Exams Report

This survey on local authority help with access to exams ran from September 2013 to March 2014. Local authorities were asked 13 questions about the type of information provided to home educators; plus details of LA links and development work with schools, the PRU, and local FE colleges.

81% of local authorities (123) responded to the survey, with a quarter saying that while there was nothing particularly good in terms of exams support at the moment, they did hope to do more in future.

State schools don’t generally let young people who aren’t registered pupils go in to the school just to sit exams. There are exceptions to this rule but most councils couldn’t name any local schools where home educated young people may sit exams.

Home educated children often start exams early for various reasons, so there could be thousands of home educated young people taking – or hoping to take – exams at any given time.

Case studies show that young people who had the most difficulty in finding an exam centre were those who were looking for somewhere to sit English or Science GCSEs, because of controlled assessment or practicals. There are very few centres that will take candidates for units that require controlled assessment, e.g. fieldwork, practical work in science, projects, artwork, research. Qualifications without controlled assessment such as International GCSEs or IGCSEs are a better alternative for external candidates.

Another group of external candidates who face considerable hurdles are young people with some form of special needs who require adjustments to the normal set-up in the exam hall, for instance by having extra time or the use of a keyboard. Only 10% of authorities have helped with Access Arrangements ie where an exam candidate needs an assessment for extra time or use of keyboard or scribe.

GCSEs are difficult for home educators but this does not mean that home educated young people cannot obtain well-regarded academic qualifications. One in three councils says it knows of local schools which accept private candidates; some local authorities say that their schools will take external candidates on a case by case basis but don’t want to become known as “the centre for private candidates.” 42% of the councils surveyed had asked schools about taking private candidates but only one in five said schools had responded positively. 15% didn’t feel it was necessary – possibly because the Pupil Referral Unit or local Further Education college was already being used – or else said they would just deal one to one. A couple of authorities had talked to the Secondary Heads Forum.

15% of authorities said they hoped to put together a list of local schools which would accept home educated private candidates. Nevertheless it remains the case that some LAs do not see “support” as any part of their role.

It is a more sensible use of limited resources for a local authority to have accurate up to date written information about exams on the website which signposts to relevant sources of support, than for councils just to pass on information via individual conversations.

Where possible the overview for external candidates should also be combined with details of any local schools, colleges, PRUs or other exam centres which have indicated a willingness to take external candidates. Electronic versions of leaflets can be easily produced and printed on request. The information and links can then be reviewed annually possibly in conjunction with ringing round/emailing to check that the information about local exam centres is still current.

It is relatively straightforward to provide basic information about taking exams as an external candidate. The best place to signpost for information is the FAQ on the home educators’ exams wiki http://he-exams.wikia.com/wiki/HE_Exams_Wiki

There are hundreds of local home education peer support groups throughout the country. Local groups can be an invaluable source of support and some local groups may be able to signpost to local study or tuition groups or have the most up to date information about local exam centres.

For candidates who need Access Arrangements the centre must “paint a picture of need” which includes “normal way of working within the centre.”

Survey Questions and Answers

  1. Is there anything in your local offer to home educators regarding support for exams which you think works well and which you would be happy to share as a model of good practice?
    19% yes, 26% not at present. Some authorities advise families that support is available to arrange an exam centre. 10% of LAs said they are currently revising their paperwork and procedures to improve their service and aim to offer more information about exams in future
  2. Do you provide basic information about taking exams as a private candidate including IGCSEs?
    44% yes, 30% yes but only 1 to 1, 10% not yet, 11% no
  3. Do you have FAQ about exams and home education on your website?
    38% no, 25% yes, 29% not yet but hope soon, 3% verbal one to one. A quarter of LAs said they had some sort of FAQ about exams on their website, with a further third saying they didn’t have anything as yet but hoped to add something soon
  4. Do you have a leaflet about exams for home educators?
    41% no, 28% yes (mostly included in general leaflet), 9% not yet but hope to have something soon, 4% verbal or basic information given one to one
  5. Do you signpost to other sources of information such as awarding bodies and home education peer support networks?
    52% yes, 5% no, 9% not yet/planning more soon, 25% one to one or basic
  6. Do you have a list of local schools which accept home educated private candidates?
    32% yes, 33% no, 24% case by case, 15% not yet
  7. What has been your experience of engaging with local schools to explain what is involved in taking home educated private candidates?
    44% haven’t tried, 33% to a greater or lesser degree but haven’t had much success, 9% have had a positive reaction from schools, 2% have talked to secondary heads forum
  8. Have you invited home educating families to a meeting to discuss access to exams?
    44% no, 9% not yet/might do it soon, 18% deal one to one, 6% have other types of group meetings/ networking where topic of exams comes up. 18% of councils indicated that they only passed on information one to one, while 16% organised some form of group meeting or networking event to share information and listen to feedback on a range of topics. A further 10% of councils is considering organising some sort of group or open event in the coming year
  9. Do you make use of the Pupil Referral Unit as an exam centre for home educated private candidates?
    42% no, 15% yes, 2% yes but medical PRU or alternative learning centre not a behaviour PRU, 3% have no PRUs, 23% it’s a possibility, 2% not appropriate, 2% done in past but not now
  10. Have you approached local FE colleges to see whether home educated young people could take exams as external candidates?
    17% no, 33% yes, 4% yes but colleges not keen, 5% tell parents to approach college, 15% not yet/planning more engagement, 1% in past but not now
  11. Do you know which GCSE courses are running at the local FE colleges and are you advising colleges and home educating families about the new FE funding for home educated under-16s?
    50% yes, 9% yes but not positive, 1% designated connexions to advise parents, 2% suggest parents approach college themselves, 12% planning more engagement soon, 10% no, 5% one to one advice
  12. Does the LA help with assessments for Access Arrangements at all?
    49% no, 9% yes, 10% would if appropriate, 6% not been asked, 3% say college or PRU would help with it, 3% theoretically say yes within limits
  13. Has the LA considered running exam courses for home educated young people – possibly in partnership with a local college – including providing somewhere to sit the exam?
    26% no, 4% yes, 3% looking into it, 9% not yet but maybe in future, 2% more were available in the past, 8% not necessary because other alternatives available