Homeschooling GCSEs & A Levels: How Does It All Work?
Something that comes up a lot in conversation when discussing homeschooling is exams such as SATs, GCSEs and A-levels: whether or not our children will do them, if it’s legal to do exams at a different age and time to schoolchildren, how much it costs, etc. Here’s the lowdown on homeschooling UK GCSEs and other formal exams in the United Kingdom.
“Do homeschooled children have to do GCSEs & A Levels?”
Homeschooled children are under no obligation to take GCSEs, SATs, A Levels or any other exams whatsoever. The legal requirement for home education is that each child receives an ‘age appropriate, full time’ education and there are no specifications as to what is meant by age appropriate or full time.
Homeschooled children, if they wish to take any exams, may take them whenever they like- earlier, at the same time or later than their schooled peers.
“Can homeschooled children do GCSEs & A Levels if they want?”
Although most people would not have considered how to take a GCSE outside of school, it is fairly straightforward. There is no reason why homeschooled children cannot take GCSEs if they wish; they simply need to learn the same material as their schooled peers.
Home educated children often learn the material quicker than schoolchildren due to the high adult-child ratio in homeschooling, fewer distractions, more time to study each subject, and intrinsic motivation.
“Do parents have to pay for GCSEs & A Levels?”
Homeschooling is considered private education and parents of home educated children are responsible for the full cost of both learning the material and sitting the actual exams.
“Where do I get the materials for my child to study a GCSE?”
The materials to study GCSEs can be obtained online; Amazon has a good range of GCSE subject student books and workbooks.
“Where do homeschooled children learn GCSE or A Level material?”
Home educated children may use any number of resources in order to learn material needed to take GCSEs or other exams if they wish to take them. These resources may include tutors; attendance at college; flexi-schooling; private tutors; group homeschool classes; co-ops and online courses, or simply studying at home with parental and familial guidance.
“Where do homeschooled children sit GCSE exams and A Levels / How do you take a GCSE or A Level outside of school?”
This depends on a number of factors. Homeschooled children may be able to sit their GCSEs in a local school or other exam centre as long as they pay for it themselves.
How To Do GCSEs & IGCSEs As A UK Home Educated Student
If you want to take GCSEs and/or IGCSES as a home educated student, follow these steps:
- Look at why you want to take GCSEs or IGCSEs- if it is to get into further study, see what exams and grades you actually need. It is probably less than you think! It is common to need 6 GCSEs (at grade 4 or better) to study A levels or 4 GCSEs to do a Btech.
2. Consider alternatives; you could go to college at age 14, or take other online or in-person courses. If you are sure you want to take GCSEs or IGCSEs, go to the next step…
3. Make a plan of how much you want to study and over what period of time. Be gentle on yourself and realistic; there is no rush or time limit as to when you can take them so go for quality over quantity. You do not have to do as many GCSEs as in school, it is entirely up to you.
4. Decide which subjects you would like to do and choose a course and syllabus; the ones available to home 5. educators will depend on which boards your local exam centres cover.
5. Find an exam centre (this is a must when you are an external/ private exam candidate). You should do this before you start studying.
Examples of local exam centres include schools (both state and private), further education colleges, Adult Education centres, Pupil Referral Units and commercial centres set up to privately facilitate exams.
The cheapest options are usually schools, and the most expensive are commercial centres but this depends on your local area. The time windows for booking for exams is usually October-January for summer exams, July-September for CAIE autumn exams, and September for Edexcel IGCSE January exams.
Here is a list of exam centres taking private candidates; this was published in 2021 but you need to do your own research as to the accuracy of the list.
6. When contacting an exam centre, be sure to ask questions such as the cost of exams for home educated children as private candidates; what are the deadlines for registering and which exams boards they are registered for.
“Can homeschooled children take A-levels and go to University?”
The answers for the GCSE questions above apply in exactly the same way to any path of further education. If homeschooled children (or anyone else) wants to do a University course without fulfilling the grade requirements they may be able to do an Access course, such as those offered by the Open University, in place of GCSEs and A Levels.
Need more info on homeschooling GCSEs? The homeschooling Wiki site has more details on exams.