Home educated candidates to be ‘cancelled’ along with 2021 exams?

The Covid-19 pandemic meant that independent candidates, including home educated young people, were not only denied access to the 2020 exams they had been working towards, but were also excluded from the alternative arrangements made for their schooled counterparts in the absence of predicted grade assessments by teachers or tutors. Many home educators incurred significant financial losses as well as missing out on qualifications and university places they had worked hard for. In other words, they were effectively ‘cancelled’ along with their exams.

In July 2020, the Centre for Social Mobility, University of Exeter, submitted the following written evidence to Westminster’s Education Select Committee:

The Voice of Experienced Elective Home Educating (EHE) parents: the risk of missing home-educated children in the education policy response to school closure and lessons for adapting home learning

Although it focuses on England and Wales, it mirrors the ‘exclusion’ experienced by elective home educating families in Scotland which we highlighted in our Home Truths research report published in March 2020.

For previous comment on 2020 exams, see:

Ofqual guidance for ‘locked-down’ private candidates (April 2020)
Home educated candidates doubly disadvantaged by cancelled exams (August 2020)

Scotland’s Deputy First Minster and Cabinet Secretary for Education John Swinney has now announced the cancellation of National 5 exams in 2021, although Highers are apparently set to go ahead, albeit later than usual:

Scottish National 5 exams to be cancelled in 2021 (BBC, 7 October 2020)

Once again, no thought has been given to the disproportionate impact of exam cancellations on independent candidates. And given the ubiquitous exclusion of home educated young people and their families from consideration by school-centric policy-makers across the UK, they are likely to be hit hardest and incur the greatest financial losses if Highers, GCSEs and A-Levels are also cancelled without notice.
In Ireland, a successful legal challenge by a home educated young person to an unjust exclusion from alternative arrangements for assessment resulted in adjustments being made to address the disadvantage. Sadly, no such adjustments appear to have been contemplated to level the playing field for home educated students and other independent candidates in the UK who have been caught in the Covid fall-out. 
Might we rely on the UK Children’s Commissioners to stand up for home educated young people? Frankly, we are not holding our breath. 

But all is not lost. There are many other options for home educated young people in the UK to gain qualifications of equivalent value to the school variety through independent study, including via the Open University and American programmes. Alternative routes to qualification are regularly discussed on our forum where members share their experiences of pursuing different options. Indeed we are past masters at scoring penalty shots through constantly moving goalposts! 


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