While the cost of home education can be a much or little as you want to spend, if you want to do GCSEs, you can’t avoid the cost of those. This post will explore the homeschooling GCSE cost you can expect if you want your child to take the exams.
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.
The Homeschooling GCSE Exam Cost
Home educated children have to take their GCSEs or IGCSEs as private candidates which means they need to pay to sit them at an exam centre. The cost of this is made up of the fee charged by the exam board, and the fee charged by the exam centre.
The exam board fee is set by the exam board itself and varies between boards and between subjects with the same exam board. For example, in 2023, Edexcel charged £51.30 for English Literature GCSE and £45.90 for Psychology. AQA charge £43.70 or English Literature GCSE and £45.65 for Psychology GCSE.
All exam boards set a deadline for entry for each exam series, while you can still enter after that date, you will have to pay additional “late fees”.
The exam board fee only makes up a relatively small amount of the homeschooling GCSE cost. The greater cost is usually the amount that the exam centre add for their admin fee. There are no rules around what they charge and that means there is a large variation. In some areas there is a shortage of exam centres which will inevitably push the price up.
Each year, the Home Educator’s Qualification Association runs a survey looking at home educator’s access to exams and how much they pay. In the 2022 survey they found a range of costs per GCSE between £50 and £300, with 40% paying between £150 and £199. These numbers include both the exam board fee and the exam centre fee.
How GCSE Exam Cost Varies by Type of Exam Centre
There are two main types of exam centre. The first is private exam centres, whose sole purpose is to provide access to exams for private candidates. They can be set up as businesses with the aim of making a profit or can be community interest companies whose aim is to provide a helpful service to the community.
The other type of exam centre are schools and colleges who accept private candidate. These can be tricky to find as it’s not something schools tend to advertise and it also changes frequently.
In general, private exam centres, particularly those who operate as businesses, tend to charge more than schools or colleges. They also usually offer a wider variety of exam boards so in some cases may be the only option.
As an example, Tutors and Exams, which is a large chain of exam centres with sites around the country, charged around £235 per I/GCSE in 2023.
Schools and colleges often charge less but you will be limited to the exam board they use for their own pupils so you may not be able to access the exam board you would like. You may also find that admin and communication is less efficient, but that isn’t always the case.
Other Costs you might Incur
As previously mentioned, access to exam centres varies throughout the country. If you live in an area that isn’t well served, it is entirely possible you may have to travel several hours in order to take an exam. This means you will incur travel costs. In order to avoid travelling very early for a morning exam, home educators sometimes stay in a local hotel the night before the exam which will increase the cost further.
The Cost of Studying for I/GCSEs
The cost of learning the required content for GCSEs can vary just as much as the cost for taking the exam itself, depending on what approach you take.
If your young person is motivated and has your support, it’s possible to self study for most GCSEs. Once you have chosen your exam board, you will find the exam specification on their website which explains what you need to know to pass the exam. You will then need to access and learn that information in some way. The cheapest option is usually via a textbook.
The exam board website will likely list textbooks that cover the content of the course. While in theory you could try and get it from your local library, libraries as a rule don’t stock textbooks and even if they can get it for you, it’s likely you could only keep it for a short time.
While the textbooks aren’t cheap, often £30 plus, you can often obtain them secondhand.
You can access past exam papers for free on the exam board website and these are a great way to prepare. Depending on your subject, you might also be able to find some free lessons or exam paper walk throughs on YouTube.
Using a GCSE Course Provider
If you feel your young person will need more support, you could look at an GCSE course provider. There are lots of these aimed specifically at home educators. They can either be prerecorded classes that you work through at your own pace, or live classes which run over one or two years.
There are also GCSE courses not aimed specifically at home educators that are offered by large, more general distance learning providers. They usually provide course materials, marking and tutor support.
Again prices vary hugely. Southwest Science’s course for IGCSE individual sciences are just £100. £2 Tuition Hub offers group classes and recordings for £2 a lesson. Homemade Education’s one year GCSE course are £295.
The larger, more general distance learning providers tend to charge more, for example, NCC charge £445 for their GCSE courses. Oxford Open Learning charge £375 for their GCSE courses. ICS Learn is a bit cheaper and charge £290 for GCSE courses.
This post lists a large number of GCSE Course Providers, including ones that specialise in home educators and more general providers.
Using a Private Tutor
Using a private tutor will increase the homeschooling GCSE cost significantly. Rather than paying a tutor to teach the whole course, some parents pay for some extra tuition for subjects where their young person struggles. Some use a tutor near exam time as they can set and mark past papers and help with exam technique.
Bear in mind that at GCSE level you will likely need a different tutor for each subject, as no one tutor is likely to have knowledge of all different subjects.
Another Option – 14-16 College Programmes
Some colleges offer a programme for 14-16 year old home educated children. They are for children who would be in years 10 or 11 in school. They are funded by the government, so don’t cost home educators anything. The provision varies around the country, so there may be nothing in your area.
While exactly how they work is different at each college, the programme usually involves them doing a vocational course, at level 1 or 2, alongside Maths and English at GCSE. Few offer GCSEs beyond Maths, English and occasionally science.
If it’s something you’re interested in, it’s best to contact your local college directly or ask in your local Facebook group. The course aren’t always listed on their website, one of our local colleges offer it but it isn’t mentioned on their website.
Tips for Managing the Homeschooling GCSE Cost
The following tips can help you manage the cost of putting your homeschooled children through their GCSEs.
- Ask in your local home education Facebook group about exam centres in the area and what they charge, this will help you find your cheapest option
- When choosing exam boards, bear in mind that schools and colleges, which are usually cheaper, are less likely to offer Cambridge exam board.
- Make sure you book well in advance to avoid late fees
- If there is nowhere near you to take the exam you want, you might consider exam boards near family or friends you could stay with.
- Plan ahead, if you know your young person will be taking GCSE, start saving as early as you can
- If you are using a learning provider and plan to use a Tutors and Exams exam centre, check if they offer a discount, many do.
- You can also get a discount with Tutors and Exams through Education Otherwise membership
- Self Studying is the cheapest option, some subjects are easier to self study than others, ask in the UK Exams and Alternatives Facebook group for other people’s experiences.
- Similarly, if you want to use a course provider, ask for recommendations in that group.
- Many course providers offer free introductory lessons, make sure you try them. We signed up for a course with a provider and hated the lesson style so that money was wasted.
- If your local college offers a programme for home educators you consider using it for English and Maths and study other subjects you want to at home.
- If you can’t afford GCSEs, don’t panic, young people can still go to college without GCSEs, they just start on a lower course.
If you’d like more information on the other homeschooling expenses, have look at this post: How much does it cost to homeschool in the UK
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