Select Committee: Money and exams. Do Home Educated children need GCSEs?


One of the carrots that has been waved at home ed families has been money.  Would be we happy to be registered, poked and prodded and peered at, if we got some money?

While it has been said that some home educators have approached their LAs looking for proper help. I can’t imagine many have done this as we all know there isn’t any. Nevertheless one of the big bugbares appears to be that many home educators do not have their children do GCSEs, IGCSEs or A’levels because there are no free and local exam centres and the costs are prohibitive. In our case Alex was able to sit his exams locally, but the centre closed. The costs were over £120 per exam. For Iona who did IGCSE Maths the costs were £135 plus over £60 a day for travelling to Bristol and back! I met one mother who had travelled miles for her son’s IGCSE Science exam and had needed to pay for B&B the night before.

Most of us are simply not able to find that kind of money.

During the WED SESSION Douglas Carswell MP (Con) began this conversation:

Q69 Mr. Carswell: I have a general question for the panel. In Clacton, the parents of 16 children have, rightly in my opinion, refused to send their children to a school that they believe is not able to provide the children with a proper education. They have successfully demanded that they receive a home education grant from the local education authority. Is this something that you welcome, and do you think that the sort of extra regulation and oversight demanded by Badman could be conditional on receiving the grant? If you get the grant, you can be overseen by the state, but if you do not, it should leave you alone.

Zena Hodgson: I am from the Home Education Centre, and we were approached by Somerset, who said that it had managed to put aside some sums to assist home educators. It asked whether we would accept it, as they felt that they were not able to give it to individual families, but could give it to a group to spend the money best to benefit as many home educators in Somerset.

Chairman: Zena, you are not answering his question. [Actually she WAS answering the question and I would have liked to hear the full answer. I am fascinated that Somerset were willing to hand money to a home ed support organisation that could be used for genuine help of home ed families. I am especially interested because my time teaching in FE taught me that school money follows the child into college. It should therefore follow the child home shouldn’t it?]


Q70 Mr. Carswell: Would you like a legal right so that home educators could say to the local authority, “It is my money-give it to me now”?

Zena Hodgson: As a family?

Mr. Carswell: As an individual. My child, my money-give it. [Money per home ed child as in school?]

Zena Hodgson: Yes, I suppose. There will always be things that your children would want to better their education.[Yes the costs are high despite some stuff I’ve read about home ed on a shoe string. Frankly there are costs and some are pretty big ones.]

I noticed that most replies were very very cautious indeed. Fiona was well aware that it was a moot point as the money simply would not be there. Then Simon Webb said:

I live in Essex, so I have an interest in this. I had to pay £120 for every GCSE that my daughter took. It cost me nearly £1,000. I tried to get the money from Essex, but there was absolutely nothing doing. I pay council tax, but I cannot get the services from the education department.

I may be wrong, but although Mr Carswell (who had obviously done his homework about Home education which is way more that David Chaytor had bothered to do) thought there was a possibility of a registered family receiving the money a child would get for school to use as was best for that child, the underlying view was that money should be available for HE children to sit exams.

In the light of this, Here is my question.

Do Home Educated children need to sit GCSEs, IGCSEs or A’Levels?

I am seriously seeking your views on this. I would be equally interested in American, Australian and any other country homeschoolers saying what you think. Do you intend or have you put your children through High School Diplomas or other exams? What for? Do they need them for work applications, University access or other reasons? If you haven’t or don’t intend to-what are your children doing instead?

I am asking because my 15 year old daughter is about getting ready to start Open University courses in Feb next year. She turns 16 in the Jan and the OU have lowered their entrance age to 16. We thought that her chances of doing any degree or getting any kind of work would actually be enhanced by starting a degree at 16 but I have had someone raise concerns that she is not getting GCSEs first. Someone else has wondered whys she wants to stay home educated and not do gcses in college.

My view is that I have very very little money and I want to spend it with care. Iona wants to do the Open Uni courses which over the next couple of years could give her 120 foundation (level 1) points-a third of a degree. Each OU course is about £155 per 10 points. As you can see this is not cheap but I was thinking this was a better reason for debt that GCSEs.

From what I can gather employer organisations and Universities don’t think much of the quality of GCSEs these days anyway.

What do y’all think?


9 responses to “Select Committee: Money and exams. Do Home Educated children need GCSEs?

  1. My recent experience of this is that all of the teens in the area have done the GCSEs they needed when they went to college at 16…so usually just did English and Maths and whatever subjects they wanted to study at A level.

    All of them have done very well, getting good enough grades to go on to colleges, including two to top universities…(one has finished his degree, the other has just applied to Oxford), so waiting this long didn’t seem to be a big problem.

    I think one can argue that an Open University course should suffice as some sort of entrance either to college or uni, but am not sure that this always passes muster with all of these institutions.

  2. My children are too young, so I can only speak personally. (it’s a bit long, sorry!)

    The period of my life 16 – 22 yrs was a treadmill of exams. I have 9 o-levels, 3 a-levels and a degree. Once I achieved my degree, the other qualifications weren’t important (on the whole) to employers.

