HE: Oxbridge and other Unis

(118 Posts)
Crummymum Fri 16-Nov-12 11:33:26


I'm looking to home ed my DS at secondary level (in a year's time). I'm just starting to investigate the ins and outs of this, but I was talking with an Oxford-educated friend of mine about this and he said that Oxbridge don't like home educated children and usually won't take them. Is this true? And what is their rationale? My DC may not want to study there when they reach that stage, but I wouldn't like to think I'd reduced their options.

Also, how do universities in general feel about exams being taken 1,2,3 at a time, rather than 9 or so GCSE's or 3 A'levels all being taken in one year?

Any advice would be really appreciated smile

bruffin Fri 16-Nov-12 11:48:22

from the group informed choices leaflet

"Some schools are now entering pupils early for GCSE, AS-level and
A-level. You should be aware that some universities or their individual
subject departments may want to see that you have taken a number of
advanced level qualifications all at the same time; for example, they may
want to see three A-levels taken in Year 13. This can be because they
want to know that you can comfortably manage a workload of this size
in your advanced level studies. Admissions policies may therefore differ
in relation to A-levels taken early, and whether these are included in
offers made or not."

"A number of institutions ask that grades and number of subjects are achieved
at one sitting. Some do not accept ‘re-sits’ at GCSE or standard level
qualifications. If you think this might affect you and a university’s policy is
not clear from its published admissions policies, it is sensible to check with
Admissions staff before applying."

bruffin Fri 16-Nov-12 11:50:28

that should say
Russell Group Informed Choices

seeker Fri 16-Nov-12 11:55:05

I think generally universities want exams to be taken in one sitting.

Oxbridge is obviously particularly competitive, so anything that might disadvantage you is beet avoided. Don't think HE would count against you, but GCSEs donenin series might well.

Crummymum Fri 16-Nov-12 11:56:09

Thanks Bruffin, that's really helpful. I can't check every single university website on the basis that DC might one day want to go there so I guess I'll have to ensure that the majority of GCSEs and A'levels are taken together.

Do you know if there's any truth in my cousin's claim that Oxbridge don't like HE children, regardless of how many exams they took in one year?

Crummymum Fri 16-Nov-12 11:57:14

Sorry, I crossed with Seeker! Thanks for that feedback! I'm getting more excited about this venture, the more I plan for it!

SDeuchars Fri 16-Nov-12 12:02:28

I don't think there is any truth at all. When was your cousin there? Does he have anything to do with admissions NOW? If not, it is almost certainly an ignorant (in the sense that it is not based on knowledge) assumption.

Anecdote: There is an ex-HE girl at Oxford now; a boy was accepted at Cambridge a couple of years ago; my DD applied to Oxford and did not get negative messages at an open day.

You may find that unis do not have a problem with spread-out exams when the special circs are explained. Also, you could do five GCSEs simply to get into college and then A-levels could be done on the normal schedule, three or four over two years. Finally, from Sept 2013, colleges can accept 14yos and access funding for them without having to go through the LA.

singingmum Fri 16-Nov-12 12:05:52

When my HE son looked at oxford I helped and found that they linked to a page that actually stated HE was viable alternative and ive heard of them accepting a HE person on the basis of an essay nothing else.
I have also read that some uni's prefer them in the end as they are already able to research etc independently which a lot of school age children aren't able to do

RichManPoorManBeggarmanThief Fri 16-Nov-12 12:06:54

I went to Cambridge (matric 93) and there were a couple of home educated undergrads there. Both were spectacularly bright (graduated with double firsts) and had been through a fairly traditional home ed (i.e had done A-levels at the usual time, all at once etc). Actually, now I think about it, I think one might have gone back into school for 6th form- cant really remember as was quite a while ago

I'm not sure if home ed kids are in proportion to the undergrad population - that is, I guess, what you need to find out.

SarkyWench Fri 16-Nov-12 12:07:57

I used to be a RG admissions tutor.
I only remember ever seeing one application from a HE student. The fact that they were HE did not count against them. The fact that they were missing some of the key qualifications that we expected did count against them. It was a shame as they were obviously smart but had had some poor decisions made for them about GCSE subject choices.
So I'd say that there is no problem in principle but (as with all kids) make really sure that they get decent advise on subject choices.
(This problem is not limited to HE btw).

