National lockdown: Home Educators Exams in 2021, are they cancelled? Should I panic?

Events are rapidly changing and I will endevour to keep this post up to date.

Thursday 7th 7:00pm

The Home Educators’ Qualifications Association (HEQA) has another meeting next Tuesday with ofqual to discuss the EXAMS situation. I will update you on my blog when I see the outcome information. If you have not heard of HEQA here is some information.

HEQA is an amazing group of very experienced Home Educators who have been meeting with ofqual to put the case forward for Home Educators to ensure we are not forgotten in the examination process.

Here is the information from their website

Home educated children in the UK face a number of challenges relating to exams, including:

  • Explicit discrimination in policy, such as the 2020 exam replacement system, which excluded a large number of home-educated children
  • Difficulties finding suitable centres to sit exams
  • Access to exam preparation materials, such as past papers

The Home Educators’ Qualifications Association (HEQA) aims to make things easier.

HEQA provides a channel for home educators to talk to organisations involved in exams — Ofqual, the Department for Education, exam boards, etc. We aim to resolve exam-related difficulties for home-educated children, and avoid a repeat of the Summer 2020 crisis.

We welcome all home educators. If you’re interested in what we’re doing, take a look at the timeline. If you’d like to help us improve the exam situation, please sign up to our mailing list.

Thursday 7th 11:00am

Latest Update from ofqual

They mention Private Candidates (Independent Learners) which is very good news.

We know that this is a difficult time for students, their parents and carers, teachers and trainers. Our message to students is this: please continue to engage as fully as you can in your education. That will be online for the majority of students, or face-to-face for those students still going in to their school, college or training provider. This will put you in the best position, whatever arrangements are made for your qualifications. It’s important that teachers and students can focus on the knowledge and skills needed to equip students to progress to the next stage, whatever form that might take – whether to college, an apprenticeship, university or employment.

The way ahead is not straightforward: exams and standardised assessments are the fairest way of determining what a student knows and can do. We need to consider a wide range of qualifications – from A levels and GCSEs to many different vocational and technical qualifications – and the solution won’t be the same for all. Following the government’s announcement on Monday evening, we also need to consider how alternative arrangements will work for different students, including those who are independent learners. We are discussing alternative arrangements with the Department for Education. We know that many are seeking clarity as soon as possible. We will provide further updates as soon as we can.

The government has announced that schools and colleges can continue with the vocational and technical exams due to take place in January where it is right to do so. This may be particularly important for vocational and technical qualifications which require a ‘licence to practise’, which can only be fulfilled through practical assessment.

Simon Lebus, Interim Chief Regulator, Ofqual

Wednesday 6th January 3:00pm

Education Secretary for England Gavin Williamson answered questions from MP’s in the Commons.

Joy Morrissey the MP for Beaconsfield asked:

Last year the approach to GCSEs and A-levels meant that private candidates such as Home Educated children were unable to obtain a grade. Can my right honourable friend confirm that this year, they will be able to do so.

Gavin Williamson replied:

I know that my honourable friend will be speaking not just many of her constituents in the question she asked, but actually many thousands of youngsters right across the country who will be really worried about this. I have asked Ofqual to take up this issue, to look at it directly, and to make sure that there are measures in place so that those those students are going to be in a position where they’re able to, be in a place where they’re able to get a grade [sic]. I have asked Ofqual to include it as part of their consultation which they will be doing next week and we’ve already discussed as to how this can be done and believe it will be possible to do so.

Written 5th January 2021, 4 hours after the lockdown announcement.

Boris mentioned changes to exams tonight in his speech about another lockdown, I have seen Home educators go into complete panic with in minutes. I just want to say, Don’t Panic! Stay calm and wait to see what happens. More information will be available at some point to help you make the decisions you need to make.

There are lots of Facebook groups for Home Educators to discuss their fears. You can join the AWE Home Education Facebook page HERE where our members are all talking about plans and ideas to cover all eventualities. We have input from exams officers and highly experienced Home Educators. Everyone is helping and supporting each other with advice and sympathetic ears!

My advice is to be aware that there are people who are spreading rumours and speculation as though it is facts, this is not very helpful. Try to seek out advice from people you can trust. Check out sources of information yourself. If you can pluck up courage read the .Gov announcements and check the exam board websites for announcements. Follow TES for updates.  

There are many Home Educators in the process of filling in forms, getting ID together and paying for their children’s exams in the next couple of weeks. To those people my advice is to go ahead. Keep records of your children’s exam course work and homework, date everything. Do practice papers under exam conditions and you could even consider video recording it with some kind of proof of the date and the child’s name. That is what I would be doing if my children had exams this year. Some people are considering not booking exams in case they are cancelled, but If you haven’t booked they definitely won’t be sitting their exam this year! Ask your exam centre to confirm that if the exams are cancelled they will give you a refund. I think it reasonable to expect them to deduct admin fees for the work they have to do but you should ask how much they will refund.

I don’t think it will be the same as Summer 2020, surely lessons have been learned and they have time to make arrangements for this Summer. Most importantly, try to keep your students committed to continuing their studies give them positive vibes. I have seen over the years how resourceful and adaptable Home Educators are. They usually find a way to help their children get to where they want to go. That’s the great thing about Home Education we don’t have to all do things the same way!

Keep positive and wait for further news.

Useful Links

Statement regarding Pearson general qualifications following today’s announcement on UK national restrictions (4 January 2020) HERE National lockdown guidance – Going to school, college and university HERE

tes – National lockdown: DfE says January exams will go ahead HERE

AQA Exam Site HERE