If you’re thinking about homeschooling in the UK and you don’t know where to start, this is the article for you.
This article provides advice for how to homeschool in the UK. For non-UK homeschooling, see our international guidance.
- Is it legal in the UK?
- Where does my child sit exams?
- Are there official guidelines?
Introduction to UK Homeschooling
In this article (Part 1), we answer the common questions parents or guardians have when deciding to educate their children at home. If you’re already up to speed with the basics and want practical advice such as teaching tips, equipment lists, where to find resources, and how to structure the days and weeks, see Part 2.
The first thing to know is that homeschooling is 100% legal in the UK. Other countries have stricter rules, for example it is illegal in places like Germany, Croatia, and Turkey (though there are often concessions).
If you are not based in the UK it’s worth checking this list to see if your home country allows it.
The regulations on homeschooling in the UK are fairly relaxed. Unlike some other countries, your home will not be inspected, and there are no formal requirements for pupils to take official exams.
However, there is mandated legislation from the British government which states that all children in the UK are to receive “efficient, age-appropriate and full time” education.
Full guidelines can be read in Section 7 of the 1996 Education Act.
What does this mean?
It means you don’t have to teach the National Curriculum if you don’t want to. But this will mean your pupil will not be able to receive official qualifications at GCSE and A Level.
IMPORTANT: You cannot take the final International Baccalaureate exams, at 16 and 18 without attending a registered school. However, there is nothing stopping you homeschooling a pupil towards the IB in the years leading up to the year of the exam.
What we advise
95% of our homeschooling clients choose to stay within the National Curriculum. Their main wish is that their children / pupils will achieve official qualifications – a prerequisite to higher education and most careers.
If it helps, you should think of homeschooling as a home version of traditional schooling: you will have to help your pupils through a pre-existing syllabus, just like a teacher would at a school, and you will have to guide them towards completed official exams at the end of most school years.
However, it isn’t mandatory to do this. If you would like to know more about alternative paths, read up on concepts like Unschooling.
Subjects to cover
Let’s say you’re sticking with the 95%. You’re committed to helping your pupils get through primary level or get some great qualifications at GCSE or A Level. What subjects are you going to teach? What subjects can you teach? How many constitute a “full time” education?
Firstly, it is very important to understand that if you wish to remain in the UK education system certain subjects cannot be taught at home – or outside of a school.
These will be the subjects that require coursework, such as Art, or Drama. We’ll cover the specifics of this in the next section.
For now, let’s assume that you live in England, Wales, or Northern Ireland, and you want to go ahead and teach the basics. In order to get an idea of how this works in a school environment, all schools must teach a mandated amount of subjects as a minimum. These are called core subjects. Now, as you’re homeschooling, you don’t have to teach the core subjects, but it’s worth seeing what a traditional education might look like when considering what to teach.
The information below reflects the state school system.
|Primary School||Secondary School|
|Key Stage 1 & 2||Key Stage 3||GCSE||A Level|
|Year 1 – 6||Year 7 – 9||Years 10 – 11||Years 12 – 13|
|Ages 5 – 11||Ages 11 – 14||Ages 14 – 16||Ages 17 – 18|
Design and Technology
Art and Design
Physical Education Computing
Ancient and Modern foreign languages (at Key Stage 2)
Modern foreign languages
Design and Technology
Art and Design
Welsh (if you live in Wales)
Sciences (either single, double or triple sciences)
Physical education *(PE)*Citizenship*
|No compulsory subjects for A Level|
If you are educating your pupil in Scotland, you can find details of the Scottish system here.
How to Homeschool – UK – Did you know?
Whilst there are some subjects that are very tricky to deliver when homeschooling, there is a vast amount of subject options available at GCSE and A-Level — more than most people realise. Usually, this is because they require specialist teachers, so most schools don’t teach them.
If you’re homeschooling, you have a fantastic opportunity to push the boundaries of what’s possible.
Subjects like Law, Astronomy, and Geology are available at GCSE, as well as over 25 modern and classical languages. See the full list here.
Creative Writing, Ancient History and Marine Science are, for example, available at A-Level. See all of them here.
TOP TIP: hiring a tutor with specialist subject knowledge, can really open up the potential of educating your children at home
If you’d like to talk to one of our homeschooling experts about how to homeschool your child in the UK please fill out a Contact Form or email firstname.lastname@example.org, call +44 (0) 2088193276 or WhatsApp us.
What about SATS?
Homeschooling pupils are not required to take SATS.