Chopchopbusybusy Fri 16-Nov-12 12:11:17

Email or phone the admissions department and ask them. They will give you the up to date information.

seeker Fri 16-Nov-12 12:17:21

" ive heard of them accepting a HE person on the basis of an essay nothing else. "

I've heard third hand about this too. But I suspect it might not be true. Does anyone know the truth of this?

seeker Fri 16-Nov-12 12:21:13

"You may find that unis do not have a problem with spread-out exams when the special circs are explained."

I don't think that being HE alone would count as special circumstances, though.

They would look at health problems, AEN and whatever in exactly the same way for HE as for schooled applicants.

SDeuchars Fri 16-Nov-12 12:29:59

By "special circs" I meant the cost and access to GCSE-level exams. That is why we are trying to persuade government to make it easier (but, TBH, it seems unlikely, see Elizabeth Truss's evidence to the Education Select Committee, Q241 on).

Crummymum Fri 16-Nov-12 12:35:51

Thanks for all the replies.

May I ask, what is an "RG" admissions tutor? I'm not very au fait with all the abbreviations.

Singingmum: that's great to hear that there was a specific reference to HE kids on the Oxford website. I had found my cousin's claim a little surprising because you'd think HE was very similar to the college tutorial system at Oxbridge: small groups, 1 to 1s etc.

My cousin was there in the early 90s, so not the most up-to-date information, but, the more adamant a person is, the more they seem to be believed!

RichManPoorManBeggarmanThief Fri 16-Nov-12 12:46:41

you'd think HE was very similar to the college tutorial system at Oxbridge: small groups, 1 to 1s etc.

Ha ha- NO!! Not unless you treat your son like pond life, fall asleep while he's talking, and make rambling statements, with "hmm?" on the end, to indicate that you require a response grin.

HolofernesesHead Fri 16-Nov-12 12:52:00

smile Richman!

Crummymum Fri 16-Nov-12 13:16:45

grin I may be guilty of some of the above .... blush

SarkyWench Fri 16-Nov-12 13:21:09

Sorry, RG = Russell Group.
So Not Cambridge, but the next tier down.

Crummymum Fri 16-Nov-12 13:23:23

Doh! I don't know why I didn't think of Russell Group. Am tired!

SDeuchars Fri 16-Nov-12 15:01:56

the more adamant a person is, the more they seem to be believed!

That's what Oxbridge teaches, isn't it? That's why so many politicians come from Oxbridge. They can talk up a storm.

julienoshoes Fri 16-Nov-12 16:56:27

I don't know personally of any home educators getting into Oxbridge or RG Uni's without any sort of educational qualifications.

I do know of formally HE youngsters accepted at Oxford who have done their qualifications at different sittings, because of the cost. I know of one such young man there right now.
Ditto Bristol, Warwick, Edinburgh and others.

The Cambridge formally HE youngster I know of, did re enter the system to take qualifications all in one go, but she too was autonomously educated up until that point.

SDeuchars Fri 16-Nov-12 17:31:17

Don't want to nitpick, but I believe Julie means "formerly", rather than "formally" - just in this instance it could be a bit confusing to use the wrong one! grin

MulledWineOnTheBusLady Fri 16-Nov-12 17:39:00

Every Oxbridge college has an admissions tutor and I think there is also an overall admissions office. Best thing is to call or email and ask for a chat about it.

There are always urban myths about people getting in because they gave a smart alec answer or whatever but I'd be very surprised if they were true, certainly over the last twenty years or so. I used to know a Cambridge admissions tutor and he was very serious about openness, transparency etc and shit-hot on state school admissions too. So far as I could tell they really agonised about the process (in a good way).

Not sure how representative he was, but if you got through to someone similar I think they'd be very happy to answer your questions honestly. They're not trying to catch anybody out.

MulledWineOnTheBusLady Fri 16-Nov-12 17:39:52

Sorry, the "I think" should really have been in front of that sentence. I think that's how it works. Brain no work.

