Switching to home education for the last 2 years of school isn't always straightforward and you will need to do some research. However, this HE exams wiki has plenty of information to help you. Do ask questions on the HE exams and alternatives group, if you are not sure about something.
Considering Home education for Qualifications is a good place to start for an explanation of the differences between taking exams in school and taking them through home education and a look at your options.
If you are starting/considering home education with a child in yr 10, there are a few important things to be aware of if you want your child to do exams.
- Exam centres - You will be responsible for finding an exam centre and making arrangements to register for exams. It is getting harder to find centres, as some centres are closing doors to private candidates, especially following the covid upheaval of 2020. If you want your child to take an exam in a summer sitting, you will need to be finding out about exam centres in the previous autumn, and probably registering for those exams in January of the year your child wants to sit the exam, although some exam centres will have earlier deadlines.
- Financial costs - home educators pay for exam costs as well as any courses, tuition or textbooks. £150 per subject just to sit the exams is about average, but can be quite a bit more.
- Changing syllabus/subjects - home educated children can't always take the same exams as school children. If your child has already started GCSE study in year 9, you might have to switch syllabuses, and possibly drop some subjects. Even if your child hasn't started GCSE study, you will need to research which subjects and exams are do-able for home educated children and combine this information with knowledge about what exam boards your exam centre can facilitate, to determine which syllabuses your child should study. The subject pages are very useful!
- Spreading exams - home educated children often do fewer exam subjects and spread their exams over several years to help spread the cost and the workload. You might want to consider whether your child could take some of their exams in year 10, if they are ready. The idea of 2 years of study and 11 GCSEs at the end can go (unless that is what they want). Many home educators study a GCSE/IGCSE from scratch in a school year and do 5-8 subjects spread over several sittings. Some do more, some less. Most do Maths, English Lang and some form of science but you don't have to do any particular subjects.
Where to start
The Quick Start Guide gives an overview to what to do, if you want your child to take traditional qualifications through home education
Make sure you are aware of the difficulties certain subjects and exam boards may cause. The following links may help.
If you are starting in year 10 you have a bit of time on your side. It might not feel like it but you do!
The important thing about home ed is while you take on the responsibility- practically and financially of providing a suitable education but you also take on responsibility for decisions - you can make decisions for your child based on their needs. Home ed gives you freedom to make decisions on subjects to suit your child, embrace it.
Don't feel that you must jump straight in to GCSE because they would at school. If needed take some time to heal/find feet/go over basics/learn for fun. Nothing wrong with taking an extra year or more for GCSEs and starting college later.
Look at subjects that might interest them, learn about the difficulties some subjects cause, where you might be best to do IGCSE. If they are ready to think about starting, discuss what subjects they want to sit. Have a look at the subjects list on the Wiki as a starting point. Think what they need for what they want to do next. Research local 6th form/college requirements. If they don't know think what keeps the most options open and what fires their interest. How might you stagger them if that's what you want. You can spread the exams over a few years. Some IGCSEs have 2 exam sittings a year which offers more options.
While you consider subjects, you need to find an exam centre and check which boards/specifications you can sit, their costs and when you need to book the exams - see below.
For the subjects you are doing you decide which specification you want to do. The subjects area of the wiki will help compare options. You can download specification from the exam board websites which tells you what to cover.
Finally decide how to study - books, tutors, courses, online resources, combination. Some subject pages on the Wiki include resource lists or ask for advice on the HE exams and alternatives group. You might also be interested in the Course Provider page.
It is worth finding your local HE group (FB search home education and town/county) some groups arrange group tuition and if not you might find a friendly local prepared to chat over coffee and give some moral support.
There are no rules as to what GCSEs that should be sat and when in home education. It is a requirement to have a pass at 9-4, or be studying, Maths and English for 16-19 college funding and they are listed as a requirement for most jobs. However the formal qualification route isn't right for all students and you might want to look at alternative qualifications. You may also find some helpful information on future options on our sixteen plus page.
You need to find out where your child can sit exams. Be aware that it is often normal for home educators to travel some distance to access an exam centre.
Advice for contacting exam centres.
It is a good idea to contact exam centres well in advance to determine which ones in your area accept external candidates and what exam boards they are registered for. Even if your child is not intending to sit exams in the next year, knowing what exam boards your exam centre can facilitate, will help you make decisions about which syllabuses your child should study.
If you are looking to contact centres at the moment do remember it's been a long and very hard summer for exam staff and no sign of things slowing. They might not be quick to reply. Email is often a better way of contact.
Are you booking your exams for the first time? If you have an exam centre nearby, who is able and willing to enter private candidates, then chances are that the way has been paved for you by other home-educating families.
Sadly however, every year some exam centres decide that the hassle is no longer worth it and close the doors to HE families. There has definitely been an increase in this, post-Covid. There is rarely much, if any, profit to be made by the exam centres in these cases.
Don’t have unrealistic expectations of exam centre officers about giving you excessive support and guidance. Exams officers are not there to give advice about which syllabuses or subjects you should study or what resources to buy. That isn’t their role. Ask those sort of questions in the HE exams and alternatives group.
Please pay it forward to future home-educating families and treat your exam officers with respect and expect to do the necessary decisions around exam choices for yourselves. And if you do get an exam officer willing to go the ‘extra mile’ do make sure they know it is appreciated!
Here are things you might ask/expect of your exams officer.
1) Do you accept external candidates?
2) What exam boards are you registered for?
3) How much are the exams?
4) When is the deadline for registering?
5) Do you do autumn or winter sittings, as well as summer ones?
If you are planning to do any subjects, which have practicals, coursework or speaking components, do ask about these in plenty of time. Fewer exam centres can facilitate these components.
Advice on studying towards exams
Many home educators successfully home educate through exams without tutors or courses. They are not essential for many families or all subjects. You will find some useful advice here - Study Skills. The home ed community offers lots of advice, link sharing and moral support through support groups.
There are lots of tutor services/advisory consultants in education, but few with relevant elective home-education experience. You can find some listed on our correspondence courses page.
If you are going to use such services then here are some things to consider:
- Do they come personally recommended to you by other home-educators; Ideally look for several recommendations, even if you see it linked/advertised on a HE group or on this site. If you are interested in a company search home ed groups - does it get recommendations from a range of people?
- Their knowledge of specific board/specification you need to enter the exam for. Mainstream tutors sometimes make mistaken assumptions based on their school experience rather than for private candidates. Make sure you know what options (GCSE or IGCSE, exam boards) are available to sit as a private candidates - tutors do not always get this right;
- What experience do they have with home-educated students (not just after-school students);
- SEN experience if relevant;
- Their qualifications;
- Any professional bodies they are members of;
- If your chosen specification includes a non-examined assessment (often difficult for private candidates to be entered for) do they have a recognised arrangement for this with an exam centre;
- DBS checks (NB. this can be relevant EVEN FOR ONLINE ONLY provision as well as in-person tuition);
- Insurance (for e.g. professional indemnity insurance);
- Will they offer a (paid) trial session before both sides commit?