Home-schooling Guidance

The following questions are based on discussions I have had with parents and students. The following answers are based on my experience as an English Teacher (including Head of English) and Tutor over the course of 30 years. The information here is for guidance only and should be discussed with an official representative, such as the Exams Officer of a school, involved in your personal home-schooling arrangements.

Do you mark students' work?

Regrettably, I am unable to offer a marking service at this time.

Do you offer 1 to 1 Tuition?

No. My English Tuition is only available through my pre-recorded video tutorials at www.englishtuition.net

How do I decide which syllabus to choose?

In order to sit any GCSE/ IGCSE exam, you will need to find out from a school in your area what English syllabus they are doing. This is so that the student can be registered at that school purely to sit the exams there and/or have their coursework moderated (if relevant). They can study any syllabus at home, but the exam boards require students to sit the actual exams in a school/ college. It can be in a separate room etc, but that’s for you to negotiate with the school. The English syllabus followed by a school in your area will be a guide for you as to which syllabus to choose: if the school is not registered as a CIE school, the student will not be able to sit CIE exams for any subject at that school, for example. If the school is doing the AQA English syllabus, then you are advised to choose AQA (or whatever it might be). Do check the exam board in the school for each of your chosen subjects – they might be doing OCR for Maths and Edexcel for English, for example. Only private schools are allowed to do IGCSEs in the UK; state schools have to do GCSEs.
It is recommended that you liaise with a school in your area in the first instance. Contact the Exams Officer (or Headteacher) to establish whether the student can sit their exams there in the future and to find out what syllabus is being followed for English (or whatever subject). The student can then study that syllabus at home, with a goal and a focus – something concrete to work towards. The student only needs to go into the school itself to sit the actual exam. They must be registered for an exam with the Exams Officer of the school in January, ready to sit the exam(s) in May/June of the same calendar year. However, it is recommended that you are organised well ahead of time and make contact with the school at the earliest opportunity to gather the necessary information.

I'm a private candidate. Surely I can choose any syllabus I like?

Although the student will be a private candidate, the exam boards require all students, including private candidates, to be entered through a school/ college and to sit the actual exams in that same school/ college. The student can sit the exam in a separate room to the other students, but this should be negotiated with the school. It is the same regardless of whether the student is home-schooled or attending school. If you contact any exam board, they will tell you the same. The student can study the course at home, but must be entered for the exam via a ‘Registered Centre’, meaning a school or college. They will also sit the exam at that school, and only need to go into the school itself to sit the exam in the summer.

It is recommended that you liaise with a school in your area by contacting the Exams Officer (or Headteacher) to discuss the student’s being entered through them as a private candidate. You must register the student for an exam with the Exams Officer at the school in January, ready to sit the exam(s) in May/June of the same calendar year.

I'm confused about the Edexcel IGCSE Language Specification A as it has poetry on it. Is this a Literature course?

The Edexcel IGCSE Language Specification A has literary texts (5 poems and 5 short stories in the anthology) on Paper 2 which can be taken as an exam or coursework. It is not a Literature exam, even though there are literary texts on the course. There is a separate Edexcel IGCSE Literature course with completely different texts on it.

Edexcel have put together the Language Specification A course that covers tests of reading and tests of writing (comprehension and essays) and they have chosen to use non-fiction on Paper 1 and fiction on Paper 2. This is the first and second part of the anthology. The third part of the anthology comprises 15 poems that are used only for the separate IGCSE Literature course and they do not need to be studied for the Language Specification A course.

What is the difference between the Edexcel IGCSE Language Specification A and Specification B course?

The A syllabus (Specification A) comprises two exams, one of which can be replaced by coursework, and uses an anthology.

The B Specification comprises 1 paper of 3 hours long and does not use an anthology, so you have to find your own resources to prepare for that paper.

Both the A and B Specifications test skills of reading and writing using comprehension and essay style questions.

