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.


  1. I think you've not realised one of the key reasons: schools force a pupil who is re-entering school to sit the 'required number' of GCSE's 10, 12 or more. In FE, you could just enter for number of courses you actually want to study. Perhaps as few as one or two (or the 5 you'd need to move on to A Levels or whatever.) And with the rest of the time, a student could pursue their other interests, such as music, sport, robotics or whatever it is.

    Re schools being stupid about HE'ers re-entering. My son's best friend is 14 and going back to school for GCSE's in Sept. Trouble is that he's done 4 already, but is the school taking that into account? Of course not. That would mean being flexible.

    So, despite the fact that he already HAS IGCSE English at a good grade, he's going to have to sit through every English lesson for the next 2 years and do all the course work and sit the exam. Why? Because no one at the school has the ability to THINK what might be best for him. (If I were the head of that school, I'd let him work in the library during English, but I'm not. A rigid, rule-following robot is.)

    All this codswallop about individualised learning in schools, how the needs of the child are paramount, all the mission statements etc....all nonsense. The square peg must be hammered into the round hole at all costs in schools. Because school MUST produce round pegs.

    FE colleges, which, I agree, are not great places for 14 year olds, at least offer some kind of flexibility tailored to the needs of their students.

    Mrs Anon

  2. I actually think that the majority of HE children whose parents want them to go to college aren't looking for GCSE courses (most of which aren't available at college anymore anyway). They want access to the sort of 14-16 vocational courses that (ironically) are made available to the often "difficult" pupils in school - hairdressing, bricklaying, mechanics. They are generally NVQ1 level and schools use them as both a sweetener ("if your attendance is good enough you can do a course") and because the pupils are not suited to a full academic set of GCSES. They generally take up a couple of slots on what would have been the GCSE load, and are 1 day a week at college.
    I entirely agree with the whole sentiment about the type of pupil you may encounter on such a course, but I suppose that if you have a non academic child then it must be frustrating to be unable to provide such training at home when you can get via college if you have been irritating enough to be noticed by the school.

    We managed this with one of my older boys - we took him out of secondary school shortly after we adopted him, but he remained on the roll which enabled him to attend a couple of college courses and he spent a lot of the rest of the time doing work experience, which we arranged but which was still covered by the school's insurance scheme. The school were glad to see the back of him and it was the best compromise we could come up with that kept him busy and out of mischief, even though he didn't do a huge lot educationally (he had been in care quite a while).
    I aasume that the govt funding, if it materialises will sponsor similar courses, ones intended for 14-16 year olds rather than full access to 16+ courses.

    We do have a local family (in a neighbouring LA) that are fighting to get their daughter on a 14-16 diploma course at college. This seems rather odd, because diplomas are full time, but do have a school element; yet they won't allow the child to do that bit or register with a school, although even at the college part she would be with the same young people that they don't want her to mix with at school. Not surprisingly they aren't getting very far.

  3. Mrs Anon,

    Don't you think your friends problem with the English IGCSE is that because it is an IGCSE, it won't get points on the schools league table so the boy will automatically appear as a " failure" in the "5 GCSES including maths/English/Science" statistics unless he retakes? Highly silly of course, but I am sure that is the issue!

  4. Julie,
    I'm sure something like that *is* the issue, but the root cause is the same - schools are rigid institutions and uninterested in the needs of the individual. FE's tend to be more flexible.

    Mrs Anon

  5. Anyone managed to access a 14-16 diploma course for their HE child? Are there any government guidelines about entry criteria? All I find which is funded is from age 16 although sometimes depending on birthday from 15.

    I found a good chart about pathways which explains how you could even get to the degree stage by starting at diploma and apprenticeship (hence focusing on what you are interested in rather than 2 years of inflexible school).

  6. Tania,
    The 14-16 Diploma is accessed via a schools recommendation, and the funding comes from the school even if most of the time is spent off the school premises. It isn't very clear from even the college websites exactly how it works - even if you do a diploma in a very vocational subject (such as construction) I think there is still the basic maths/ English bit which is still carried on at the originating school or another one in the consortium. So there would not be a difference between doing the full time Diploma as an HEer and doing it as a school pupil and therefore it is probably why the only way to access it is through a school.

    The part time courses such as NVQ's I do know more about because various folk round here have taken them, but again they accessed funding through being on a school roll, even if they didn't attend. If they are on a school roll, the college directly bills the school the £1000 or so for an NVQ1, or else the parent can choose to pay.

  7. Hi Si
    I'm back

  8. I have seen a PDF (and cannot find the link but have selected bits)) that states that the funding is to be given to each LA to decide how to fund. It assumes that children will be in school but does not exclude specifically those home educated. I am going to guess that each LA will decide its own rules (great another postcode lottery for home educators) .

    Jon Coles
    Director 14 – 19 Reform Group
    Department for Children, Schools and Families
    The final paragraph is interesting...

