I wrote yesterday that parents who try and get their kids into college when the children don't have the required qualifications are likely to have a negative effect upon the reputation of home education in general. Judging from the comments, there was scepticism about this. Perhaps I should explain what I meant.
When a child who has been to school applies to an FE college, there are certain criteria to be satisfied before he will get onto the course of his choice. In the case of A levels, this usually means five GCSEs at A*-C and in the case of subjects like mathematics, a higher grade for that subject; typically at least a B at GCSE. Any home educated child applying with these qualifications will be treated precisely the same way as a child who has been to school; there is no prejudice against home educated children. This is not what usually happens though. In all too many cases, the child might have, instead of five GCSEs, a handful of feeble and inferior qualifications of the adult literacy and numeracy type. No matter what is claimed, these are not at all the equivalent of GCSEs in maths and English and everybody at a college will know that. The child might also have ten or twenty points of an Open University course. This too is very hard to translate into GCSE terms. If the OU course is in Ancient History, it tells the college little about the child's mathematical ability.
The result of this is that home educated children and their parents are difficult to deal with from the word go, at least in many cases. They argue, they have a sense of grievance, they suspect others of not recognising how bright their son is; in short, they are a nuisance. This makes colleges and sixth form centres a bit wary when they come into contact with home educating families. They are expecting difficulties and awkward behaviour from the start. They also tend to be a bit suspicious of children who have been at secondary school and then stopped going. This is often an indication of a troubled and troublesome youth. This is, by the way, why many home educators have problems in finding schools where their children can sit GCSEs as private candidates. Home educating parents tend to be very hard work. They are argumentative, they require special conditions for their child during examinations, they have grudges and chips on their shoulders. Many schools find it easier just to avoid dealing with them.
This sort of thing has a bad effect upon home educators generally. Many parents have trouble finding somewhere for their child to sit GCSEs and this is because of the reputation which home educating parents have as being a pain in the arse. This reputation has been created by the behaviour in the past of home educators with whom schools have dealt. The same thing goes for college admissions. For many staff at FE colleges, the news that a home educating parent is trying to get her kid into the college causes a sinking of the heart. Often, the parent wants the kid to start at fourteen, which is irregular and entails extra fuss and paperwork. If the child is sixteen, then the chances are that he will not have the same qualifications to join the course as everybody else. This too requires extra work and often arguments with the parent. These attitudes have been created by past experiences of home educators.
As I said at the beginning, if a home educated child applies to college at the same age as everybody else and with the same qualifications, then there will be no prejudice against him at all. Causing problems and creating fuss at colleges has the long term effect of queering the pitch for all home educating families. It gives people a very negative view of home education. If home educators wish to correct this view, then the best thing that they can do is to stop expecting special treatment and just make the applications to colleges in the same way and at the same time as everybody else. If this were to become the norm, then home education would soon be accepted as a perfectly ordinary choice in education. As long as applications from home educating families mean fuss, bother and unpleasantness, we can expect colleges to have a jaundiced view of home education and those who undertake it. The remedy lies in the hands of home educators. All they need to do is follow the same rules as everybody else.