Update: Covid-19, GCSEs and Home Education

What’s been said?

After our previous Byte was published, there has been a series of announcements from government qualifications offices and awarding organisations. Essentially they only reported that discussions were ongoing. You can read those which are of interest you by following these links:

Governments: England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland;
Boards: AQA, CAIE, OCR.

In England the objective is to have arrangements in place “by Easter,” but there have been no further reference to private candidates, including EHE students.

Why does it matter?

We therefore suggest that now is the time for every HE family, and especially this year’s prospective candidates, to write to politicians asking them to do all they can to ensure that EHE candidates are not overlooked when the arrangements are finalised.

You have already seen how difficult the government has found it to come up with arrangements for funding self-employed people during this period. It is very likely to have similar problems with any scheme to award grades to private candidates. This is why we encourage you to lobby your national politicians this week. The target date of Easter is just a week away.

What can I do?

It is better to write to your own MP and, if relevant, to your MSP/AM, rather than to the relevant Education Minister, because the latter course usually means that your letter will be read and answered by one of their staff. Asking your MP to “make your concerns known to the Minister” normally results in a copy being forwarded to them personally, and at Westminster at least, the Minister is then required to reply to the MP. Your MP will usually forward their reply to you, which can open up a three-way conversation.

Pro-forma letters are often identified as “campaigns” and are treated with less weight. Instead we encourage you to write briefly in your own words, including some of the following points:

  • Acknowledge that they are working under significant pressure at present;
  • If you have contacted them previously about HE, remind them of your interest;
  • Say you are thankful that the DfE has recognised that a way forward has to be found for EHE candidates;
  • Emphasise that many HE candidates prepare for exams with the help of their parents and not professional tutors;
  • Highlight that many EHE children have been working hard for some time with the exams in mind;
  • Mention that their intentions of going on into further education should be protected in exactly the same way as those of schooled children;
  • Encourage them to press the DfE to come up with a solution for private candidates, including EHE ones at the same time as they do for schooled children.

Finally, most MP’s know that the majority of voters who have concerns about a matter don’t actually get round to contacting them. It is common therefore for MP’s to reckon that one letter represents the views of ten or more constituents. So do write, no matter what age your children are, and use this opportunity to impress upon them the concerns of EHE families about this.

If you do not know how to contact your local MP and AM member, the following pages will guide you to the relevant information:

Westminster, Edinburgh, Cardiff & Belfast


Update 3 April: Announcement from Ofqual

At noon today Ofqual announced how qualifications will be graded and awarded this summer. Whilst this is specific for those candidates taking exams in England, very similar arrangements will be made in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The following statement is taken from the Ofqual’s Press Release:

“We know many private candidates (students who have been home-schooled, following distance-learning programmes or studying independently) are anxious to know how these arrangements might be applied to them. Heads of centre have been asked to provide centre assessment grades for private candidates registered to take exams with their centre and include them in the rank order where they are confident that they and their staff have seen sufficient evidence of the student’s achievement to make an objective judgement. We are urgently exploring whether there are alternative options for students who need results this summer to progress and for whom a centre assessment grade is not possible. It may, unfortunately, be necessary for some to take exams in the autumn or next summer to get their grades. We appreciate that this is a matter of real concern to private candidates and will provide an update as soon as possible. We have asked organisations that represent universities and FE colleges to consider private candidates when making admissions decisions this summer. They have told us that they believe that institutions will consider a range of other evidence and information for these students to allow them to progress wherever possible.”

Relevant links: