A number of home educating parents feel an obscure sense of grievance that once they take their children out of school, they become entirely responsible for their children's education. At the back of their minds, they perhaps feel that the local authority has vast sums of money which they spend on schools and that they are wilfully denying home educated children their rightful share of this pot. It's not really like that at all.
Schools are very expensive places to run and the money raised through Council tax is nowhere near enough to pay for them. Instead, the money for schools is provided by central government in London. It comes from Income Tax and Corporation Tax. Each year, the local authority counts how many school children it has and then asks the government for the appropriate amount of money. For each child registered at a school, the local authority receives a fixed sum.. 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.
Would it be just and equitable for home educating parents to be included in the annual returns and then handed the AWPU each year in order to pay for their children's education? The problem is that the great bulk of this money is spent upon the salaries of teachers and upkeep of school buildings. As parents, we do not really expect a salary for teaching our own children, nor is it easy to see why the local authority should help us with the upkeep of our homes! The idea has been suggested that a voucher system should be established, so that all parents receive a credit note for the AWPU which they would then be free to spend where they wished. This would mean that they could shop around schools and nurseries or even use the money to contribute to a private education for their child. If such a scheme were to operate, then it would I suppose be reasonable for home educating parents to be a part of it.
The main difficulty though is that the majority of home educators simply wish to be left alone and have as little to do with their local authority as possible. Nobody gives out money without wanting to see what they have got in exchange and if local authorities did start handing out cash to home educating families, they would be sure to keep a much closer eye on them than is presently the case. My own daughter's examinations cost me the best part of £1000. That was my affair and I really don't see that the taxpayer should be expected to fund the enterprise. I had a free choice in which subjects she took and when she took them. Had we wished, she need not have sat any examinations at all. It is precisely this freedom which many home educating parents value and I can't see many being keen to sacrifice it for a lot of interference from their local authority.
The truth is that anybody who wishes for their child to be educated for free is able to do so. Indeed, children have a legal right to this free education. Those of us who choose not to avail ourselves of this right can hardly expect to be offered a cash alternative! The schools are there and we can use them or not as we decide.