Closed petition Require local exam centres to accept home-educated students for public exams

Home-educated students need guaranteed access to suitable local examination centres at affordable prices, enabling them to have the same rights and access to qualifications as every other child in the UK.

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Due to the uncertainty of COVID-19, examination centres are closing their doors to external candidates making it increasingly difficult for home-educated students to gain qualifications. With many unable to obtain grades this summer, and the possibility of not being able to sit *any* exams this year coming, thousands of home-educated students will miss out on college places and be unable to move on to the next step of their education or professional life without government intervention.

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Government responded

This response was given on 16 March 2021

Where local centres will not accept a candidate, JCQ will publish a list of available centres that will take students nationally. We are working to ensure costs are similar to in ordinary years.

Read the response in full

Students have worked hard in preparation for their exams this year, but given the ongoing disruption to education caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the department announced in January that GCSE, AS and A level exams will not go ahead as planned this summer.

On 15 January, the Department for Education and Ofqual launched a rapid consultation on how to award grades to all pupils fairly, including private candidates and home educated students. We have been working at pace to consider responses from students and other key stakeholders and announced additional details on how grades will be awarded on 25 February.

We have ensured that there is a clear and accessible route for private candidates to receive a grade this year, at the same time as other candidates.

Private candidates will be expected to work with a centre to be assessed on a range of evidence, as other candidates will be. Ofqual and the exam boards will issue guidance to support centres assessing private candidates.

This evidence is likely to include the use of board-provided assessment materials and could include evidence created with another established education provider. Exceptionally, if insufficient other evidence is available, centres could conduct a recorded oral assessment. Private candidates should have the same opportunity as other students to be assessed on what they were taught, and exam boards should allow centres to conduct assessments remotely if needed.

We are working closely with the sector, particularly multi-academy trusts and FE colleges to ensure that there will be enough centres available to allow private candidates to access a grade. Although centres will not be required to accept private candidates, we strongly encourage them to do so. JCQ will publish a list of available centres shortly and private candidates will be able to work with a centre even if they are not local, allowing a wide variety of options for all private candidates.

All four exam boards that offer GCSE and A level qualifications have waived late entry fees and cancellation fees for private candidates until at least 21st March. We are also providing support to ensure that the cost to private candidates themselves will be similar to the cost in other years.

Department for Education

This is a revised response. The Petitions Committee requested a response which more directly addressed the request of the petition. You can find the original response towards the bottom of the petition page (https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/333864)

Other parliamentary business

Original Government response

We want there to be a clear route for private candidates to receive a grade. We launched a consultation with Ofqual, seeking views on exam alternatives including options for private candidates.

While the Department continues to believe that exams are the fairest way of judging students’ performance, we cannot guarantee all students will be in a position to fairly sit their exams this summer. We have therefore confirmed that GCSEs, A and AS level exams will not go ahead as planned this summer.

The department and Ofqual have launched a joint consultation that seeks views on proposals that enable all candidates to receive a grade fairly. We have already confirmed our proposals that for the majority of students taking GCSEs, AS and A levels, grades should be awarded based on an assessment by teachers, with training and support provided to teachers.

We understand that private candidates and home educated students may have some questions about the decision to move to a form of teacher assessment. We also know of some private candidates who were unable to receive a grade in summer 2020 and who did not take the exams in the autumn who are particularly concerned about how the arrangements will work for them.

It is therefore important that there is a clear and accessible route for private candidates to be assessed and receive a grade. The department is committed to ensuring that the grades private candidates receive are fair, valid and consistent.

The department and Ofqual have set out four possible approaches for private candidates in the consultation. We also recognise that private candidates will need to be able to appeal their grade. The route for appeals will need to align with the way grades are determined.

We encourage private candidate representatives to respond to this consultation.

We will build on the joint stakeholder engagement that Ofqual and DfE undertook last year and engage with as many people as possible in an open and transparent way to consider the main options and their implications, including seeking the views of the students who would have sat exams this year and their parents.

Further details of alternative arrangements to exams will be confirmed as soon as possible, providing clarity to the sector and ensuring that students have the confidence that they will be fairly treated in terms of assessment in 2021.

Department for Education

This response was given on 15 February 2021. The Petitions Committee then requested a revised response, that more directly addressed the request of the petition.