    My University ran an access course, which I think was pretty common, for “mature” students (over 21?) to get into Uni without qualifications. It was a one year course, and many of the people I studied with had come via that route.

    Because of the treadmill, I ended up doing completely the wrong subjects, instead of stopping and working out what I really wanted to do. When I was 26, I went back to college to do another a-level in a completely different subject area. No-one on my course had come the direct route. Many were young people who had no/few GCSE’s from school, so they had come to college to take them and a-levels at the same time.

    Lack of funding and ill-health was the only thing preventing me from doing a second degree (madness!) as a mature student.

    So I think IGCSE’s aren’t necessary. The OU course sounds good.

  3. Look at you being all Texan! “Y’all”! 🙂

    I am not 100% clear on how these GCSE’s work.

    While it varies by state, most homeschooled kids are either enrolled in an accredited school which issues transcripts/diploma, or the parents can produce their own transcripts (this is an option where I live, Texas. Not sure which other states accept the same.) Many students will sit for the SAT (standardized college entrance exam) or they will take a different entrance exam offered through the college (some sort of exam is required to enter college/uni.)

    My 16 yo will be graduating from high school this coming spring/early summer. I will provide transcripts (that I will make) to the local community college (where she will begin, spending 2 years there) and she will take the THEA. The basic fee for this exam is $29. If you need to register late or have other issues, there are additional fees. (You can take the SAT for around $50, but there can be additional fees.) These tests cover all of the basic areas of education (i.e. you don’t have separate test for maths, english, science, etc.) and qualify a student for college entrance.

    My oldest 2, homeschool grads, were enrolled in Mother of Divine Grace for their accredited diploma because they both intended to enlist in the US Army and having an accredited diploma made things easier (we had enough struggle WITH the diploma!) We ended up spending, ummm, maybe $600/year for 2 years to get this. Because my 16 yo intends to start at the community college, this is not necessary and we are not enrolled. Texas is very homeschool friendly~ though it would be nice if the kids could play on the sports teams in the school district or something considering how much we pay for school tax!! (such districts exist, just not here.)

    So, as you can see, it’s case-by-case with our kids. When we felt the benefit was worth it, we went accredited, when it was not, we don’t.

  4. OrganisedPauper

    I suppose it depends on what your child wants to do and when they want to do it. My oldest child didn’t sit GCSEs although that option was available to her. She then went to college and did a GNVQ intermediate and was also was offered the chance to take GCSE Maths and English then but declined.

    She went out to work for a couple of years after college, working with young people with profound disabilities. Then decided she wanted to go to Uni to study Textiles. She had always been torn between the arts and the caring professions. She got into Uni on the strength of her interview and portfolio.

    There’s an article somewhere online in a major national newspaper from Alex Dowty who is at Oxford studying law. He didn’t bother with GCSE’s he took relevant OU courses and contacted individual Universities to see who would be interested in taking him.

    There is nothing that says a GCSE not taken at age 16 is the end of your life or prospects. You will only hear this in schools because their ratings depend on GCSEs taken and passed. You can study and take GCSE’s at any age whatsoever, although it will probably have to be via a different route than the traditional school or college as this government has made access to GCSEs and A levels much more difficult post age 18/19.

    The major problem is not money, it’s access. Exam centres that allow external candidates to sit exams can be hard to find. I would say the OU is certainly a good route to go down for home educated children interested in academic subjects.

  5. Thank you for asking about my passion flower 🙂
    Yes, it is in my garden. I tried to grow one last year, but it died. This year I chose a hardier variety and put it in a different spot in the garden. It has had about 8 huge blooms up to now, but never more than one at a time! Hopefully next year, it will be more bushy and I will have multiple blooms. I must remember to bubble wrap the pot over winter so that it doesn’t get frost damage.
    have a lovely Saturday,
    Mrs.P x

  6. Thanks for the replies. It has helped a lot. Iona will go ahead with building her OU degree points. She already has IGCSE Maths at grade B and I had thought she could do Eng is really needed although her portfolio is packed with English, Science and history stuff.

  7. Im home schooling my daughter now because of illness and personal reasons. I just wanted to know where could she sit for her G.C.S.Es she has already prepared for her exam and is ready. Could anyone please give me some ideas please?

  8. It depends where you live.
    I contacted A3 tutors-but I can’t seem to find their website now. My dd had to go to Bristol to sit IGCSE maths.
    Contact your local HE group and see if they have any ideas.
    Also-although I doubt this will get you anywhere – you could ask the EWO if you have a good one.
    Contact your nearest independent school to ask if they would take an external candidate.

    Considering we live in a big city it was ridiculously hard to get any info or a sensible place to sit exams. It’s why we have not done any more.

    Good luck in your hunt.

  9. Hi,
    there is a Yahoo group for home educating parents who are looking for ideas for sitting exams.

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