole business with colleges. I mean if you want your child to study for GCSE's in a formal educational setting funded by the local authority, there's no problem finding such a placement; it's called school! I can in a way see why local authorities get a little awkward and irritable with parents who do this. After all, they have plenty of custom built establishments where fourteen year olds can study for and take GCSEs and then somebody comes along who wants to stick their fourteen year old in a place specially designed for sixteen to eighteen year olds. You can see where that looks like bloody mindedness from one point of view. I mean why be so awkward? Why not just let the kid learn with all the others of the same age? I rather suspect this is why some local authorities make it hard for home educated children to go to college. It just makes things that little bit more complicated for everybody and is completely unnecessary.