MulledWineOnTheBusLady Fri 16-Nov-12 17:44:21

Sorry, I realise I made it sound like I'm denying other people's experience. All I mean is that while somebody might have got in chiefly because they wrote a brilliant essay which really impressed the tutors, they still will have had to go through the same process everybody else did - application, interview etc. When the interview season comes round I think tutors probably have a rough idea who they think is a "definite" and who they think is a "maybe" - and there may be surprises both ways of course.

sieglinde Fri 16-Nov-12 18:00:32

Hi, I'm an Oxford admissions tutor, though obviously only one of many.

My own ds and dd were homeschooled for some of the time. So NO prejudice.

However, you do need the same academic outcomes as people educated otherwise, i.e. lots of GCSEs (ideally 8 or more) and also AS levels. I'm afraid nobody would get interviewed nowadays without any credentials, however clever they are.

Good luck!

mummytime Fri 16-Nov-12 18:02:11

Imperial College have this on their qualifications page:Admission of students with other competencies
Although passes in the requisite GCSE, O level and A level examinations of the General Certificate of Education represent an almost indispensable background to the courses offered by Imperial College London, applications will be welcomed from suitably motivated and experienced candidates who can demonstrate the required competencies but do not possess the usual qualifying examinations.

I know one HE girl, who was at Durham, she did do A'levels at a sixth form college though; however at the same time there was another girl who had been HEd all the way through and didn't have standard A'levels or GCSEs. (This was pretty recent by the way.)

seeker Fri 16-Nov-12 18:27:36

So what people are saying is that it is remotely possible, but not likely that you could get into q RG university without the required qualifications. But you would have to be pretty bloody exceptional to do it.

So jump through the right hoops at the right time. It's a pain in the arse that you have to, but it's even more of a pain in th arse to discover that you're up against a brick wall for want of a GCSE in maths.

mummytime Sat 17-Nov-12 07:31:55

Most HE's that I know do GCSEs, although often not all at once, often some very early, and then added to. Admittedly most I know personally have then gone on to sixth form college. But they have done very well, and it has seemed as though they received more offers because of their HE background than their friends. HE does show an ability to study alone, and to be self motivated, which makes for a good student.

exoticfruits Sat 17-Nov-12 07:41:22

I know someone who got to Cambridge after being HEd and without formal qualifications but I think it dangerous to put him forward as an example of the norm when he was exceptional.
I would say that taking the exams over a period of time was a huge disadvantage but can't see why you couldn't take them together. The cost is going to be nothing in comparison to the cost of university!

exoticfruits Sat 17-Nov-12 07:44:25

It just makes life much simpler to jump through the right hoops at the right time to ensure all doors are open. I can't see why you would want to make life more difficult. 9 GCSEs taken together at 16 ought to be a doddle if you are aiming for Oxbridge - so why not just do it?

sieglinde Sat 17-Nov-12 08:01:49

Final thought; some US universities are very keen on HE. Princeton has a whole section on its website (and lots of bursary money...). Also non-Uk qualifications are sometimes easier to sort for HE. EG US Advanced Placement classes can be done over the web. In the UK, some universities accept Open University instead of A-Levels.

seeker Sat 17-Nov-12 08:07:57

But honestly, do all you can to make sure they have as many bits of paper as possible. For every admissions tutor or employer who thinks "ah, HE, that's interesting!" there will be at least one who thinks "hmm- HE- that looks as if it might be a bit tricky- NEXT!"

SDeuchars Sat 17-Nov-12 08:31:15

exoticfruits wrote:
The cost is going to be nothing in comparison to the cost of university!
9 GCSEs taken together at 16 ought to be a doddle if you are aiming for Oxbridge - so why not just do it?
Because home education is about more than exams and we don't necessarily want to spend the best part of 30 hours a week for two years doing (often soul-destroying) GCSE work.

[Although I would not expect most potential university students to take that amount of time to prepare for most GCSEs. My DS is doing AS maths in January, having started college in Sept (never having been to school or taken GCSE maths), and he has moved from the D/C boundary on his first past paper attempt to the C/B boundary on his second. Many HEers do a GCSE from a standing start in about 6-8 months.]

