One of the more irritating aspects of home education is that while pupils in schools take all their examinations free, courtesy of the taxpayer, home educating parents who save the state around £3000 a year for a school place, also have to pay for any GCSEs that their children take. Still, it might be argued that this is something that we should take into account when we decide not to send our children to school. We assume full responsibility for our children's education and there is an end of the matter. Every IGCSE that my daughter took cost a little over £120 and so the final bill was around £1000. There we are though; I made that decision and that is my affair, there's no point moaning about it!
Part of the impact assessment for Schedule 1 of the Children, Schools and Families Bill, the part which dealt with home education, talked of the advantages to home educated children if more of them were to gain five GCSEs between grades A* and C. I could not agree more. No central records are kept, but every so often an individual local authority will release information about this and it always suggests that home educated children are way behind when it comes to gaining good GCSEs. Last year, for example, Dudley, a town in the Midlands, revealed the figures for home educated children in their area and the GCSEs which they had taken and passed. These were pretty shocking. Of the hundred or so home educated children know to Dudley, only half had taken any GCSEs at all. Nationally, over 98% of children sit at least one GCSE. Fewer than one in ten of the home educated children managed to gain at least five GCSEs, including mathematics and English, at grades between A* and C. This is about a fifth of the national figure for children at school.
There are a number of reasons for these poor academic results. Ineffective teaching surely pays at least some part, but there is also the question of access to examination centres and the actual financial cost of the enterprise. Some families just can't afford to chuck around money on such things and in any case do not know how to go about arranging the GCSEs in the first place. The government proposed to help with this and furnish local authorities with 10% of the Age Weighted Pupil Unit, the amount which central government provides councils with for every school pupil, for some home educated pupils. It was not absolutely clear which home educated pupils would be eligible for this funding; it was at least an encouraging start and might have developed into a promising scheme. Unfortunately, the whole idea has now been scrapped.
Here is the latest news on what the government in Westminster will be providing local councils with for their pupils. The part relating to home educated children is on pages fourteen and fifteen;
As readers will see, the statement is brief and to the point; not a penny for home educators. I cannot help but wonder if there is an element of gleeful malice in those few sentences! As though the Department for Education is saying; 'Well, you bastards, you made enough trouble for us about the Badman Review. See if you will get any of that money now after the way you moaned about the other recommendations! Losers!'
This might of course be my imagination, which some of those commenting here yesterday suggested was particularly vivid. I think that most parents were a little cautious about accepting money from the local authority anyway. They suspected, probably with good cause, that any such benefits would come with strings attached. It would have been nice to have the option though, for those who were not overly concerned about closer involvement with their local authority. I am guessing that the GCSE figures for home educated children will not after all be improving dramatically in the near future as a result of this initiative and that they will remain frankly dreadful. This is a pity for those children whose parents are unable or unwilling to enter them for examinations. I think personally, that this is a short sighted policy of the government and that the £300 or so a year which was being suggested for each child would have been money well spent.