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.