Exams Alternative: Online GCSEs at College

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Online GCSEs at College

Online English and Maths GCSEs Sheffield College

Sheffield College Online offers GCSE English Language as a one year course beginning in September and ending with the exam in May or June the following year. From September 2015 the courses will NOT be free. Read more here

At the end of June 2013 I made a quick online survey using SurveyMonkey with 3 open-ended questions which could easily be done in 5 minutes. Being able to choose the timing and the quantity (for example a few subjects in one year, perhaps with other subjects the following year) came up over and over again in the survey responses, and parents even contacted me privately outside the survey to say "if we had to do a package of 5 all at once this would mean we couldn't do it at all". Even where parents were hugely enthusiastic about the idea of online GCSEs at college, they instinctively used phrases such as "up to 5".

43% of respondents said they would be very enthusiastic about 5 online GCSEs at college if and only if there was flexibility around the intensity and duration of the course, particularly regarding the number of subjects per year. A further quarter of the people who responded expressed a strong preference for just doing 1 or 2 GCSEs in any given year and indicated that they would not sign up for a package of 5. Only a third of respondents gave an unqualified yes to the idea of a ready-made package of 5 core subjects, and within this group there were signs that families were still wary of 5 subjects being pre-determined without reference to the individual student.

Colleges wanting to test the waters could start with online GCSE courses in Science, English and Maths

College Funding for Home Educated 14-16s from September 2013


Key Points

  • Cost is a huge worry
  • Completing tutor assignments in own time at home then getting feedback is a good fit with home education
  • It would be more accessible for home educated children with SEN and disabilities
  • It would depend if there were any strings
  • Other children in the family lose out currently because exams are so expensive
  • Able to take more exams at one sitting
  • Easier entry to further education with standard qualifications
  • Hope that college delivering the course would mean somewhere to sit the exam
  • Online courses open up access for anxious and phobic young people

Illustrative Quotes: How It Would Make A Difference

My children would all reach age 16 with a minimum of 5 GCSEs - currently this is unaffordable
It would make a massive difference as my son doesn't work well in School/college environment so would benefit greatly as I cannot afford online studies
Particularly helpful if included exam centre and course assessment
It would ease a heavy financial burden and relieve a lot of anxiety for our family
We would know we were covering all the material needed to pass GCSEs
Online would be really good because the fear of going into college regularly does not help with the 'phobics'
It would prepare students for a relatively straightforward entry to further education (ie. without having to prove they are capable because they do not have standard qualifications)
It would helps free up my time for the younger siblings and teaches the child to learn more independently
VERY hard to afford the exam fees let alone any tutoring
It would open up choices rather than doing the bare minimum in terms of exams to get to where the young person wants to be
This would help a lot but it would depend on whether strings were attached as to whether we took them up
At the moment, expenses around GCSEs (my 16 year old has just sat four) has meant that my other children have had to drop some of their activities, which has just felt wrong
Our access to qualifications is seriously limited by our funds. Funding is one reason a lot of home ed students only do a few GCSEs
Enormous difference re access, less stress re locating exam centres
This would be buying into basic packages for future children
It would be great to have more options available as some of my children prefer online. Also it would be good to know that should circumstances change, then an option that requires less parental input would be available cheaply
Would remove much of the anxiety re exams and guarantee that my children could get qualifications
More important would be access to convenient exam centres that are home-ed friendly
It would make a huge difference to the amount of time I had to support and enthuse my children, rather than having to do the research and resource providing myself
Even if we just use a text book (cheapest route) there is still the HUGE exam fee which reduced the number of subjects our children are taking
Where courses currently cost £400+ it would be difference between doing them and not doing them
If the exams are free that would be REALLY HELPFUL
Basic Skills - Free access to Maths English and IT would enable us to pursue individual interests suitable to child's age/ability/aptitude
I have just paid £600 for 2 English language and one literature

The 3 Questions

  1. To home educators: what would be your 5 most popular GCSEs to study at FE college via online courses
  2. To home educators: what difference would it make to your family if online GCSE courses at college were free (ie paid by the Government)
  3. To home educators: would your ideal be to do a package of up to 5 GCSEs online at FE college or would you want just 1 or 2 subjects to fill in

