In schools in England, Key Stage Four is considered important because it relates to Years 10 and 11 (so ages 15 and 16) when schooled children take their GCSEs. This can make the idea of moving your child to homeschooling at Key Stage 4 particularly stressful. Here we’ll explore what is required of you and what resources are available.
You might also want to have a look at our frequently asked questions about homeschooling.
A note on language: In my posts, I refer to “homeschooling”. In the UK, the correct term for educating your child at home is “home Educating”, with homeschooling referring to a child doing work at home that has been set by school. I use the the term homeschooling in my posts because many people who are new to home educating will use the term homeschooling when searching online and I want to make sure they can find the information.
How do you Start Homeschooling at Key Stage 4?
Starting homeschooling at Key Stage Four involves the same process as for starting home education at any other age. You need to write a letter or email to the school instructing them to deregister your child as they are now home educated. To ensure you use the right legal wording have a look at this post on the deregistration letter which also include a template.
Schools can react to deregistration at KS4 in different ways. Sadly it often depends on your child’s position in the school. If your child is expected to gain good grades which will make the school look good, they are likely to try and convince you to stay. If your child isn’t likely to achieve well, they are more likely to wave you on your way. Obviously not all schools are like this, and the attitude is a result of the pressure on schools to perform, but it’s worth bearing in mind.
The school may invite you to a meeting to see if there is anything they can do to convince you to stay. You are in no way obliged to attend unless you want to and if your mind is made up, there is little point.
Do Homeschooled KS4 Children Have to Take GCSEs?
No! There is absolutely no legal requirement for home educated children to take any exams including GCSEs. That certainly isn’t to say they can’t take GCSEs though. Home educated children can take GCSEs as private candidates. This means paying to take the exams at an exam centre. The exam centre might be a specialist exam centre or a local school or college who take private candidates.
The cost of this is unfortunately down to parents. Currently the cost of taking the exams varies a great deal. A rough estimate is between £150 and £250 per subject. You might also choose to pay for courses which adds to the cost. Having said that plenty of home educators self study just using the text book and free online resources. The good news is that children don’t have to do 9+ GCSEs like they do in school. Many just do 5 which is often the minimum requirement for A-Levels or level 3 course, although it’s best to check local if this is your plan. Some just do Maths and English as these are often requested by employers.
For some subjects home educators choose to do IGCSEs rather than GCSEs. This is because some GCSEs (in particular Science, Geography and English Language) have practical requirements that are difficult to fulfil outside of a school environment and IGCSEs avoid these. There are also some subjects that are difficult or impossible to take as a private candidate. There is lots more information in the post “How do Homeschoolers take GCSEs?”. You might also be interested to read about some of the Alternatives to GCSEs that are available.
It’s worth noting that GCSEs don’t have to be taken at 16. If your child isn’t ready to take them at what would have been the end of year 11, they can leave them for a year, two years or even 10 years. There is no time limit for education. Even if they choose not to take them as a teenager, they can always take them as adults if they want to.
What do I Need to Teach My Key Stage Four Child?
As with every other age group when home educating, there are no laws that specify what you must teach. You’ll need to provide your child with a full time education, suitable to their age, aptitude and abilities. It is up to the Local Authority to identify any children who aren’t receiving such an education and there are certain things they look for to satisfy themselves. This is generally literacy and numeracy, as well as opportunities for keeping fit and developing social skills. You can have a look at this post about what you need to teach your homeschooled child for more details.
The Need to Deschool
So while learning needs to take place from day one of home education, that learning doesn’t have to look anything like school. A period of “deschooling”, where both parent and child move away from the expectations of school, often needs to take place before any formal learning. This is particularly the case if the child has has a traumatic time at school. Note that you shouldn’t use the term deschooling when communicating with the local authority as they can misinterpret this to mean no learning is happening. In actual fact, pretty much everything has educational value and homeschooling allows us the opportunity to follow our children’s interests. We are all conditioned to think of learning as sitting at a desk absorbing information from a teacher and then reproducing it. It can take some time for both adults and children to “Deschool” and start to recognise the learning value in other activities.
