MPs urged the Department for Education (DfE) to audit local authorities’ home education performance and review the guidance they are given.
[The House of Commons Education] Committee chair Graham Stuart said: “We support the right of parents to educate their children at home and accept that home educating families should bear the costs of that provision.
“We don’t think it reasonable, however, that it should be so difficult to access an exam centre nor that families should pay exam costs on top of everything else. Everyone else gets to take GCSEs and home-educated children should do so as well.”
It is “not reasonable” that some home-educated young people have poor access to public examinations, warns the House of Commons Education Committee today in a report calling on the Government to ensure fair access and to meet the associated costs.
The report published today concludes a short inquiry that examined the support available for home educators and their families. Members of the Committee met home educators, national and local support groups, and a number of local authority officers from across the country.
There wasn’t any direct feedback from home educators in the Huffington Post article, so I went to our friend and author, Mike Fortune Wood, who lives and learns ‘across the pond’. He runs the UK Home-Education.org site and also started up World Guide to Home Education. Mike offered a more detailed explanation about the situation related in this report.
Unusually, while the HE community are normally reluctant to involve politicians, this report appears to have been broadly welcomed. The committee is not part of the government but is a cross party committee of members of parliament who’s roll it is to monitor and comment on government policy in the area of education.It recognises that there are long standing difficulties over examinations. GCSEs are the exams that school children take at age 16. Good passes in these exams are required to go on to take advanced GCEs which are required for entry to University, although many home educators have creatively found alternative routs.The costs of these exams can vary enormously depending upon subject and location. While some parents can pay around £60 ($90) per exam others can pay £200 ($300) for them. For conventional entry to university a child will need perhaps 5 GCSEs (English, Maths, a modern language and perhaps two or three others in and around the chosen subject of study at university) and a further 3 advanced GCEs (normally taken at around 18 years of age.)In addition to the costs it can be very difficult to locate an examination centre willing to accept external candidates. Schools, where these exams are taken, often make it difficult for home educated children to access the exams and there is no duty placed upon the local authorities (like school boards) to help, although some do assist in finding places.It is hoped that this report may lead to positive action forcing, or at least encouraging, local authorities to assist HE parents gain access to examination centres and to reduce the costs to more manageable levels and not see home educators as a ‘cash cow’ to aid schools budget deficits.The report also speaks about varying levels of support/harassment home educators experience in different parts of England as well as the difficulties parents of children with special needs face with respect to necessary support and even medical assistance. For example a study of approximately 150 local authority websites all but 30 contained statements requiring home educators to jump through hurdles not required by law.The report also recognised that while home educators generally remain for the most part, independent minded, it is generally recognised that families of children with special needs require support and they hope that this report will end the ‘post code’ lottery that has been a feature of home education since it first became a movement in the UK some 30 years ago.