    At the end of June you will have received information about the government’s decisions on the school, early years and 14-16 funding arrangements for 2008-11. The analysis of the responses to the joint LSC and former Department for Education and Skills post-16 demand-led consultation 'Delivering World-class Skills in a Demand-led System ) can be found under the latest new section of the Further Education website ( In the autumn, the LSC’s Statement of Priorities for 2008/09 will contain details of how the demand-led system will operate for both young people and adults.
    More recently, you will be aware that the Prime Minister has announced, as part of the machinery of government changes, that 16-18 funding for sixth forms and colleges will be delivered through local authorities in the future, subject to consultation and the passing of the necessary legislation. In the interim, the LSC will remain responsible in law and practice for the allocation of funds to all forms of post-16 education and training other than higher education.How you will work together to fund the delivery of Diplomas in a way that most benefits young people including:
    developing a local strategy for achieving the Diploma entitlement by 2013, across all providers, based on an assessment of local demand and supply;
    reviewing how the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) allocation for practical learning which you already have within your baseline will be deployed to build capacity for Diplomas.
    Payment of Diploma funding
    12. School budgets will need to be set by mid February for the following financial year, taking the above Diploma funding arrangements into account. It is expected that final decisions by pupils to take up Diplomas will be made in April/May for the following academic year. Payments to partnership providers, from the central pool or direct by schools, will be made in accordance with these decisions.
    13. It will be necessary for 14-19 partnerships acting on behalf of schools, and/or ‘home’ schools to be able to reconcile Diploma funds allocated with spend, taking into account changes in demand and switching courses. To manage uncertainties and minimise bureaucracy involved in reconciliation/claw back, local authorities/schools may wish to deploy a threshold approach, where a proportion of funding is held back until a certain take up limit is reached.

  9. Hmm, yes last bit is interesting - although probably incomprehensible, since no one seems to have any idea of how these things work now, let alone if "home" schools come into the mix.
    Alongside all this is the muddle of general funding cuts - not only have local colleges dropped ad ed clasess cos of lack of money, but the best academic local college is terminating some of its A level courses, half way through at AS. This means locally that a few clever children doing A level music (and heading for music colleges) will have to change colleges at the end of AS, with the terrible effect that this will have on all their studies.

  10. "For those who will be taking examinations as private candidates, there will be about £300 a year from central government. "

    Is this £300 figure calculated from this?:

    "We will count each such pupil as 0.1 for DSG funding purposes, and will review towards the end of the next spending review period whether this figure is appropriate to meet the needs of home educating families."

    I thought the DSG was for provision of services including staff costs? It has been calculated (by LA staff) that one annual visit to a HE child costs £200 and this is before taking account of maintenance of registers and extra visits during the first year and for problem families. The £300 will be more than swallowed up by HE inspector wages.

    Is this £300 for those who wish to study for GCSEs a different £300?

  11. The bit you quote from is connected to the provision of GCSEs isn't it? I am not sure where you got your calculation about Inspector costs? I know there has been a lot of debate about the costs of monitoring and how the LA is to get it, but the 0.1 above does seem to be about exams and not monitoring.

  12. The inspector cost figure came from the workings of a group of LA staff a few years ago as part of a submission to the DCSF/government though, of course, I can't find it now. EO continue to use the figure but they don't give references. It is likely to be higher now with inflation.

    So you think the 0.1 figure is the source of the £300 figure? Sorry, I hadn't noticed that it specifies use for GCSEs. £300 isn't going to go far though is it?

    The annoying part of the impact assessment for me is that the cost savings (improvements in GCSEs and outcomes) are balanced only against inspection and registration costs. How on earth do they expect improvements to stem from these? Any improvements will stem from actions taken as a result of those visits, either a school place (£4k p.a.) or support packages - help with study materials, access to laboratories, etc. The cost/benefit analysis is tight already - once these costs are added in, it is going to cost them a fortune. If the extra money for support or school places isn't provided the money spent on registration and inspection will be wasted.

  13. As far as the funding goes, the latest information is to be found in the Government Response to the select committee's report, which was published on March 11th. On page 15, it says;

    "We accept that LAs will also need funding to assist young people to access the list of sevices in Recommendation 11 of the Badman Review and to fund them to take their GCSEs if they opt to enter as private pupils rather than through attending college courses."

    It goes on to say that for DSG funding purposes, each pupil will be counted as 0.1. This will begin in 2011/2012. This money is specifically allocated for GCSEs. It comes, as I said, to about £300 a year.

  14. "The claim being made is that this funding is already available, although in practice it is not easy to obtain."

    Is this the funding which explicitly excludes home educated children in the rules despite them stating that it is currently available in parliament or to the committee, or am I thinking of another source of funding?

  15. Answering my own question, yes, it is.

    On November 12th in the House of Commons Minister Diana Johnson said:

    "So far as local authority support for the education of home educated pupils is concerned, we plan to strengthen the school census guidance for the January 2010 return to ensure that all local authorities are aware that they can already include in the Alternative Provision Return for Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG)"

    Education Otherwise has located the latest Government guidance on Alternative Provision which is dated January 28th 2010. There is a helpful table on page 17 of the guidance which sets out the criteria for inclusion in the census return. "Pupil whose parents have elected to educate at home. Include? No. Category: Not applicable."

  16. South Somerset LA says though that a child has to be on their register for 2 years (prior) to get funding-

  17. our 14 year old son will be going to college in September, he will be doing a Sports he has had to finish his independant school (due to distance and other things) so, its either school or college. Home educating is not an option, he is very sociable and would hate being at home. He may meet some rough types, but he will just have to man up...with our support.