Literacy at Key Stage Four
While the Local Authority will expect to see your child making progress in Literacy, that doesn’t have to look anything like school. Indeed Literacy is not that same as the English that is taught in school. Essentially, English in school is the study of the language, Literacy is the use of English in everyday life. Here are some things that involve literacy:
- Writing emails to a range of different people with different levels of formality
- Reading and following instructions
- Reading and following recipes
- Writing letters
- Reading Fiction
- Reading non fiction (for example magazines, online articles, blogs etc)
- Playing Board games (we play scrabble but with a dictionary so we can learn new spellings)
- Writing a CV
- Even things like sending messages to friend or written chat online when gaming involves literacy
Numeracy at KS4
Like Literacy, numeracy doesn’t have to look anything like Maths at school. Numeracy is about how we use maths in our everyday life, here are some examples:
- Weighing ingredients for a recipe
- Following a map
- Planning a journey with timings and distances
- Working out discounts in a sale
- Managing their own money
- Working out best value at the shops
- Measuring for new items of furniture, curtains, carpets etc
- Working out how much paint you need to paint a room
- Lots of online games include maths, for example, my son plays EAFC and works out the value of players
With both literacy and numeracy, the Local Authority will be looking for progress. Try to notice when your child does something they couldn’t do before.
Exercise for Homeschooling at Key Stage 4
The local Authority will want to see that your young person has opportunities to keep fit. If they play a sport or have an active hobby this is a pretty easy requirement to fulfil. If not then here are some ideas for homeschool fitness:
- Going for walks
- The gym
- Yoga (at home or at classes)
- Horse riding
- Trampoline parks
- Clip and climb
- Martial Arts
- Exercise classes
- Exercise bike or similar
It may be the case that your child already has some friends who they continue to see once they are home educated. In other cases your child might have left school because of friendship issues and need to make some new friends. It may also be the case that old school friends drift away over time and new friendships need to be made.
The first thing to do is to find your local home education Facebook group. Search for your location and Home education. Depending on where you live it might be a county wide group or there might be one for your specific town. If you aren’t on Facebook, I would suggest joining. It really is the primary way that home educators meet each other.
Once you’ve found the group you can look for meet ups or activities to join in with. The other option is to make a post asking if anyone has children of a similar age/with similar interests who would like to meet up. It can take time to find “your people” but if you persevere you should get there in the end.
If You’re not Sure what to do with a Home Educating 15 or 16 Year Old
When you aren’t sure what approach to take to homeschooling, the best thing to do is look at what they would like to do in the future and work backwards. If they have a career in mind, have a look at the qualifications they would need to pursue it. If there is a course they want to do, have a look at the entry requirements.
It’s fine to not know what you want to do at this age so if your child isn’t sure, don’t panic. Spend some time supporting them to explore their interests. When they enjoy something encourage them to think about why they like it, what skills they are enjoying using etc. This will help them understand more about themselves and what they enjoy.
14-16 College for Home Educated Young People
Some colleges offer places to home educated young people who would have been in school years 10 and 11. The offer varies by area but usually involves studying a vocational course at level 1 or 2 alongside Maths and English as GCSEs or Functional Skills.
Not all colleges offer this so it’s really a postcode lottery and it changes year to year. In our area we have two that are just about close enough to be an option but some areas have none at all. There is often a requirement that the young person has been home educating for a certain period of time (6 months seems to be common) in order to be eligible for the course.
The courses are part time, usually 2 or 3 days a week. Your child will still be classed as home educated so you will still need to demonstrate the education you are providing to the local authority.
If you think 14-16 college would be a good option for your child then its worth contacting your local colleges. They don’t always mention them on their websites.
What Happens Post 16 if you Haven’t Taken GCSEs?
While school might have made both you and your child think that the world will end if you don’t take GCSEs, it really won’t. Below is a summary of the main options but you can also have a look at this post on post 16 options without GCSEs.
Carry on Home Educating
Home Education can carry on for as long as you want. The great thing about home educating past compulsory school age is that you no longer come under the Local Authority’s remit. This means you can educate in any way you like. This could involve taking GCSEs or other qualifications, following your child’s interests or just preparing for adult life.
Go to College
While many college courses require GCSEs for entry, pretty much all colleges have entry level courses. These courses don’t require any prior attainment. Bear in mind that because of funding rules your child will need to study Maths and English alongside their course. They will usually work towards either functional skills qualifications or GCSEs.
Apply for an Apprenticeship
While some apprenticeships require GCSEs there also some that don’t and so this can be an option if you haven’t done GCSEs. Like with attending college, your child will need to study Maths and English alongside their apprenticeship.
