HE Exams Wiki

See also:

Starting home education in Years 7-9

Starting home education in Year 10

Starting home education in Year 11

This page will help you make an informed decision about whether to take your child out of school during the KS4 / GCSE period. Read through the page first to get an overview. Follow the links for more detailed help and information. The home education exams community can be very helpful. Links to online groups are at the bottom of the page.

Can you deregister your child from school and home educate them for UK qualifications?[]

It is entirely possible to home-educate through the KS4/GCSE levels. Home educated children can obtain GCSEs or other qualifications by sitting exams as private candidates at exam centres. However, because some exams are difficult to access outside of school, you cannot usually continue with all the same qualifications that your child was doing at school.

There are also advantages to home education. There are subjects that are rarely offered in schools that can be done as GCSEs or alternative qualifications (see the subjects page). You can also sit GCSEs at any age and spread them out over several years.

Do you really want to home educate?[]

If you don't really want to home-educate, but feel you have no other option, explore your options before you deregister. It may be possible for your child to stay home, but have education provided for them by the Local Authority (LA).

Children have a right to free education arranged by the school or LA if they are unable to attend for health reasons, including mental health, or if their special needs make it hard for them to fit into a normal school. DON'T DEREGISTER UNTIL YOU HAVE EXPLORED YOUR OPTIONS as you have much less bargaining power in terms of obtaining provision for your child once you have formally taken on full responsibility for their education.

Do any of these apply to you?[]

  • If your child does not want to attend school due to anxiety or ill-health, consider EOTAS - Education Otherwise Than At School, ie home tuition or online school provided by the Local Authority or school. Getting a sick note from the GP or CAMHS should protect you from prosecution for truancy.
  • If your child is being bullied and you're considering deregistration because you don't think the school has taken it seriously, you can appeal to the governors, the Local Authority and your MP. There are support groups to help you take matters further, which can help other children as well as your own. See  child law advice on bullying (operated by Coram Children's Legal Centre) . You can copy template letters for governors etc. from Bullying.co.uk
  • If you are being threatened with prosecution or fines for truancy, don't be panicked into making this major decision. See Child Law Advice on Attendance.
  • If your child has been excluded or suspended from school, the school or Local Authority is still responsible for providing an education for them. There is a legal duty for them to provide education from the 6th day of exclusion. For an overview see The School Run on Exclusions and for detailed advice on your rights see the charity Child Law Advice on Exclusions.
  • If the school is trying to encourage you to deregister to avoid eg exclusion or truancy fines, this is known as "off-rolling" and they are not allowed to do it. Contact your Local Authority education department for advice.

Other places to get help:[]

If you deregister your child to do qualifications through home education, you will be taking on responsibility for...[]

  • ensuring your child is given an efficient, full-time education.
  • choosing each qualification and syllabus to study and arranging how it will be studied. The Local Authority and the exam centre don't normally help with this; it's up to you to research it.
  • all costs of learning materials and exam entries. There is usually no financial help.
  • finding an exam centre where your child can sit their exams.
  • negotiating Access Arrangements for exams - eg extra time for dyslexia etc. This can be very hard to arrange if you're home-educated; It is much easier to get access arrangements if you are enrolled in a school or college.
  • finding alternative qualifications, if there's a subject which your child wants to pursue, but the standard qualification can't be done from home.

How can my child take exams?[]

You will need to find an exam centre which will enter your child for exams as a private candidate. This can be a school, a college or a commercial exam centre.

Your child's current (or recent) school may allow them to sit exams at the school. This might mean that your child can continue with their current exam syllabuses and might open up options to take exams with practical elements (see below).

If your child is in Year 11 and it is past the January census, in most cases their GCSE results will be added to the school's league table results regardless of whether you deregister them and sit the exam elsewhere. In this case, the school has an incentive to help you.

Can we just carry on with the syllabuses and subjects studied at school?[]

Not always. For some GCSE subjects, particularly those where there is a practical, fieldwork, spoken or coursework component, you might need to change syllabuses and might not be able to transfer over any coursework/ practical elements of the exam already covered.

