The Department for Children, Schools and families announced recently;
Parents of home educated young people between the age of 14 and 16
who have the offer of a place at college 2010-2011 subject to funding can
ask their local authority to pay the college fees. In all cases where the LA
agrees to pay the fees, the LA is guaranteed to be able to recoup the
money by including the young person in the Alternative Provision census
in January 2011
At which, there was much rejoicing among home educating parents, many of whom thought that this would mean their children being given free places at colleges. One has to wonder if that is how it is going to work out in practice. Now leaving aside the question of just why so many home educating parents seem so keen to get their kids into college rather than school, what is actually happening about this?
Reading this directive carefully, we notice at once a curious thing. There is no suggestion whatsoever that the local authority will, let alone must pay the fees for these children. Parents may ask and the LA may agree. Knowing how uncooperative some local authorities can be, I hope that I am not being unduly cynical if I observe that asking is not getting. It is made very clear by the reference to, ' In all cases where the LA agrees to pay the fees', that the DCSF expects there to be other cases where the LA does not agree to pay the fees. How are parents to know? Are they to enrol their child at college and then ask the college to approach the local authority? What happens if their local authority says 'no'?
I have rung around a few friends who work at various colleges and I think I can see why many colleges will be very reluctant to become involved in this and actually offer places to home educated children. In short, I can see, if not what is going on, at least what some colleges think might be going on. It is this. They fear that certain local authorities are going to start getting them to take hard cases who cannot be managed at school. This could be done without any sort of prior consultation simply by the schools advising parents to deregister their kids from school and then to apply for a place at college because they are now home educators. This would mean that local authorities could, in effect, transfer difficult and unmanageable pupils from schools to colleges. If they set this up officially, they might be compelled to offer extra funding to colleges in order to help with these kids. This way, it could be done for very little.
Mind, I don't say that this is what the local authorities are up to or that this will be the result of the directive from the DCSF, simply that some people think that this could be the case. At the very least, it does not look as though access to colleges will be automatic for home educated children. I can foresee that many parents will still end up having to pay. Those hoping for such places could perhaps do worse than bear in mind the old German proverb; blessed are those who expect nothing, for they shall not be disappointed......