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Gaining GCSE & A Level Qualification Whilst Home Educating

Deciding what to study, how and even if you want to can be difficult. This article shares some facts and tips on gaining qualification whilst being home educated.

In the UK it is NOT compulsory for home educated children to take qualifications. They can if they want to. Probably the most important things to consider are; do they want to and: can they see a purpose in taking them. If they can’t, then forcing them to do it may not get the desired results. If they want to, then it is really important to plan things out well in advance. You can do GCSEs or National 5 (if in Scotland) at any age so you could opt for more relevant qualifications when they are really driven towards a particular career path or if they want to get in to a certain college or university and need specific subject qualifications to access the desired course.

Here are a few things to consider:

  • You can take as many or as few qualifications as you like
  • The main GCSEs that employers and further education providers look for are a standard pass in English Language, Literature, Maths and some Science (grade 4), some colleges want a grade 5 so it is important to consider that in the planning stage
  • Each exam board will have their own specific requirements. General GCSE books or revision guides give an overview but you need access to past papers and possibly text books by the chosen board. All exam boards take external students
  • The best way to decide on the right exam board and specification is to consider individual interests and the needs of the pupil
  • Many GCSEs include a significant amount of coursework, consisting of projects, essays and practical work done within lessons. Coursework marks go towards their overall grade. This coursework element is really hard for home educated students to complete unless they are signed up to a setting where an independent person marks it. IGCSE (International GCSE) rely entirely on exams, which takes away the need for coursework. Sadly, this style doesn’t meet the needs of all learners
  • Finding somewhere to sit exams is particularly difficult, depending on where you are in the country so you need to plan ahead. Some Local Authorities have information and lists of schools on their website where you can sit exams as an external student. 
  • The parent is responsible for the cost of entering, administering and invigilating external examinations. If taking these as an external student in a school setting, the school will inform you of these costs. Costs vary but you can expect to pay around £100 per GCSE

These are the main ways in which home educated students take GCSEs: 

  • Online/correspondence school, where you are assigned a tutor who is able to mark work
  • Enrolling at a local college or adult ed class
  • Doing it at home
  • Some schools will allow you to Flexi-school, your young person can attend school for certain lessons and then take exams, usually for free via the school
  • If your child decides they want to take GCSEs then you should make your preparations as early as possible. It is a good idea to start planning when your child is 14+
  • Your child may also be able to take GCSEs at the same time. They receive funding from the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) for students aged 14 to 16 years old, see EdYourself for more information about students aged 14 starting college part time

POST 16+ The choices available to your child after the age of 16 are as follows:

  • Continue with home education studying at home
  • Private tutor/online school
  • Enrol in a school sixth form or FE college
  • Applications to colleges and sixth forms normally need to be in by January of Year 11 so it is advisable to contact the Admissions Team at the college and make an appointment to talk about getting a place. You may need to take examples of work done, Collage app is a really useful tool to use to share your child’s learning portfolio
  • Some A-level courses can be taken without the relevant GCSE, and some vocational courses or careers do not require paper qualifications

Contact details for the exam boards in the UK are:

AQA Assessment and Qualifications Alliance Stage Hill House Guildford Surrey GU2 7XJ Tel: 0800 197 7162 Email:

Pearsons One90 High Holborn London WC1V 7BH Learner help desk Tel: 0845 6180440 Email:

OCR 1 Hills Road Cambridge CB1 2EU Tel: 01223 553 998 Email:

WJEC (Welsh Joint Education Committee) CBAC Ltd, 245 Western Avenue, Cardiff, CF5 2YX, 029 2026 5000,

SQA (Scottish Qualification Association) Lowden, 24 Wester Shawfair, Dalkeith, Midlothian, EH22 1FD Tel: 0845 279 1000

DE – Department of Education, Northern Ireland Rathgael House, Balloo Road, Bangor, BT19 7PR Tel: 028 9127 9279

Other useful sites:

Starting College aged between 14-16

BBC Education: GCSE help

TopMarks site (select age 15-16 and the subject that interest you to find a list of useful resources).

You can get past papers from your relevant exam board. Revision world also has some

The Exam House‘, is a new site that may help you find sites which enable private candidates to take both GCSEs and A-levels. a community website with lots of exam information

Oak National Academy has lots of resources and GCSE study bits. It is an organisation providing an online classroom and resource hub in the UK. It provides teachers with free lessons and resources for pupils aged from 4 to 16, from reception to year 11. Oak also includes a specialist curriculum for supporting pupils who normally attend specialist settings.