What is the issue with practical elements?[]

Some GCSEs contain practical, spoken, fieldwork, coursework elements or NEAs (non examined assessments) which involve a lot of extra work for the exam centre. Most centres won't facilitate these subjects for private candidates. For some GCSE subjects you might have to travel further to find a centre to accommodate you, switch to an alternative qualification, or drop them completely. Here is a quick summary of the subjects where these issues commonly arise, with a link to a subject page for each where you can read more:

  • English Language - GCSE English language has a compulsory speaking assessment. A few exam centres will accept external candidates for this, but most won't. The alternative is International GCSE (IGCSE) English language, which is very similar, but doesn't include a compulsory speaking element.
  • Modern Foreign Languages (See Subjects for more detail on each language) You can take GCSE or International GCSE (IGCSE) syllabuses for modern foreign languages, but all of them have a speaking assessment. You will have to find a centre willing to accommodate this.
  • Science The exam centre has to sign a form stating that they've offered all candidates the opportunity to do all the core practicals and they are supposed to ensure you've written them up, too. Most centres won't do this for private candidates. Because of this, most home educated children opt for IGCSE for sciences, which are very similar, but do not require the exam centre to sign off practicals.
  • Music - music GCSE involves coursework and performance. There are very few places that offer GCSE music to external candidates and it can be very expensive.
  • Art - Art GCSE and Art IGCSE have a compulsory coursework component. This, plus the specific requirements of the practical exam, mean that few exam centres will accept private candidates for this. Check out the art page for more information.
  • Geography GCSE includes a fieldwork endorsement, similar to that for science. Most home educated children opt for IGCSE Geography. which has a similar syllabus, but doesn't require practical work to be signed off.
  • Design and Technology - GCSE DT is 50% project and portfolio, involving many hours of supervised work. It is not a realistic option for most home educators.
  • Physical Education - GCSE PE involves a large practical element and assessors must work with an exam centre which is prepared to administer this. It's very rare for GCSE PE to be do-able outside of school. Home educated children usually focus on building a portfolio of awards from national governing bodies of sports instead.
  • Food Tech - involves a large practical project with around 30 hours of teacher-supervised work as part of the assessment. Not usually an option, although very occasionally a tutorial centre will run a class.
  • Computer Science and IT - GCSE computer science has a practical component; you will almost certainly have to switch to Cambridge IGCSE Computer science, or find an alternative qualification.
  • Media Studies and Film Studies

How much does it cost to take exams?[]

There are two elements to this: the cost of the study materials, and the cost of the exam entries.

Exam costs include an entry fee plus an admin fee. The total is usually around £150-200 per subject at GCSE, just for written exams, although it can vary a lot. For exams with a speaking test, expect to pay £200 - £300 per subject.

Some Local Authorities (LAs) including Hampshire, Kent and a couple of others will make some contribution towards exam costs, subject to conditions. Most don't. Check on your local home education group, or one of the exams groups.

Study materials can be anything from a £15 textbook and free online materials, up to hundreds of pounds per subject if you want a distance learning course or online classes. See the FAQ for more.

Can my child just go to college or do an apprenticeship to get qualifications?[]

In some areas, home-educated children can attend college part-time from age 14 to obtain some qualifications. This is free and can be a good option BUT what's available varies a lot from area to area.

  • College courses for age 14-16 are only available at some colleges. Check what is available near you. The classes available to your child might be quite different from those available elsewhere in the country.
  • 14-16 course usually only offer a limited range of qualifications. These are usually vocational courses, and occasionally English and maths GCSEs.
  • Some qualifications might be at a lower level than GCSE, eg entry level or level 1 qualifications.
  • Some programmes are aimed at children who find academic work difficult or who have SEND.
  • Some classes might include school children who are disaffected with education and disruptive.
  • Any GCSE courses on offer might only be foundation level, which means that you cannot obtain higher grades. If you want to go to college to study A-levels, check that you would be able to meet their admissions requirements for the courses you want.
  • College courses for home-educated children are part-time and are only supposed to be a supplement to the education provided by the family.

Lots more information on College for 14-16 year olds.


Apprenticeships are strictly for ages 16+, so not an option at this stage. You can find some apprenticeships at 16+ which don't require any qualifications, but many do have some GCSE requirements and, generally speaking, you'll have a lot more choice of jobs if you can get (I)GCSE maths and English under your belt.

What about waiting until age 16 to go to college to do GCSEs?[]

Even if you have no qualifications at age 16, you are still entitled to a college place. However, you will have a limited range of courses available to you in this situation. If you are aiming at vocational qualifications or are not in a rush to get higher-level qualifications, this might be fine. However, if you are aiming at an academically competitive university course, it is likely to be a less useful path. In most cases, the courses available for 16 year-olds with no qualifications will be aimed at those who have struggled academically. Some colleges offer fast-track programmes aimed at those who are new arrivals to the UK and who need to get core qualifications quickly, and these can be ideal - but they're only available in a few places.

I want to go ahead with home education - what should I do next?[]

  1. A friendly general home education support group to help you make your decision is Home Schooling UK. Members have experience of a range of styles of home education, from unschooling to structured - the group supports all approaches to home education.
  2. Look at our Quick Start Guide on taking exams from home education.
  3. Read the FAQs page any other questions you have!
  4. If you're ready to deregister, join the HE Exams and alternatives Facebook group for further advice and support
  5. Advice on deregistration and template letters