I was wondering recently what effect the change in the age of compulsory education will have upon home educating families. From 2015 young people will have to stay in education until the age of eighteen, rather than sixteen. Of course many parents are still claiming Child Benefit from the age of sixteen to eighteen on the grounds that they are still educating their child and that this education does not stop once he reaches sixteen. One wonders whether this will get a little harder in 2015, with proper evidence needed to back up the claim. Of course this increased school leaving age is not due to come into force for a few years yet. It will happen in stages, with the age rising to seventeen in 2013 and then eighteen in 2015. Still, we all know how time flies and this will be upon us before we notice it coming.
The major difference that I can foresee is that we may start to acquire some solid information about the academic attainment of home educated children in this country. At the moment, the results of any GCSEs or IGCSEs taken in the Summer of the academic year that a child turns sixteen, don't become available until August. Since official involvement with home educated children ends on the last Friday in June, the local authority seldom gets to hear these results. Sometimes a home educating parent might take the trouble to contact the EHE Department of the local authority in September, just to let them know how things went, but I have a suspicion that most don't bother! I certainly didn't.
There seems to be a perception among many professionals in the field of education that home educated children take and pass fewer formal examinations than the average child at school. I have no idea at all whether this is true or not, although I would not be at all surprised to find that it was. Of course, as others have pointed out here before, GCSEs are not the be all and end all of education; far from it. Still, it would be interesting to see how home educated children matched up against those at school in this this respect. Mind you, unless the funding to take these qualifications for free, like all other children, is forthcoming, we would have to adjust the statistics accordingly, to take into account the fact that many parents might wish their children to sit GCSEs but are simply unable to afford it. It currently costs around £120/£150 to sit each GCSE in an independent school. In order to take the ten or twelve which are common in schools, a parent might therefore have to shell out getting on for £2000! This is hardly fair, when they have been paying exactly the same taxes as everybody else.
Another difficulty with the school leaving age might be occur if regulations for the monitoring of home education became a little stricter. It is tricky enough as it is for some parents to maintain the, I won't say illusion, perhaps appearance would be a better word, of education as the child grows older. If it is hard to do this with an uncooperative sixteen year old, just imagine trying to get some great eighteen year old to go along with the game and say the necessary things to a local authority officer! For some parents, it hardly bears thinking about.