Illustrative Quotes: Flexibility Matters

My ideal would be to have 5 available but to be able to opt for 1 or 2 depending on child's ability

I would be happy to do a package only as long as the subjects within that package were free choice and not compulsory and there were enough subjects which suited us. I could also see us doing 1 or 2 if there wasn't enough choice

A package would be great especially if it contained core subjects and was accessible for SEN

My ideal would be to do 5 GCSE's online, as and when our child was ready

Probably one or two subjects especially if this could be done at a younger age - thereby doing 5 or more over 3 or so years

We mostly appreciate being able to go at our own pace rather than having to do a lot all at once, so fewer would be preferable to more if we had to choose Option of '1 to any number'. Absolutely not interested in any compulsory subject!

I'd like to be able to select. We may want to do say 2 subjects in one year, then 3 subjects over two years

No, please don't package them as what suits some children does not suit others so we would like choice of the subjects. 5 is great if there is choice to take some OR all of them

Flexibility would be the most important thing, I don't know if my son would be able to do do five subjects all at the same time so it would be useful if he could start with one or two and complete them in his own time then start some more afterwards

The 5 Most Popular Subjects For Online GCSEs at College

  • Science
  • English
  • Maths
  • History
  • Modern Foreign Languages

The most popular subjects were Science, English and Maths.

Physics, Chemistry and Biology were each mentioned specifically by 1 in 5 respondents, while 1 in 3 simply said "Science" or "Sciences." 1 in 5 respondents specified "English Language" or "English Literature" while over half just said "English".

The next most popular subjects were History and Modern Foreign Languages (with French and Spanish being mentioned more than any other language)

Geography and ICT/Computer Studies were relatively close behind the top 5, with an equal split between ICT and "Computing".

Useful Links

FAQ for Exam Officers External Candidates
Special Arrangements for Exams
Education Committee Recommendations re Exam Support
FAQ Exams for Private Candidates
Removing Private Candidates from Schools Results Tables

Link Reference

This article is http://edyourself.org/articles/onlinegcses.php. The following links to other websites are contained in the article, displayed as citations to aid you in printing the document.

  1. Maths http://www.online.sheffcol.ac.uk/index.cfm?ParentID=1e1efd0c-b5b1-4f81-8fb4-b110d6930e83
  2. http://edyourself.org/articles/14-16collegeFAQ.php http://edyourself.org/articles/14-16collegeFAQ.php
  3. http://edyourself.org/articles/WolfReport.php#14-16scollegeevents2013 http://edyourself.org/articles/WolfReport.php#14-16scollegeevents2013
  4. http://www.sheffcol.ac.uk/online-college/courses/ http://www.sheffcol.ac.uk/online-college/courses/
  5. http://edyourself.org/articles/exams.php http://edyourself.org/articles/exams.php
  6. http://edyourself.org/articles/examcentresurvey.php http://edyourself.org/articles/examcentresurvey.php
  7. http://edyourself.org/articles/examsfaq.php http://edyourself.org/articles/examsfaq.php
  8. http://edyourself.org/articles/examshomeedexp.php http://edyourself.org/articles/examshomeedexp.php
  9. http://edyourself.org/articles/examsreport.php http://edyourself.org/articles/examsreport.php
  10. http://edyourself.org/articles/allpartygrouphomeeducation.php#examsjuly2013 http://edyourself.org/articles/allpartygrouphomeeducation.php#examsjuly2013
  11. http://edyourself.org/articles/WolfReport.php http://edyourself.org/articles/WolfReport.php
  12. FAQ for Exam Officers External Candidates http://edyourself.org/articles/examofficers.php
  13. Special Arrangements for Exams http://ehe-sen.org.uk/exams.php
  14. Education Committee Recommendations re Exam Support http://edyourself.org/articles/edcomsupporthomeed.php
  15. FAQ Exams for Private Candidates http://edyourself.org/articles/examsfaq.php
  16. Removing Private Candidates from Schools Results Tables http://edyourself.org/articles/privatecandidates.php