SATS are the exams primary school pupils sit after they complete the Key Stage 1 and 2 curriculums respectively. SATS are mandatory for all non-private schools in the country. They are chiefly designed to test how schools are performing, rather than their students. As such, and though they give an indicator of academic ability, the government does not provide official qualifications for these exams.
How do I choose subjects?
If your pupil is GCSE age or older, sadly it is not possible to teach every subject at home.
To explain this further, let’s move to the exam registration section.
How to Homeschool – UK – Exam registration
The best way to start thinking about subject choices in general is to understand that exam boards, who eventually mark the exams, also set all the required material that teachers need to teach for those exams. I.e. a syllabus, a curriculum, and a marking scheme.
When you’re trying to choose a subject, you also need to be thinking how they are going to be marked, by which exam board, and if you are able to register with this exam board where you live (you will need to register via a nearby school, more on this later).
Rather frustratingly, there are several “competing” exam boards in the country. Each of them set their own slightly different versions of a GCSE or A Level subject. Some schools will offer English GCSE set by one exam board, others may offer an alternative exam board.
There are five examination boards in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland:
- AQA (Assessment and Qualifications Alliance)
- CCEA (Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment)
- City & Guilds
- Pearson Edexcel
- OCR (Oxford, Cambridge and RSA Exams)
- WJEC (Welsh Joint Examinations Committee)
- UK candidates can use Cambridge International iGCSEs (more below)
The Scottish system is different, information on that can be found here.
To ensure you don’t waste time teaching subjects that you can’t get marked, you need to find out if your local exam centres are prepared to enter your pupil into the exams when the time comes.
This is important. There is no other way to gain a qualification other than sitting an exam. Exams cannot be held at home. All homeschooling pupils must travel to a registered exam centre to sit their exams. Most schools are registered centres, although there are other colleges and centres that cater for homeschooling pupils – see the bottom of this section for details.
We strongly advise you contact your nearest schools or exam centres that use the exam boards you have chosen for your subjects at the earliest opportunity. As far as the exam board is concerned, your pupil will be known as a “private candidate”.
Exam centres usually charge an entrance fee for each exam. They vary from centre to centre. Be warned: centres are under no obligation to accept private candidates – it can create extra work and disrupt their own flow of pupils taking the exams – and entry prices may rise the later you leave registration. If you would like tips on how to deal with exam centres, this wikia is a great place to start.
As part of our full homeschooling package, we do work with some independant exam centres that also can register your pupil, though they are not designed explicitly to do so. For a full list of all registered exam centres in the UK, see here. Your local council should also be able to provide the relevant information.
Assuming you want your pupil to receive official qualifications, subjects requiring coursework cannot be taught at home.
However, in 2013, the Department for Education overhauled the National Curriculum, and, as a general rule, coursework requirements in most subjects have lessened or disappeared, with the focus shifting towards purer, exam-based testing.
This is good news for homeschooling candidates. Inevitably, however, the obvious subjects such as Art, Design and Technology, and Drama, cannot be taught at home. (Again, this does not stop you teaching these subjects – but you will have to do so outside of the National Curriculum and no official grades can be awarded.)
There are also other ways around coursework.
Let’s say you’ve looked at the exam boards and chosen a subject and syllabus you like. For example, Physics A Level, run by AQA, but you discover that AQA Physics A Level still has a coursework element to it, which means you cannot use that exam board. With a little investigation, you may discover OCR also offers an A Level in Physics, and they do not require coursework. All you then need to do is check if you are able to register your child with a nearby exam centre that is affiliated with the OCR Physics A Level exam, and that’s it – you can start teaching at home!
If you would like to take Science for GCSE, all exam boards apart from Cambridge Assessment’s IGCSE in Science require coursework. All homeschooling candidates wishing to take Science at GCSE must use the Cambridge Assessment’s course.
If your child has special needs, you may have encountered the term “Access Arrangements”.
This refers to the “reasonable adjustments” made for candidates who have special educational needs/disabilities or other difficulties.
Some pupils may need extra time, or may require technological aids, or require a scribe or reader, etc.
As far as sitting the exam goes, you will need to ensure the exam centre you are registering with will support these needs. Sadly, there are no legaties which mean they have to, and some are more likely to help than others. More information can be found here.
This article is designed to help demystify the homeschooling process. Now it’s clearer, let’s head onto Part 2, where we discuss the practical elements of teaching at home – how to deliver effective home tuition and where to find resources, etc