Both include a test of reading using an unseen passage (an extract from a text or a whole text that has not been prepared before the exam).

It is only on the A Specification that there is an anthology extract which has been prepared before the exam, in addition to an unseen extract.

For more specific details, please see my Edexcel IGCSE tutorials.

What is a specification and how is it different to a syllabus?

Specification simply means syllabus. They are exactly the same thing and are used interchangeably.

How do I access the current Edexcel IGCSE English Language Specification A anthology?

A copy of the anthology can be found here: https://dcsg.fireflycloud.asia/resource.aspx?id=50587

How long should a student spend preparing for the English Language exams?

It is advisable to allow at least 1 full academic year and the sooner you start the better. The exam entries are done by schools in January for the exams in the summer of that calendar year.

Schools usually allow 3 to 4 hours of lesson time per week for Language and Literature, two separate courses taught on the timetable under the heading of “English”. Some students require additional support and therefore more time. Some home-schooled students have an “English Day”, comprising partly of videos and partly of independent study. Home-schooling allows a student to tailor the course according to their needs and go at their own pace.

What happens if a home-schooled student has special needs?

All examination boards are committed to supporting “Access Arrangements”. This is their terminology for enabling students with special needs to undertake the exams. It usually comprises: extra time, sitting in a separate room, use of a laptop or amanuensis (a scribe) etc.

Being granted any of these “Access Arrangments” typically requires a report by an Educational Psychologist, plus any other supporting documents (from a doctor or previous teachers, for example). These are sent to the exam board you have chosen to study with, via the Exams Officer at the school you register with. This is the same for all students including those who are home-schooled.

It is advisable to discuss special needs requirements and “Access Arrangements” with the Exams Officer well ahead of time.

If a student is granted “Access Arrangements” for a subject, e.g. Physics, then it will apply to ALL their subjects and need not be reapplied for. However, the Exams Officer must be made aware of this ahead of time.

For more information on this, it is advisable to discuss this with the Exams Officer of the school you register with.

When do the English exams usually take place in the UK?

The IGCSE and GCSE exams for English usually take place on the same day. Therefore, you cannot be entered for both as they occur at the same time. They take place in June with Paper 1 usually occurring within the first 2 days after the May half-term.

Paper 2 usually occurs at the end of that week or the start of the following week.

The exam boards publish both the draft and final exam timetables online so you can see specifically when the examinations will occur.

They will say AM denoting the morning and PM denoting the afternoon and it is expected that the examinations will start in the morning at 9am and in the afternoon at 1.30pm.

It is recommended that you arrive at the school about 15 minutes ahead of the examination starting.

Once you have registered with a school and entered for the examination, they should keep you informed about these specific timings.

What is a "Registered Centre"?

A Registered Centre is an institution that is officially recognised by an exam board as being suitable for their exams to be conducted.

It cannot be a tutor’s house or your own home.

The institution is inspected regularly by the exam board to verify and approve the suitability of:

  • Its venue in terms of sitting the exams.
  • The way students are brought in and released from the exams.
  • The arrangements for exam invigilators.
  • The clarity of instructions given to the students and the invigilators.
  • The security of the exam papers.
The exam boards provide a list of Registered Centres on their websites. You can also enquire at the schools in your area about the syllabus that is being followed for English.

How do I get my coursework drafts and/or exam practice marked?

A Private Tutor could be engaged solely for marking and feedback.

You could also approach a local school who may provide the service for a fee.

An English Teacher in your area may offer this and you could find out through the school’s Reception.

I've had my exam results and I'm unhappy with my grade for English Language. What should I do?

In the first instance, you need to contact the Examinations Officer at the Registered Centre (where the exam took place). Preferably, do this on the day of the results or as soon as you can afterwards.

Ask the Examinations Officer to contact the exam board and request that your exam answers are re-marked.

Bear in mind though, that re-marks can lead to marks and grades going up, staying the same or going down. As a Private Candidate, you will have to pay for the re-mark yourself. If you are still unhappy with your mark or grade, you do have the option of resitting the exam. Again, you would contact the Examinations Officer about this.