As to cost, some exam centres charge over £100 per GCSE. That could mean £1000 from a year's family budget (for only one child). University is not a sensible comparison - there are very low-cost student loans available and the student does not start to repay until they start to earn over the threshold amount.

exoticfruits Sat 17-Nov-12 08:50:42

I still agree with seeker-if you know they need bits of paper it makes sense to just get them.

Because home education is about more than exams and we don't necessarily want to spend the best part of 30 hours a week for two years doing (often soul-destroying) GCSE work.
Surely you can do it in an interesting way? You could do your own thing in the day and go to evening classes. My friend sent her DSs into school just to do the exams they wanted-on a flexi basis-they then didn't have to pay.

exoticfruits Sat 17-Nov-12 08:53:50

You have to allow for the fact that admission tutors and employers are like the rest of society-some will be prejudiced against HE and are much more likely to look upon it favourably if it comes with the correct qualifications rather than saying 'we didn't want to waste our time with soul destroying work' when all university courses and jobs will have an element of it.

exoticfruits Sat 17-Nov-12 08:55:57

I just know that if I was doing it I would find out what was needed and wouldn't take the risk of not having it-I have heard too many stories of people who didn't and have been handicapped in later life-or had to do it much later when they could have just done it easily at the time.

bruffin Sat 17-Nov-12 09:39:23

Because home education is about more than exams and we don't necessarily want to spend the best part of 30 hours a week for two years doing (often soul-destroying) GCSE work.

If you got that attitude to education, you shouldnt be going to university in the first place. Why should universities make exception for HE children if they cant be bothered to do the work thousand of other equally capable students have spent the time doing, even if it is boring sometimes.

exoticfruits Sat 17-Nov-12 09:51:11

Because home education is about more than exams and we don't necessarily want to spend the best part of 30 hours a week for two years doing (often soul-destroying) GCSE work.

I actually resent that statement deeply because it gives the impression that exams are for the drone like majority,it is OK for them to follow a syllabus and do the hard graft, but the HE is a free spirit-above the mundane-and they can do their own thing and then waltz in saying 'I'm just the sort of person you need and don't need proof-just talk to me!'

Universities are about exams these days-you could do lots of other things and end up with a perfectly respectable 2:2 degree-now you need to keep your head down and do the work to pass the exams. DS worked so hard he didn't even get home at Easter.

Perhaps you could by pass that too and persuade employers that you are just what they need because you didn't want to bother with things you didn't like and exams.

exoticfruits Sat 17-Nov-12 09:54:17

I still think about one HEers blog saying 'how excited she is for the possibilities for her unschooled DDs'-the poor woman hasn't a clue!! The real world is hard-even those who have jumped through every hoop at the right time, with fantastic results can't get jobs. There are about 50 applicants for every graduate job.

seeker Sat 17-Nov-12 09:59:21

"Because home education is about more than exams and we don't necessarily want to spend the best part of 30 hours a week for two years doing (often soul-destroying) GCSE work."

if you need to spend 30 should destroying hours a week for two years preparing a child for 9 GCSE exams, might I respectfully suggest that you are doing HE wrong.

SarkyWench Sat 17-Nov-12 10:45:54

I think that the main problem faced by HE children is not that admissions tutor may be predjudiced against HE (although I accept that may happen), but more that IME most unis are shifting towards "criterion based admissions" in which the early stages of the admissions process (if not all of it) is done by admissions administrators rather than academics using a rigidly specified set of criteria. Exceptions can still be made for applicants with less conventional CVs, but IMO these are likely to be increasingly rare.

SarkyWench Sat 17-Nov-12 10:48:03

That was a bit jargony. Sorry.
My point is that for popular courses there is now very likely to be a stage in the process I which an admin person does some very simple checking of GCSEs etc and anyone who doesn't tick all the boxes will likely be rejected.

bruffin Sat 17-Nov-12 10:57:28

I was at an award ceremony a couple of weeks back for an engineering scholarship . There were over a 300 yr 12s, mostly with 10,11 or.12 A/A* . One boy had 14 A* all with plenty of extra curricular interests. These would have been taken at 1 sitting. These are the children that are competing for RG places. So to turn up and say I couldn't be bothered to do the work but give me a place anyway is an insult.

