Thursday, 7 October 2010

I reach the age when letter writing is easier than firebombing

To the Royal Institution,

I write to express my great disappointment regarding the Royal Institution policy on charging children for entrance to your science lectures.

In the past I have recommended the RI for its open policy towards child visitors.

I have also felt great affection for the RI for its welcoming attitude towards all children, regardless of how they are educated.

I believe the RI has demonstrated a real understanding that great scientists - such as Michael Faraday - often arrive at science because they follow a path that is substantially their own, via inquiry, independent experimentation, and self-teaching. Through its policy of access, the RI has implicitly communicated an understanding that good scientists do not necessarily emerge from taught modules delivered in schools to a government curriculum.

So I am deeply sorry to read that children who are educated otherwise than at mainstream school are now to be discriminated against and must pay a significantly higher fee for access to RI science than children who are brought as a class set.

The difference in charges between school groups and home educators is not small or minor. My three children, educated daily in society, will be charged £18 to see a lecture. That is a significant increase from the £4.50 you will charge three children who go daily to a school.

I also note under your system, if we, as two accompanying adults, were paid by the state to teach, the state would pay £3. But as two parents who are involved in the everyday education of our children, we must privately pay £16.

I do not see these sums as 'small' at all. Added to the cost of travel into London, it will make the cost of an RI lecture very expensive for us to bear.

I feel the RI is now working to effectively exclude us from the lectures. Please do not suggest we pay the annual membership to reduce the lecture cost as this is still an incremental charge on us not required from school visitors.

But worse, your singling out of education other than at school for an additional charge means that should we choose to make our outing to the RI in place of any other science centre, we are being asked to subsidise the school visits.

This is clearly unfair. Parents who choose other than mainstream provision already support the cost of education for their children. If you are going to charge me for access, I am not asking to pay any less, and I should not be asked to pay any more.

I would like the RI to make its reasoning behind these differing charges clear.

1. Is this increased cost the result of a committee decision? If so, it suggests a prejudice at work amongst committee members which does not reflect well on the Institution.

2. Is the increased cost a reflection of some other source of pressure? One which would like to see higher charges on non-mainstream education as a disincentive for parents to remove children from school? If so, you are colluding with other interests: you not acting in the interests of the public who wish to access and use the RI.

3. Is the issue about revenue stream? We have attended several RI events in the past which have been well-attended by home educators and poorly attended by schools. Are home educators simply being charged more in the expectation that we will provide a higher income stream on some times and dates?

4. Is this an issue of trust? Do you not trust home educators to show up for the lectures after buying tickets and, by placing a higher charge on us, are warning us in advance what you think about our reliability as parents and educators?

Once again I should like to say, the RI is an institution I have valued and held dear, but I cannot accept a move that is clearly so unfair. If you are going to charge me for access, I am not asking to pay any less, and I should not be asked to pay any more.

I would appreciate an honest explanation.


sharon said...

Good luck with that one Home Educators! What a rip off! Will be interesting - nay, frightening - to see if others places follow suit.

liveotherwise said...

Fantastic letter. They are being hounded through fb and twitter as well as email and blogs - surely we must be able to get across our strength of feeling on this one?

Deb said...

Excellent, Grit. They try this sort of thing in the U.S. occasionally, but outraged cries of Discrimination usually get them to back down.

Fight the Good Fight!

Kelly said...

Go Grit! Go Grit! Go Grit!

MadameSmokinGun said...


Wot no firebombing at all?

eeeny teeeny little baby one?

liveotherwise said...

the CEO has been by my blog to respond. Not sure why mine and not here though.

Grit said...

hi jax, i received exactly the same response in my private mail.

Grit said...

YES! 15/10/10 Email received from the RI, who will present fees for ALL kids, regardless of place of education, at THE SAME PRICE.


No need then, to implement plans B, C, or D.