Sunday, 21 March 2010

Local authority funding for home educated children

There seems to be a good deal of confusion about what funding is available from local authorities to help children who are educated at home; not least among the local authorities themselves. The latest information is contained in The Review of Elective Home Education: Government Response to the Committee's Second Report of Session 2009-10. This was published ten days ago and presumably supersedes all previous advice.

The way that the funding works is that central government gives the local authorities a certain amount each year for each child registered at a school. This amount, the Age Weighted Pupil Unit or AWPU varies currently from £2152 a year for children in Year 1 to £3530 for those in Year 11. This money comes through the Dedicated Schools Grant or DSG for short. In January, the Department for Children, Schools and Families sent a memo to local authorities, reminding them that they can claim in the DSG for home educated children who either have a statement or who have significant special needs, even though they may not have a statement. In the response published on March 11th, the DCSF reiterate this and then go on to say that;

"Authorities are already able to include pupils whom they fund to attend college for post-14 qualifications including GCSEs and Diplomas."

This seems to be quite clear; local authorities can get, or "draw down" in the jargon, funding for pupils who are at college. But wait! Are they continuing to refer here to those pupils with special needs, or are they talking about all home educated pupils? Because some parents are still having actually to pay for their fourteen and fifteen year old children's college courses. Is this a breakdown in communications? Reading this, it says nothing about waiting for the law to change, or this help not being available until 2011. It says, "Authorities are already able to include pupils".

The next paragraph on page 15 of the Government Response says that local authorities will from 2011 be able to claim 0.1 of the AWPU for each home educated pupil. This is specifically so that such children should be able to take examinations. It does not sound a great deal, only about £300 a year, but this should be enough to pay for GCSEs. It only costs schools £25 or £30 to enter children for these examinations. the fact that those of us who entered our children through independent schools had to pay upwards of £100 is of course a complete racket! Whether this money is dependent upon the passing of the Children Schools and Families Bill is not clear; I suspect that it is. The final paragraph is a little confusing. It says;

"The reason that the Department has clarified the guidance on home educated pupils for January 2010 is that it had not until that point received representations from the LAs that clarification was needed. We believe that the guidance already makes it clear that LAs could enter home educated pupils on the Alternative Provision Return where pupils were receiving significant financial support."

This sounds to me as though this might be referring only to children with special needs. I must confess that I cannot really follow all this. On the one hand, the DCSF seems to be saying that local authorities can get money from the Government to pay for home educated pupils who attend college. They further seem to be saying that from next year, they will give the local authorities enough money to pay for home educated children to sit GCSEs as private candidates. However, the final paragraph obscures it all. In the first paragraph, there is mention of including for DSG purposes pupils they are supporting as a result of a statement. Then, they end by saying that home educated pupils can be entered on the Alternative Provision return where they are receiving significant financial support. Are they saying that only children with special needs are eligible for funding, in other words those already receiving financial support? What about those who are not currently receiving financial support but wish to start doing so?? I should be happy to know what interpretation others put upon all this.


  1. The interpretation I put on it is that the government is deliberately obfuscating in order to play for time/hedge its bets. A similar thing happened in the guidance letter for LAs regarding children with SEN; did paragraph 12 refer only to children with statements, or did it refer to all children with SEN? How could you tell if a child who had never been to school had an SEN or not?

    Trying to take home education under the wing of the education system, particularly in the aftermath of the Lamb Inquiry, requires careful thought and detailed planning; noticeable by their absence as far as the EHE review is concerned.

  2. I think the circular was only referring to children with special needs which are already funded can access more funds- but not anyone else.
    The March 11th response to the select committee is not a circular to LAs -it means nothing until a circular stating that £300 is available to LAs for each child.
    I am under the impression that only if the Bill passes will it become a circular- what a tiny carrot at the end of a big stick. £300 measly pounds!
    It is institutional bias to require school attendance for 3 days in order to get the 2 day release to college courses (diplomas and apprenticeships). It is discriminatory as in law HE is an equal option and access should not require school attendance- only that the child is of compulsory education age and that the parents are providing education 'otherwise'.
    I know some young people if they are on EOTAS programs can get funded for this college place as long as they are also following whatever EOTAS program the LA offers (already funded for EOTAS so presumably already 'counted').

    The DCSF have said they cannot allocate /budget for HE until registration is mandatory as they cannot budget for an unknown quantity who may or may not decide at age 14 to access funding.

    Maybe this is why Somerset requires that HE kids are known to them PRIOR to asking for funding (although why 2 years and not simply before the January APWU is beyond me).

    Has it not occurred to anyone in the DCSF that if funding for GCSEs and 14-16 apprenticeships were openly made available to the HE community that they may get quite a lot of voluntary registrations and the more HE young people who attend these courses, the more attractive they become to this age group . I agree Simon that currently they do not look so attractive because they tend to have a disproportionate number of young people who have 'issues'.

    if they are looking for a 'carrot' why not take this approach? Of course it will only attract voluntary registration for a certain age group but it would cover a large proportion of the 'concerns' about 'unsuitable education'.

    IN BC when they offered funding for access to curriculae they had a 90% uptake( 20,000). This was across the board not just older children. The other 10% (2000 or so) chose not to 'register'.

    What I find interesting is that within the 90% were families on the autonomous spectrum as about 15% of the 20,000 who chose to register , also chose an autonomous 'curriculum' through Wondertree-

  3. Reading below it is clear to me- for those ALREADY funded (SEN) there can be more funding. For those who are not funded, there will be access to exam funding at the rate set out.
    I joked with a few LAs when I discussed FOIs with them that the only way to access college funding is to register at a school, not attend , become a 'problem' and co-operate when Education Welfare become involved- and then try and get onto college courses through EOTAS by refusing a return to school.

    Recommendation 30:

    Judging by the evidence that we received, clarification on the funding that local authorities are already able to access in relation to home educated children is long overdue. The Department should explain why it is only now that it is taking steps to provide clarification on this matter. (Paragraph 166)

    * We welcome the Select Committee's response to our proposals for an additional support package for home educators.
    * We said in our 9 October response to the Badman Review recommendations that we believe that home educated pupils receiving significant financial support from the local authorities should already be included in the Alternative Provision Return for Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) purposes, and we understand that a small number of local authorities are already receiving funding for some home educators through this mechanism. This means that the local authority receives the pupil funding for that pupil through the Dedicated Schools Grant. We have clarified the guidance for the January 2010 Alternative Provision Return to ensure that local authorities know that they can include for DSG purposes pupils they are supporting financially as a result of a statement, or in respect of significant special needs that have not been formally recognised through a statement. Authorities are already able to include pupils whom they fund to attend college for post-14 qualifications including GCSEs and Diplomas.
    * We accept that LAs will also need funding to assist young people to access the list of services 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. We will allow LAs to claim DSG funding for all registered home educated pupils accessing these services, but for whom support is not significant. 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. We will make this change for the 2011-12 DSG.
    * The reason that the Department has clarified the guidance on home educated pupils for January 2010 is that it had not until that point received representations from LAs that clarification was needed. We believe that the guidance already makes it clear that LAs could enter home educated pupils on the Alternative Provision Return where pupils were receiving significant financial support.
    * If any further clarification is needed we will be happy to provide it.

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