HE Exams Wiki
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Are you brand new to home education or exams? Don't panic. Pour a cup of tea or coffee and settle down to read up. This website has been put together by home educators for home educators and will guide you through. There is a lot of information so take your time.

Where can I get support?

There is little out there in the way of support from authorities/LEAs in general. Some can be helpful, others not. Most of the exam boards now have private candidate pages that can be worth bookmarking; Edexcel, AQA, CAIE, OCR, WJEC/Eduqas. Be aware if you contact the exam boards directly while they do know the specifications, the people you speak to are often unaware of the practical issues around sitting exams as a home educator and that can mean the advice might not be the most useful. Exam centres can help with questions on what exams they can offer but they are not usually able to advise on what you 'should' do or resources.

The best form of help and support is usually the advice and encouragement of current and past home educators. Join our Home Education UK Exams & Alternatives Facebook group for lots of support

It is also worth joining local groups; they will be able to advise on your specific LEA and help with finding local exam centre. Most are on Facebook, search for Home Education and your local town and county.

When you know what subjects you wish to do there are subject specific support groups too. There is a file on the Home Education and Alternatives Facebook group (linked above) that lists many.

Should I home educate?

No one can answer that apart from you, everyone's situation is different. The following pages may be helpful with suggestions for things you might want to consider before the jump:

Considering Home Education for Qualifications?
Starting Home Education in Yrs 7-9
Starting Home Education in Year 10
Starting Home Education in Year 11

If you are considering home education because of physical or mental health needs, you might want to research whether your child is eligible for EOTAS - Education other than at school. This site and the linked support groups are not set up to support EOTAS as the range of exams and qualifications on offer to those with EOTAS is generally different to those home educating. This page provides information and links for where to find more support and information.

How do I withdraw my child from school?

This is beyond the scope of this Wiki. There are lots of general home education support groups and information pages that cover this. Home Education For All (H.E.F.A.) UK has a very comprehensive series of guides to support. Rules vary slight depending on where in the UK you are. If you ask on local groups people will be able to advise on how to deal with your local LEA.

Can my child take GCSEs if they are being home educated?

Yes. You can take public qualifications by sitting exams at an exam centre such as a school or independent exam centre as an external (private) candidate.

There are some GCSEs that are not available/or difficult at access as a private candidate. Some GCSEs involve NEAs (non-examined assessments), these might take the form of coursework, or endorsements which centres need to sign to say practical components (eg geography fieldwork) have been completed. Very few exam centres will allow you to do this unless you are one of their own pupils or work with an affiliate tutor if a private exam centre. For some subjects you can take an International GCSE (IGCSE) instead, which is the same level, has very similar content, and is treated as a GCSE in almost all circumstances. Read our page on IGCSEs.

Usually home-educated students will take IGCSEs, not GCSEs in, for example, English and Sciences, but GCSEs in some subjects such as maths, religious studies, history, English literature and psychology are available without controlled assessment. The subject pages tell you what your options are for each subject, i.e. whether you can do GCSE or IGCSE, and what choices of syllabus are available.

What are the Pros and Cons of taking exams as a Home-Educated Student?

Pros

  • Student can take as many or as few qualifications as they wish, and choose the syllabus they are most keen on.
  • Student can take exams at their own pace, starting when they are ready. Spreading exams over several years also reduces the risk if something goes wrong one year (e.g. Covid cancellations in 2020 and 2021, personal circumstances) and many people find it less stressful.
  • Student does not need to be restricted to courses on offer at college, or to foundation tiers.
  • Great sense of satisfaction for students
  • Suits students who prefer to work independently or in small groups
  • Suits students who know what they want to do next and know what qualifications they need to do it.
  • Allows you to have a conventional set of qualifications similar to what would have been taken in school, if you desire, but still have the freedom of home-ed.
  • You can sit any qualification open to private candidates, so, for example, your choice of GCSEs and subject combinations is far wider than any one school can offer.

Cons

  • Can be difficult to find an exam centre to take external candidates. This has become even more difficult following Covid disruption.
  • You have to pay all costs.
  • If you need access arrangements for SEND this can be difficult to arrange.
  • You take full responsibility for exam preparation.
  • Some qualifications are not available to external candidates, eg Design and Technology GCSE, while others with practical components can be difficult to arrange, eg Art GCSE. There are alternative qualifications for most of these.

