Thursday, 17 June 2010

Grounds for optimism and despair

Firstly, the grounds for despair. The Department for Education has decided to 'clarify' the position for home educated children being offered places at a Further Education College. As readers will know, some parents are currently having to pay for their fourteen and fifteen year old children to attend colleges which are free to any sixteen to nineteen year old and also to younger school pupils who have been sent there. This is of course horribly unfair and quite a few parents are keen to get free college places for their children. The local authority position had always been that there is no funding available for this from central government and that home educating parents assume complete financial responsibility for their children's education. This situation has now changed........or has it? You decide. This is what the DfE said yesterday;

The current financial responsibility for home educated children has not changed, namely, that parents who choose to electively home educate their children assume financial responsibility for their education. This is set out in paragraphs 5.1 – 5.2 of Elective home education: Guidelines for local authorities.

However, funding may be available where a local authority provides significant financial support for a home educated young person in two specific circumstances. These are, first, where the young person has SEN and secondly where the young person attends further education college to take GCSEs or other courses. It is for the LA to decide whether to fund the provision: they have the discretion to do so but are not required to do so.

In other words, the local authority can do it, but they don't have to. I have no idea at all if this is a real change of policy or simply describes an existing state of affairs of which most home educating parents were unaware! The bottom line seems to be that letting a home educated child into a college will involve the LA in a lot of paperwork and irritating delays while they haggle with Westminster to try and reclaim the money. I have a suspicion that few will feel that they wish to put themselves out like this. Many home educators are mad troublemakers whom the local authority will be sick of anyway. Why would they wish to do any favours to these people? Before there are howls of anger, I was actually thinking about some of my own actions even now that my daughter is at college. When my daughter asked if it would be OK for me to collect her A level results because she would be away at a summer school in Cambridge when they were released, the administrator told her it would be fine. Simone then asked if I would need to bring ID, to which the woman replied wearily, 'I think we all know your father, Simone'. Says it all, really!

The grounds for optimism are of a negative nature, ie something which will not happen. There is fury about the Ofsted report, but at a time when savage cuts are being made all over the place, not least in education, will the government really want to set up a new inspectorate funded by the taxpayer in order to track down and register a few thousand home educators? It is unlikely, particularly since these are the sort of people who will be making challenges through the courts, seeking judicial review and so on. It would end up costing a fortune and even then there would be still be many unknown families. It might just have worked if ContactPoint were operating, but as things stand I simply can't see how it could be done. Rest easy then, all of you who are 'under the radar', at least for now.

I hope that I am not a fussy pedant, but am I alone in noticing that the DfE manage the astonishing feat of getting in a split infinitive and tautology in a mere five words?

choose to electively home educate

Have you ever seen an uglier construction? obviously, somebody who is electing to do something is choosing it, so one of those word is not needed. The split infinitive also makes the phrase sound horrible. Whta would be wrong with; choose to home educate? And so with such illiterate monkeys framing their press releases, the Department for Children are hoping to advertise the advantages of the education which they can offer in maintained schools......


  1. Actually I though the announcement re college was okay.. any sensible LA ought to jump at this. First of all, the student can't be funded if they aren't known, so this may make some families register in order to get the funding. Secondly if a student is attending college for even one day a week, it shoud alleviate the fears about HE children "being locked in the cupboard" or hidden from view - which is of course one of the very things LAs always moan about. Finally it would ensure that the student concerned is getting at least some education... so even you should be happy that they aren't playing on the X Box all day. Seems a win-win situation to me!

  2. I agree with you Julie, it should be a perfect solution to several problems. It would entail a certain amount of paperwork and bother for the local authority though, which is why I think some might avoid doing it. Calls to various colleges and also Essex County Council yesterday, suggest that nobody round here is aware of all this or will be bending over backwards to help.

    I hope that nobody was offended by my description of home educators as being mad troublemakers. This is certainly how I am perceived by my local authority and I have reason to suppose that I am not alone in this. Home educators are often what one might politely term 'eccentric'.

  3. Yes, I spoke to HCC as soon as I saw the notice and they are now speaking to their finance department. I hope it can be sorted quickly - will have to be if anyone is going to start in September. I think the LA would be very short sighted if they decline to get involved.

    I don't think it will be what everyone wants by any means, and indeed I suspect that some will find when they do it, that the college courses have all the disavantages of school, but for a few it could be a real life line.

  4. old simon says-Home educators are often what one might politely term 'eccentric'.

    your not a home educator your daughter said i dont go to school!

    home educators are not eccentric!

  5. Explains an eccentric home educator.....

  6. how is it eccentric to home educate?

  7. Whoever wrote it was obviously a Star Trek fan, electing to boldly go where English has never been before.

    I'd look very carefully at government funding to see what strings might be attached to it, although the position described by DfE is what I understood to be the current situation. All the noise from DCSF pre-election was just an attempt to muddy the waters, a bit like various other empty promises made to poison the well.

  8. I shall be interested to see how many home educated children without special educational needs actually get anything from this. I think you are right about the strings.