Several people have contacted me to ask what I meant by "online at college" so I realise I've done that thing of having a picture in my head which I assume everyone else can see.
I'm in Sheffield, so what I was thinking of was the model of Sheffield College online GCSE English.
Pasted from their website:
Sheffield College offers GCSE English Language as a one year course beginning in September and ending with the exam in May or June the following year. The exam consists of four written coursework assignments (40% of the total mark), three Speaking and Listening coursework assignments (20% of the total mark) and two exams (40% of the total mark). The tutor contacts the student each week with a guide to the webpages required to complete each part of the course. Students submit work to their tutor who marks it and gives detailed advice and feedback. Students need to go into the college on at least two occasions between September and February to complete the controlled assessments. The full cost of the course is £724.
When I first started looking into GCSEs at college (probably around 8 years ago when my son was 12) I organised some home ed group visits to our local college in Sheffield . The college had by then discontinued the 1 year 5 GCSE package as it was designed for resits and the pass rate wasn't high enough. Since then it's just been ad hoc GCSEs here, waiting till really the last minute before the college confirms which few GCSEs are available (generally just a few evening classes) The online GCSE English at Sheffield has been brilliant for everyone I know who's taken it.
Interesting results. I know my local college (Derby College) does a GCSE package of 5 (not online), where students have to take English and Maths (and functional ICT), then select 3 from a handful of others, but only has single Science. Home educated children who want to do Triple Science probably have it the hardest out of the "academic" subjects to find, though Art and Design and Design and Technology ones are quite difficult to find as well.
My kids are looking to take more than 5, and are currently planning to do our college's package plus triple science as private candidates elsewhere (and BSL if that's a GCSE by then or get the current BSL qualification through a local group which does it with young people). Having another option would be good for them.
I've now made a web page summarising feedback from the survey
At the end of June 2013 I made a quick online survey with 3 open-ended questions which could easily be done in 5 minutes. The survey was only up for a few days before it reached the maximum of 100 respondents. For the first question I decided that just asking "which 5 GCSEs" would more accurately reflect the spontaneous views of a wider cross-section parents at all stages in the exams process, than simply using a multiple choice format. With the second question I wanted to probe beyond the issue of cost - which was mentioned by almost everyone - to see whether there were additional reasons why online GCSEs at college would be particularly welcomed.
I included the third question because I have spent the last 15 years in the home education community and I am struck by just how much value home educators place on flexibility and choice. Where we feel we have no control over key elements of a process we may avoid something altogether or else go into it with high hopes but find it increasingly unworkable. In the interest of getting it right first time I believe it makes sense to put these cards on the table at the outset.
Being able to choose the timing and the quantity (for example a few subjects in one year, perhaps with other subjects the following year) came up over and over again in the survey responses, and parents even contacted me privately outside the survey to say "if we had to do a package of 5 all at once this would mean we couldn't do it at all". Even where parents were hugely enthusiastic about the idea of online GCSEs at college, they instinctively used phrases such as "up to 5".
43% of respondents said they would be very enthusiastic about 5 online GCSEs at college if and only if there was flexibility around the intensity and duration of the course, particularly regarding the number of subjects per year. A further quarter of the people who responded expressed a strong preference for just doing 1 or 2 GCSEs in any given year and indicated that they would not sign up for a package of 5. Only a third of respondents gave an unqualified yes to the idea of a ready-made package of 5 core subjects, and within this group there were signs that families were still wary of 5 subjects being pre-determined without reference to the individual student.
Colleges wanting to test the waters could start with online GCSE courses in Science, English and Maths.
This survey is closed now as it quickly reached the maximum set for a free survey.
Science, English and Maths were most popular subjects for possible online GCSEs at college. "Science" includes those who said "Science" or "Sciences" as well as those who said Physics, Chemistry or Biology. "English" includes those who said "English" and those who said "English Language" and "English Literature".
The next most popular subjects were History, Modern Foreign Languages, Geography, and ICT/Computing.
The survey had 3 questions: 1.what would be your 5 most popular GCSEs to study at FE college via online courses? 2. what difference would it make to your family if online GCSE courses at college were free (ie paid by the Government)? 3. would your ideal be to do a package of up to 5 GCSEs online at FE college or would you want just 1 or 2 subjects to fill in?
A third of those who responded expressed interest in a standard package of 5 GCSEs (ie no more and no less) but the remaining two-thirds preferred the flexibility of being able to choose the subjects and also to decide how many exams they would take in a particular year.
There are 3 questions all of which have a comment box for responses, rather than multiple choice.
Here are the questions:
1. To home educators: what would be your 5 most popular GCSEs to study at FE college via online courses? 2. To home educators: what difference would it make to your family if online GCSE courses at college were free (ie paid by the Government)? 3. To home educators: would your ideal be to do a package of up to 5 GCSEs online at FE college or would you want just 1 or 2 subjects to fill in?