How much does it cost?

As an external candidate you are responsible for all costs of study and sitting exams and you are responsible for finding and registering with an exam centre. There are 3 separate costs to consider and budget for:

  1. Study costs - If you study independently, then the cost of study can be only the price of a textbook and printing, so it can cost less than £40 per qualification for the actual study materials. Course fees can vary hugely from £100ish to £500 plus. Think carefully about the amount of support you require and how best your child learns. Private tutors can vary from £20-£50+ an hour depending on locality, qualifications and experience. Don't panic-buy and over-spend on books and courses. It is easy to waste lots of money on unnecessary materials at first. Take things easy; most subjects really only need one good textbook. Don't buy distance learning courses without reading around the subject pages on this wiki first, and asking on the HE Exams Facebook group; many of us have unused courses sitting on our shelves, when a good textbook did the job in the end.
  2. Exam centre fees - The cost of sitting the exams for a qualification varies considerably. It can be just the cost of the exam board fees (varies but about £50) but most centres have extra fees on top to cover admin, invigilation, and other overheads (can be £250+). Average costs have risen over the last few years, as fewer schools accept external candidates and home educators have had to rely more on private (some commercial, some not-for-profit) centres - on 2021-22 figures it is best to budget £150-200 per subject for exam centre fees. How centres organise their fees varies. Many centres charge one set fee per subject that covers everything. Others centres change per paper. Some centres, most usually schools who are offering exams at cost price, will charge exam board fees, then invigilation costs (which may vary depending on number of candidates), then an admin fee (per subject or sometimes per exam series). It is always best clarifying with the exam centre if unsure.
  3. Travel/extra costs - Many people need to travel some distance to exam centres. Core subjects (Maths/English/Sciences) are often morning exams so may need overnight accommodation. There are also little extras like coffee while you wait which can mount up. If your child is planning on doing more difficult to arrange exams then you need to be prepare to travel a longer distance. It is worth factoring these extras into your budget.

I want to Home Educate and do GCSEs/IGCSEs, where do I start?

Take it slowly! Studying for and sitting exams as a private candidate is very different to doing them via a school. There are important decisions that you need to make which are normally out of your hands if your child is doing exams via school. The more research you do, the easier will be to make these decisions and avoid potential pitfalls. If you haven't already have a look at our Frequently Asked Questions.

Take lots of time over it and get advice from the FB group - Home Education Exams and Alternatives.

The basic steps are:

  1. Decide what subjects and specifications your child wants/needs to sit.
  2. Find an exam centre (ideally a couple of options - it is good to have back ups)
  3. Decide how to study and buy the resources needed.
  4. Book and sit the exams.

The first two need to be considered together. You need to know which subjects/specifications you can arrange the exams for before deciding what to study. If your child is interested in subjects with trickier to arrange components (eg orals, computer based assessment or music) you might need to opt for specific exam centres who can facilitate those. It helps to be aware before approaching exam centres, which specifications might prove awkward to arrange exams for and specifically enquire about that subject/specification.

It's important to work out WHAT you are studying before you worry about the HOW. You may feel time is tight but pausing to do your research really is worth it, It will help avoid potential mistakes. There are some s

In the short term you might want to look at our Home Ed resources page which lists lots of helpful resources. These can be used to supplement later on or in the early days to allow you to help work out how your child learns best, their strengths and weaknesses, and their interests. They can help you get started with HE while you take the time to do the research you need around exam specs and study resources.

For the longer term you need to find decide which exam specifications to study and how you will cover the material. If they have started GCSEs in school you may need (or want) to make changes to the subjects and specifications they were studying. Don't be scared by this exam specs overlap in content. It is worth thinking about Home Ed as a new start with a chance to make choices that are right for your child. If you have never thought about exam choices before it can be a scary, overwhelming prospect. Our Jargon Buster is worth bookmarking to help you get familiar with the lingo. Take your time, there's a lot of information available to help.

I want to Home Educate but I'm not sure on GCSEs/IGCSEs, do we have alternatives?

The short answer is yes. Many questions around whether home educators have to do GCSEs, how many and when, and what alternative paths are available are addressed in the Frequently Asked Questions, so do have a read.

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