In addition, you can also request of the exam board (via the Examinations Officer) a photocopy of your exam paper, which you have to pay for as a Private Candidate. The photocopy of your exam paper could be discussed with a Private English Tutor or English Teacher to analyse what could be improved. This could be helpful if you were to resit the exam.

Can your tutorials be used by more than one family member?

Yes. A paid subscription permits all members of the household to have access to the video tutorials. Therefore, if there is more than one student in the home, every one can view my tutorials under the one subscription.

Which of the courses include coursework?

Only the IGCSE courses include coursework. This means that, if you choose to do coursework, you only have one exam to sit, which is the compulsory Paper 1, and you do not need to do a second exam as the coursework replaces it.

It is the GCSE courses that are examination only.

I am doing my English exam in June and I am also doing English Coursework. When do I have to submit my coursework?

In January, when you make your entry for the English exam via the Exams Officer, you must make it very clear that you will be submitting coursework instead of sitting Paper 2 as an examination.

It is advisable to submit your final drafts to the Exams Officer through the School Reception by the end of January/beginning of February – certainly, before the February half-term at the very latest.

This enables the English Department, who will be marking/standardising your coursework, sufficient time to do so and it also enables you to focus on the Paper 1 exam.

The Head of English’s mark is the one that will be sent to the exam board to be moderated and it is the Moderator who has the final say on coursework marks.

In the summer, the coursework marks are added to the exam marks to produce the final grade.

What is "moderation" and "standardisation"?

The marking process has three stages for coursework:

The first stage is when it is marked by a teacher/tutor and submitted to the Head of English via the Exams Officer at the school in which you are registered and have made your exam entry (as a “Private Candidate”).

The second stage is the “standardisation process” when the English Department reads your final draft and looks at the teacher/tutor’s marks and comments, to see if they agree with it. The Head of English will then adjust the marks (if necessary) after it has been discussed. It is this mark that is sent to the exam board.

The third stage involves the External Moderator, who is employed by the exam board to check the coursework of each school (Registered Centre) and to see that the coursework has been marked accurately and fairly. They have the final say about the coursework marks and so your coursework mark is finalised by the Moderator. They are called “External” because they are not connected with your school in any way, which helps to ensure fairness and impartiality.

How should I structure my studies for English?

If you are doing coursework, it is advisable to tackle it first to the point of having a good draft of all required essays.

At this point, you should start focusing on the exam materials.

It is recommended that you focus your studies on the Reading Section first while you are redrafting and finalising your coursework.

Once you have submitted the final draft of your coursework to the school you are registered with, you can focus your studies exclusively on the exam work, completing your initial preparations for the Reading Section before moving onto preparing for the Writing Section.

In April/May, you should focus intensively on both the Reading and Writing Sections and do as much exam practice as possible, using past papers available from the exam board’s website.

In May, in particular, you should work on doing exam questions and/or whole papers in timed conditions.

If you are not doing coursework, it is recommended that you focus your studies on the Reading Sections first and give yourself plenty of time to do this before moving onto preparing for the Writing Sections.

In April/May, you should focus your studies intensively on both the Reading and Writing Sections and do as much exam practice as possible, using past papers available from the exam board’s website.

In May, in particular, you should work on doing exam questions and/or whole papers in timed conditions.

Can I share my tutorials with a friend?

Not unless your friend is also paying a monthly subscription to www.englishtuition.net. My Fair Use Policy allows for the household of the subscriber to provide access to members of their household only. You can see my Fair Use Policy here.

Can I use your tutorials for groups of students?

My Fair Use Policy allows for the household of the subscriber to provide access to members of their household only. You can see my Fair Use Policy here.

What do you mean by a "household"?

A household is the immediate family members of the subscriber, typically who live in the same house as the subscriber (likely to be the parent or guardian).