GCSEs: Exam uncertainty for Wales home-schooled students

GCSEs: Exam uncertainty for Wales home-schooled students

“For me it’s quite confusing as I want to prepare and I haven’t been given the information in order to feel confident with the next steps I need to take.”

Fifteen-year-old Lucia Kingman is one of more than 2,500 young people in Wales who are home-schooled.

Unlike GCSE students in schools, who will not be sitting exams next year, Lucia is still waiting to find out.

The Welsh Government said an advisory group was considering arrangements for private candidates.

Lucia, who lives in Vale of Glamorgan, said studying throughout the pandemic was not dissimilar to her usual routine, but it did have an effect, such as when the library had to close.

“Because a lot of the work I do is teacher assessments, exams are quite alienating to me to a certain degree,” she said.

“I need to do some exam practice so I can get familiar with them but the not knowing if I am to sit them or not is very daunting, and adding to an already stressful time.”

Lucia is used to being assessed by her tutors, the unfamiliar territory is exams.

Her father, Simon, said: “If it’s about fairness and clarity then she should be getting teacher assessments like all her peers in Wales.

“She is comfortable with being assessed, she sat her history GCSE early last year and was given a teacher assessment grade, so why can this not be the case for her GCSEs this year?”

Lucy Mebarki, a private English and arts tutor, feels tutors have a much better one-to-one relationship with students than in a classroom environment, but thinks exams would be fairer for home-based students.

“With home-schooled students not being subject to the same classroom-based observations as those in schools I think exams would be the right way for them to get their grades,” she said.

What makes the situation difficult for Lucia is that she is a Welsh student who is being assessed by Oxford Home Schooling, an awarding body based in England.

Simon said: “She’s an anomaly, but I am sure she isn’t the only home-schooled young person in this situation. Welsh Government really need to think about all students in Wales, not just those in schools.”

Oxford Home Schooling said it received guidance from exam boards rather than government and its courses will have examination centres in Wales.

It said if boards decided exams could not be sat, then it would come to a calculated grade.

A Welsh Government spokesman said: “Our priority is to support all learners in developing the skills and knowledge they need to confidently progress to the next stage of their education, training or career.

“An independent advisory group has been established to develop proposals for next year’s assessments. Arrangements for private candidates will be one of the key aspects considered by the group.”

Ofqual, which regulates exams and qualifications in England, said the UK government had “made it clear that exams will take place in 2021 and this certainty should be particularly welcomed by students who are home educated”.

“We are providing advice to the Department for Education on contingency options for 2021 for a range of different scenarios, and continuing to have discussions with school and college representatives, including representatives of private candidates,” it added.

Qualifications Wales said the Welsh education minister’s announcement covered the WJEC GCSE, AS and A-level qualifications in Wales, “not qualifications from any other exam board”.

“We are conscious that whatever approach to assessment of WJEC GCSEs, AS and A-levels is decided on for summer 2021, it needs to allow fair access to assessment.

“That’s so that all learners, including those who are not studying at a school or college, or other exam centre, can still be assessed and awarded these qualifications, in the same way that other learners will.”

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