It is not uncommon to read or hear statements by home educating parents to the effect of, ‘we have decided not to do GCSEs’. Since it is usually parents who possess both the money and knowledge to arrange the things, this may be better translated as, ’I have decided that my child will not be taking any GCSEs’.
I have discussed before here the disadvantages for home educated children of not having GCSEs. These range from difficulty in getting a place at college when they are sixteen to limiting the choice of university at eighteen or nineteen. Still, as I have been reminded, not everybody wishes to go into further or higher education. Some young people are eager to enter the world of work at once. Here too, problems can arise form the decision not to sit GCSEs. When over 99% of children in the country are taking GCSEs or IGCSEs, those without a single one to their name do tend to stand out somewhat and not in a favourable way. The news that a sixteen or seventeen year old has not attended school for some years and has no GCSEs suggests to many potential employers that he has either been excluded, has learning difficulties and/or has feckless parents. This is an unfortunate impression to be creating when looking for work! Not everybody is familiar with home education and even those who have heard of it can have difficulty working out whether or not a child who has been subjected to this experimental procedure has the necessary skills to make him a valuable member of the workforce. In short, how does the employer know that this young person can read and write, carry out arithmetical operations and so on? For many parents , the answer is for their child to sit adult literacy and numeracy tests.
Here is some information about adult literacy and numeracy tests or ALAN for short:
These are pretty popular with home educating parents as a way of proving that their child is literate. They are supposedly the equivalent of a GCSE, although in reality they are nothing of the sort. They certainly demonstrate that a teenager can read, write and do simple sums, but that is about it. Still, surely this is better than nothing? It at least provides some evidence for an employer that an applicant is not utterly lacking in academic skills. Sadly, these things are not a brilliant advertisement for children. The very phrase, ’adult literacy’, brings forth images and associations to the average mind which would better be left untouched.
For the ordinary person, the expression ’adult literacy’ is connected with ’illiteracy’. Adult literacy courses, adult literacy qualifications and so on are widely thought to be remedial activities undertaken by adults who did not learn to read and write while they were at school. This is not at all the impression that one hopes to make when applying for a job; that one was until recently illiterate! Most employers glance at educational qualifications and want only to see five ’good’ GCSEs. Anything less than this marks an applicant out at once and not in a good way. The thought that somebody has not attended school and as a result has taken adult literacy qualifications is not really a good start.
Parents might think a little carefully about how their child will present to the outside world in later years. It is all well and good that home educated children are, at least according to their parents, cleverer, more sensitive, spiritual, creative and compassionate than other children. None of this will be much use if they look to outsiders like hopeless dropouts that have been learning to read and write at remedial classes!