Scottish Exam Options
The Scottish Government have said that National 5 exams are in theory open to private candidates, but it is up to headteachers whether they wish to administer that in their own schools, and they are under no obligation to do so. Until recently all National 5 exams contained internal coursework which has be to completed in a formal setting, making it problematic for private candidates, and therefore a flexi-schooling arrangement would be required. Some National 5s have now had the coursework units scrapped, so *may* now be more accessible to private candidates, but still require a local high school prepared to accept private candidates. In reality the number of home education families in Scotland who have successfully navigated National 5 as private candidates are a very small number indeed, and definitely in the minority. The advice would be that currently it is generally not possible to consider National5 exams as a private candidate through local schools. Highers also contain coursework and so are generally not accessible in this way.
However, some families have managed to find alternative ways to access National 5 and Highers in the following ways:
If your local FE college offers National 5/Highers you can enrol there for a part time course while still continuing to be otherwise home educated. Classes may be in person, online, or distance learning. This may or may not incur a cost depending on the fee policy of the college, in which case you could be looking at around £350-£500 per subject. You would be submitted as an internal candidate of the college.
Wallace College in Edinburgh can arrange for National 5/Higher assessments to be completed, and are prepared to take private candidates for the exam. They are not cheap, so the cost of this could mount up depending on how many assessments are required.
Scottish Highers Online are a relatively new company offering SQA qualifications by distance learning. However they have had some teething problems. In principle you study with them and then sit your exam at a local exam centre, but some families have struggled to find an exam centre to take them. These exams are sat on a 'sitting at' basis, so you are not classified as a private candidate, but an internal candidate 'sitting at' a different centre.
Aberdeen University offer access courses which are *equivalent* to National5/Highers. This is currently limited to Maths (Nat5/Higher) & English (Higher only). £360 per course, all completed online.
Some Scottish families opt to take IGCSEs (International GCSEs) which are 100% written exams. It is also possible to take some GCSEs if they don't have any coursework/internal assessments.
Some families in Scotland have successfully taken American SATs for UK university entry, enabling them to home-educate up to university entrance.
Differences Between Scottish and English Exam Routes
GCSE/IGCSE is loosely equivalent to National5, however GCSEs are generally taken in Year 11 at school, which is the equivalent of S5, not S4 when Nationals are usually sat. After GCSE level, students typically move on to A Level study which is generally spread over 2 years, unlike Scottish Highers which only take 1 year. A Level is a much higher standard than Scottish Highers, and probably more similar to Advanced Highers, usually sat in S6. This means that students sitting A levels will generally complete an extra year of education compared with their Scottish counterparts (see below) Obviously home educated families are not constricted by these timelines, but this may prove helpful in planning your own timeline.
Scottish S4 (National5) = England/Wales Yr 10
Scottish S5 (Highers) = England/Wales Yr 11 (GCSEs)
Scottish S6 (Advanced Highers) = England/Wales Yr 12 (AS Level/ A Level yr1)
(none) = England/Wales Yr 13 (A Level yr2)
Scottish Exam Centres Taking Private Candidates for IGCSE/GCSE
***PLEASE ENSURE YOUR EXAM CENTRE CAN ACCOMMODATE AN EXAM BEFORE STARTING ON A SYLLABUS***
Wallace College offer all boards at £170 per GCSE/IGCSE subject and language oral exams at an extra £90 . They can also help with some GCSE controlled assessments / speaking tests, CIE A-level Science Practicals, and SQA exams Summer and Winter sittings available.
Basil Patterson College offer Edexcel & AQA GCSE/IGCSE.
Fettes College may accommodate private candidates.
Merchiston Castle School may accommodate private candidate.
Loretto School, Musselburgh offer Edexcel and CAIE exams to private candidates.
St Leonards, St Andrews may accommodate private candidates.
Albyn School. Only offers summer series each year. Cannot accommodates practical exams but offers speaking tests in French, German, Spanish and Chinese Mandarin. Boards offered are Edexcel, CIE, OCR, AQA, SQA and WJEC / Eduqas.
Russian Centre in Scotland (Haven) are happy to take private candidates for Edexcel exams.
Glenalmond College can accommodate any exam board, but only offer subjects which are 100% written exams. Summer series only. Candidate fee of £110 plus cost of exam paper. Rural setting with no public transport links.
Strathallan School may accommodate private candidates.