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The National Curriculum and qualifications

The National Curriculum isn’t compulsory for children who are educated 'at home'. However, it can be a useful framework for planning, especially at first.

It can also be helpful if your child is likely to return to school, as it may make it easier for them to fit back in, or if they’re likely to take GCSEs, as they’re likely to be based on the National Curriculum.

Choosing to take formal qualifications

If you and your child decide to take formal qualifications, there are several options available to you. You will need to pay for, and organise, any qualification for your child.

Before deciding on a qualification, it’s important to think about what it will be used for. Not all qualifications are treated the same by colleges, universities and employers.


GCSEs are usually the first things that come to mind when thinking of children’s qualifications. There are also IGCSEs (International GCSEs) for oversees students, which are sometimes also used for home education.

Many GCSEs include an element of coursework, which can be helpful for children who don’t do well under formal exam conditions. Any coursework has to be independently assessed, introducing further costs for home educated children.

Both GCSEs and IGCSEs can be taken at any age, as and when you feel your child is ready. Looking at revision guides, workbooks and past papers or mock exams may help you decide when’s best.

Some schools may be able to offer help for ex-pupils intending to take GCSEs, particularly if the pupils were still on the school’s register at any time during Key Stage 4 (14- to 16-year-olds).

You can find more information about taking GCSE and IGCSE exams as a private candidate on the following websites:

 Other qualifications

GCSEs and IGCSEs are by no means the only qualifications available and you may decide that they’re not as appropriate as some of the other options, such as ASDANs or the Ingots computer qualifications:

  • ASDANs are based around the development of personal, social and employability skills.
  • INGOTs (International Grades in Open Technologies) offer a wide range of qualifications, from very basic ICT courses through to GCSE equivalent.

 Distance learning, college and night school courses

Distance learning (or 'correspondence courses') is an option chosen by many home educating families, as it provides a ready-made structure and curriculum with pre-determined, measurable learning outcomes.

There’s a huge variety of courses available, delivered by very many organisations. Cost varies between courses and between providers and it’s a good idea to check what’s included in the price (e.g. books, other materials, coursework, assessments, tutors and exam centre fees).

The organisation below may also be of help in finding suitable courses and providers:

Further education colleges may take students under 16-years-old, at the discretion of the Principal. Parents will probably have to pay the full cost of the course and an adult may have to attend with the child.

There are some, less formal, courses that your child may complete, which don’t lead to recognised qualifications. In these cases keep your own records, including any certificate of attendance or achievement, and consider asking the person in charge to write a brief note about your child’s successes. This can all help to build a picture of your child’s education, and could be useful at interviews for jobs, college or university.

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