Get a Job
While the Government want all young people to stay in education until they are 18, this isn’t actually enforced. It also only needs to be part time. You may come across employers who want to confirm that your child is still in some kind of education. Part time home education should be recognised as meeting the requirement.
If your young person has or plans to get GCSEs you can have a look at these post 16 options for home educators.
Key Stage 4 Learning Resources
Most learning resources for Key Stage 4 are aimed at taking GCSEs. There are variety of different types of resources and which is best for you will depend on your child’s preferences. If money is tight you might want to have a look at our post on free homeschooling resources for 11-16 year olds. It’s perfectly possible for motivated learners to “self study” for their exams by using a textbook and practising past papers.
Books and Worksheets
There are two types of books you could consider. The first is textbooks which are designed to cover all of the material for a particular GCSE/IGCSE. The second is revision guides which assume the material has already been taught. Both of these options often have a companion workbook for practice questions.
If you child has covered to course material at school then a revision guide may be appropriate. If you still need to learn the material then a textbook is a better choice. You will need to choose your textbook based on the exam board you are using. If you haven’t already, find your local exam centre/s (ask in your local home education Facebook group). You can then find out which exam boards they offer as this will often dictate your choice. If you still have options, have a look at some past papers (available on the exam boards website) to see which you prefer. For more information on this have a look at the post on homeschoolers doing GCSEs.
Twinkl is a huge source of worksheets however bear in mind that because its aimed at teachers, they don’t generally include the answers which can be a problem if you don’t know the subject well.
There are a variety of online resources available to help prepare children for their GCSEs, we’ll summarise the main ones below.
- Edplace, IXL and Seneca are three popular subscription websites that offer some free content and full access via a subscription plan. The thing to remember about these sites is that they are essentially designed as revision tools. This means that they generally assume your child has already learnt about the subject and is just applying what they know to the answer the questions.
- Conquermaths – Online learning programme for maths, involves a short video to watch followed by questions to answer, either on screen or on a worksheet. Pay for an annual subscription.
- Conquercomputing – As above but for computing.
- Corbett Maths – Free website with a big range of maths videos and worksheets. You’ll need to be familiar with the maths specification you’re working on and use it to identify the learning that’s relevant to you.
- School Online – Video tuition for Maths and English language, some good exam prep videos based on past papers.
- Exam App – GCSE learning for Maths and Science.
- Doddle Academy – Online learning for Maths, Science and English.
- My GCSE Science – Aimed at GCSE but lots relevant to IGCSE.
GCSE/IGCSE Courses (Live and Prerecorded)
There are a range of providers who offer complete courses for specific GCSE/IGCSE subjects. For a comprehensive list have a look at this post on Online GCSE courses.
- Oak Academy – Set up by the Government during the pandemic and free
- Oak Continuity – Some things from Academy have moved here but are still free
- Education Brothers – Prerecorded and live lessons for a range of maths/science linked subjects, some free
- Homemade Education – Offers live lessons and recordings of live lessons
- IGCSE Science Video Course – IGCSE Science content covered in short videos
- LearnTec – Computer science prerecorded and live courses
- £2 Tuition Hub – You can sign up for live lessons or recordings, a large range of subjects
- Theatre of Science – Free lessons live or recorded on Facebook and YouTube for IGCSE Physics
- Learn Laugh Play – GCSE/IGCSE courses in a range of subjects. Recordings available after the live lessons
- Oh So Ed – English, Geography, History, Maths and Science IGCSEs
- Whole Brain Education – Range of year long IGCSE courses
- Home Educators Educating together (HEET) – Live classes in a range of subjects
- Southwest Science School – IGCSEs in Double Science and Individual Sciences, live and recorded
Tutors can be another way for young people to learn the material they need for GCSEs. These can be either in person or online, 1 to 1 or small groups. It’s important to find a tutor who understands home education. They need to understand that they are teaching the content from scratch and they need to know which GCSEs/IGCSEs work for home educated learners taking the exams as private candidates.
Recommendation is the best way to find a tutor, ask in local groups for face to face tutors or National groups for online tutors. Remember that tutors are specialists in their subject so you will likely need a different one for each subjects.
If you have the money an online school can be a one stop shop for your child to do their GCSEs. They are expensive and structured to be as much like school as possible with some even offering assemblies and tutor time. The main options are:
- Kings InterHigh
- Minerva’s Virtual Academy
- My Online Schooling
- Wolsey Hall Oxford
- Cambridge Home School Online
You can find out more in this post about Online Schools in the UK.
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