How can you get science laboratory experience, or conduct practical science investigations, when home educating? This page is for KS4 (GCSE-level) and beyond, with ideas for workshops, residential courses, and how to approach practical work from home-ed.
Also see these pages for more detailed info:
(For IGCSE-level practicals: how you can do them at home and where to get materials and resources)
Science A levels Page if you are considering taking Science A-levels from home and want to find out about the practical endorsement. There you will find listings of exam centres which will do your science A-level practical assessment. Most of these will offer a course of classes or an intensive course to learn and then practice the skills required.
Many of the practicals recommended in GCSE-level syllabuses can be carried out at home; much can be done with relatively little kit or affordable equipment. Sometimes home educators get together to form science practicals groups, or hire a tutor to run some practical activities for a group. Ask local home educating families to borrow items, like a microscope or test tubes, rather than spending a lot of money. For more information, see our pages on practicals for Biology and Chemistry and Physics.
For those experiments which you are not able to carry out at home, there are many videos on YouTube. Many school science classes use videos rather than hands-on practicals for a reasonable proportion of the syllabus.
You can get most chemicals and equipment you need for IGCSE level, in small quantities, on eBay. See our Biology Practicals page for some specific biology supplies - eg Visking tubing, bacterial cultures, agar plates, microscope recommendations etc. Note that some educational suppliers will only supply to those with a school or university account. Watch out for high postage costs.
Kitchen Chemistry on eBay sells small quantities of chemistry kit spares.
See also the following suppliers of equipment and/or chemicals, which have been recommended by home educators:
- Betterequipped.co.uk good for equipment and experiment kits.
- Philip Harris - good for small quantities of Dialysis tubing
- Rapidonline - great for electronics and general lab equipment, glassware etc.
- Sci-Mart will split packs for home educators seeking small quantities.
Workshops are held by some companies, universities and charities to give children hands-on laboratory experience. Search your local university's website for "STEM KS4", "laboratory workshops GCSE" or "outreach"
Some are listed here; if you know of others, please add.
Queen Mary's University of London - Engineering, Medicine and Dentistry workshops for 16-18 year-olds.
Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition (search for 'summer science' in the search box). Hands-on activities, demonstrations and opportunity to talk to scientists about their work.
The Royal Institution L'Oreal Young Scientist Centre has workshops which involve practical lab work for different age groups. London home-ed groups regularly organise school sessions there, but you can also book as individuals during their Summer School, for instance.
University of Wolverhampton STEM Outreach can provide GCSE-level workshops for groups.
Salford University Chemistry Club : Sponsored by BASF Chemicals. The university’s chemistry teaching laboratories are opened up to GCSE Yr 9,10,11 and A-level/BTEC Yr 12,13 students. "Practical classes covering the strands of the chemical sciences (biochemical, analytical, inorganic and organic) are held on a rota basis between 10 am and 1 pm on selected Saturday mornings. There is no charge to attend at all and this is an unique chance for young people to discover what the chemical sciences are in their function and gain valuable laboratory skills."
University of Central Lancashire Young Scientist Centre - Workshops in collaboration with the Royal Institution. Make a group booking, or book individual children in during events in school holidays: "The centre is a state-of-the-art lab used to deliver interactive workshops, allowing young people to creatively explore science. It is the first national branch of the YSC outside of London and it is a beacon for science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) in Lancashire...We run a wide range of STEM workshops for students aged 7-18 years... "Please contact the YSC Manager Dr. Liz Granger for more information: Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Telephone: 01772 894 286
BioGrad Laboratories A-level science laboratory sessions and will arrange GCSE-level workshops if you get in touch with them. They are keen to work with home educators.
Keep an eye out for events like The Big Bang Fair Young scientists and engineers event. It can be a good chance to play with some expensive equipment!
In some areas you can study GCSE-level science at an evening class. While these classes are usually aimed at adults age 19+, it is possible that some colleges will let a child attend if a parent enrols alongside them. Check how much laboratory experience they will offer within the course, and what range of grades the class is targeting, as some will be targeted to achieving only a grade 4 or 5 (old Grade C).
Residentials, short courses, and practical exam endorsements
TUTORIAL COLLEGES and FURTHER EDUCATION COLLEGES Some tutorial colleges and Further Education colleges offer practical science courses or practical endorsements to support A level or GCSE/IGCSE sciences. Check out local colleges to see what you have available in your area. Eg London, Campbell Harris A-level Chemistry evening course ; Oxford, Greenes Tutorial College ; Pembrokeshire College (science practical endorsements). See the Science A levels page for more suggestions for exam centres and places to do practical endorsements for A level sciences.
Mission Discovery - Space and STEM Summer School in London.
Salters Chemistry Camps (Stopped in 2018)
Salters Festival of Chemistry (for younger children).
Smallpeice Trust STEM short residential courses, usually at universities. Some of the courses are heavily discounted for particular underrepresented groups. Highly recommended by several home educators. Get on the mailing list, or follow their Facebook page and book as soon as dates are release, as places go quickly. Day workshops also availabie (usually free) for younger teens.
UK summer Schools - some science practical options on this listings site.
University of Kent Space School Astronomy weekends for 11-18 year-olds.
"Secondary school students from ages 14 - 18 get to work with NASA Astronauts, rocket scientists and NASA personnel for a week... In teams, students will propose an idea for their own scientific experiment; the best idea will be launched into space and carried out by Astronauts aboard the International Space Station."
University of Leicester Space School Residential courses for ages 13-15 and 16-18.