Home Education; navigating the exam hoops.

The age of my children means I have a sort of respite in the exam world. The older three are aged 23, 21 and 19 while the younger ones are nearly 10, 8 and 5 and a half. So you see it’s a bit different for us.

Let’s take Josh. He went through the school system right to the end. He came out with 13 GCSEs grades A to C and two A’levels in English and Drama. He wants to be a paramedic. If he can’t do that, and it seems he can’t, he’ll be a nurse. Now you would think he would walk into a nursing degree thanks to his Open University points in Biology and health care as well as six years as a care assistant.He’s never been out of work since he was 18 apart from the time he was seriously ill while his type 1 diabetes was being dx and getting under control.

But those things don’t count, it seems, so he is now doing a Diploma (old NVQ 3) to get the right points in the right place. Thankfully his workplace are supportive.

GCSE-exams-Maidstone-Gram-001Over the last few years I’ve seen many home ed articles and blogs saying that home educated children don’t need exams to get where they want to go and if they do they can do them later when the need arises. This may have been true some time ago, but I am increasingly worried that it is less true now.

If this was America where the universities have realised the high standard of homeschooled children and offer places based on portfolio work I would agree, we shouldn’t need exams. I did think that as the research piles up that shows home educated children are better educated over al,l that universities over here would follow suit. So far the only Brit Uni’s I know of who accept students based on what they have actually achieved, rather than on a tick box system set up with UCAS (the most pointless organisation under the sun), is the Open University and Oxford University. That doesn’t leave many options does it.

Neither Josh (school) nor Alex (school and then home ed) have ever been unemployed. They have both worked very hard and yet both are facing huge obstacles in their chosen career routes. Partly (with Alex at least) the broken economy is to blame, but I also think the bizarre lack of human contact plays a role. Everything must be done by a tick box read by a machine.

But there are no doors opening to easy careers for either of them. What about their schooled friends? Life is just as difficult for them. Ah well, a home ed parent and child might be tempted to say, if exams don’t help either what’s the point?

It seems very strange to me that instead of making collages more accessible for adults who wish to sit GCSEs or A’Levels, the system from this Government is actually shutting down access for adults wanting these exams.(It’s a money thing apparently – of course). IGCSE’s have never been available unless you pay a huge amount for them. (Thank God for credit cards when it comes to paying off exam and travel costs!)

I had thought for the younger three that I would put them through the American High school Diploma either via Seton, as we use their curricula anyway, or via St. Thomas Aquinas. Both are accredited.  It’s interesting to see that Catholic Heritage has set up a non-accredited High School curriculum pointing out that quality homeschoolers don’t need accreditation

If we could move away from computers and robots deciding on who gets onto what course, we might have a chance over here. Bypassing the computer either for education or healthcare, seems beyond the capability of “real people” who hide behind the machine’s like stunted wizards of Oz.

But then perhaps the machines will work in our favour as time goes on. Just as more of us can access high quality American highschool diploma’s thanks to the internet and Skype, perhaps our children can access degrees in the future from American Universities who are willing and able to offer high quality degrees to those who are capable, rather than mediocre degrees to those whose boxes can be ticked by a robot.

I am keeping an eye on developments and of course will see how older home ed children fare in this country.


7 responses to “Home Education; navigating the exam hoops.

  1. Thanks for all you post; it is most interesting. I’m not sure if you remember, that I messaged you a while ago, re your daughter selling cakes. I’m not sure if you would still be interested in borrowing the book I have, about starting a cake business. Also your youngest and my oldest daughter are the same age. As we live quite near each other I could drop the book around. Hope I don’t sound like a wierdo, stalker!!! I’m just a fellow homeschooling momma!
    Take care.

  2. Hi Shell,

    Interesting post.

    With all areas of nursing nowadays they require at least one science A level and (for reasons unknown to me) they must not have recognised the OU courses Josh did. This seems a great shame and proves how unwilling colleges/Unis seem to be in regards to alternative forms of education.

    The American (Catholic) curriculas are undoubtedly more acceptable in their Catholicity, yet there are disputes to what they equate with- some think they are in between GCSEs and A levels and others think they’re more alike to A levels. Obviously without sitting the SATs (their pass into college) the student will not have any real recognition except a High school diploma which is more like a few IGCSEs. The thought of explaining this to any future employer would fill me with dread!
    That said if one’s child was going to go on and study with an American college then this would be the easiest route, but not all UK HE children or their parents want this.

    The other aspect which is almost a myth now is that home educated children need no formal qualifications and that places like Oxbridge fall over themselves to offer them places!
    Unless the student is absolutely exceptional and this would have to be obvious with no qualifications to show, they are not going to be even glanced at…

    I found with Ben when we were looking at sixth forms that no state school knew anything about the difference between IGCSEs and GCSEs and (quite honestly) didn’t care! This made me re-think everything they’d done as if these places aren’t even willing to accept the harder courses then where is?

    I think with most careers the UK education system will demand the same from a home educated child as to a schooled child. This is a great sadness and mostly HE children are much more competent and independent learners but this is still not recognised widely….yet.

    • I think you’re right Amanda. I am watching the situation with American HS Diplomas as I know a couple of families embarking on that route- but watching the situation with Josh and his fellow schooled friends fills me with dread for their working future.
      It’s beginning to look like the Govt is deliberately closing doors. When I first put Alex and Iona through IGCSEs I phoned a few Uni’s to check up on this and they all said they prefer them – but not any more it seems. What a daft and wasteful setup we have here.

  3. It’s a grave worry isn’t it, Shell?

    One just doesn’t know what to do for the best.

    I have a huge problem with examinations too- why should one’s future lie in how they’ve performed in an exam?! It’s utter madness yet very few Unis even interview nowadays so how does one prove they’re competent and interesting in other ways?
    I know I have very clever and intelligent children but so far they have panicked and worried terribly in regards to exams. It seems majorly unfair especially when IGCSEs (for all the extra work) aren’t properly acclaimed…

    Daft and wasteful are good words to describe our let down of an educational system.

    I am just praying for the emergence of a truly Catholic Liberal Arts type degree which is being lightly talked about…it may take a few Mothers and some worthy and willing Priests to set up a first one here!

  4. This is exactly what I have been thinking too! Great post. My son has now taken 3 igcse and he has his heart set on a certain local collage to do A levels in his chosen subjects, but even though he has taken his igcse early and received good grades they still insist on five gcse, including maths, English and science (even though he doesn’t want to take these subjects further). They also said they do not take into consideration the fact that a child is home educated. It seems all they want is pieces of paper. I think some truely talented children, whether home educated or not are missing out on their true potential thanks to the rediculous system we have in this country of judging our children and young adults by how many A* they have.

  5. I completely agree with everything you say Kate!

    It’s too crazy for words; all our children are are points and it is sickening to witness how much these exams and grades affect them…

    I tried so hard to not make the exams take over our lives and have to a small extent managed this, but no matter how much one doesn’t make an issue of grades/success, it is only natural the child will care terribly…

    I just do not understand why home ed children are not viewed in a different manner; they are usually far, far more able, independent and inquisitive than schooled children and have had time to pursue other interests and gifts…
    Since my 16yr old has been in sixth form he is always commenting that he feels unable to do his own reading as so much time is taken up with the AS levels etc…his time isn’t his own any longer and he has to comply to the whole system!

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