DartmoorMama Sat 17-Nov-12 11:19:43

From what I understand, spreading GCSEs over several years is not really an issue. It's common for really bright, Oxbridge intelligence level kids to do this as they may take some subjects early due to ability. However it's really important for A levels to be taken in the same sitting as part of doing that is showing you can cope with the workload.

There is a lot of nonsense going around about entrance to top universities. I do believe they will be able to discern academic talent on a student to student basis, and it's worth going straight to the Uni and asking them directly about your case.

Welovecouscous Sat 17-Nov-12 11:22:07

I know what you mean, sarky. Some unis rarely read the personal statements any more.

I was at Oxbridge in the 90s with a home ed undergrad brought up in a commune. They went to local fe college for 6th form and had done a levels

DartmoorMama Sat 17-Nov-12 11:25:08

I also meant to add I do know several children who have gone on to Russell group unis after Home ed or mixed home ed and school. This includes the kid who did his maths and biology GCSEs at 12 and then spent a few years adding GCSEs before returning to a private school for his A level's. He has had zero issues with entry because he was part home educated. That was for entry this academic year.

mummytime Sat 17-Nov-12 12:32:33

Sleglinde - as an admissions tutor, would you look at someone with OU credits instead of A'levels? Or even A'levels and GCSEs?

mummytime Sat 17-Nov-12 12:34:56

Oh and Sarky would you then reject all pupils of Bedales, because they only do 5 GCSEs, and by you I mean you administration team.

exoticfruits Sat 17-Nov-12 13:49:53

* most unis are shifting towards "criterion based admissions" in which the early stages of the admissions process (if not all of it) is done by admissions administrators rather than academics using a rigidly specified set of criteria. Exceptions can still be made for applicants with less conventional CVs, but IMO these are likely to be increasingly rare.*

I think that you really need to check. I have 10yrs between my eldest and my youngest and things are not the same as they were for the eldest. You may never get the chance to shine-personally I wouldn't let my DCs risk it.
My friend who HEs let her DCs take the GCSEs that interested them by going into school just for the particular lessons, but they all went full time in the 6th form-it seemed a sensible insurance policy to me and got them into the universities of their choice. I dare say they overlooked the lack of GCSEs because they had proved their worth by the A'levels.

exoticfruits Sat 17-Nov-12 13:51:52

Bedales will have a well known track record-someone educated at home is an entirely unknown quantity-not all are going to bother to find out about them.

julienoshoes Sat 17-Nov-12 14:28:41

Cost is the big implication for home educators on a very limited income.

IME HE young people do what they have to to get into Uni...the young people I know...and there are lots of them at uni now, find out what they need and go for it.
But again IME they don't do loads of GCSEs that they don't need. Why would they?
And I didn't see the point of spending time doing GCSE work when they didn't need to.

I'm not criticizing others choices...we just made these choices when we home educated and discovered it wasn't necessary to do years of formal work, to get to the stage where the children could do qualifications...so we didn't do any formal work at all, just had a wonderful life, facilitating what the children wanted.
Then when they were ready they did the qualifications required to get where they wanted to go.

As did all the formerly (thanks SDEuchards) HE young people at loads of different unis all over the country right now-including Oxbridge and the RG.

sieglinde Sat 17-Nov-12 15:05:14

Yes, I'd look at OU. We have a kind of conversion table smile

julie, just saying again that Oxford will expect 8+ GCSEs or equivalent. We'd be happy with other exams, like the IB or OU, but not NO exams. Agree that this should not involve years of formal work.

julienoshoes Sat 17-Nov-12 17:25:56

Yes, I understand that Oxbridge would expect evidence that a student can study to the required level.
The HE youngsters I know who have been there/are there now, have looked at it logically, understood what they were aiming for, and got the necessary evidence.

seeker Sat 17-Nov-12 17:29:58


And saying that HEers don't want to do GCSEs because it involves 30 hours a week for 2 years of soul destroying work is just silly.

exoticfruits Sat 17-Nov-12 18:10:14

The sensible thing is to check first and not assume. The HEer's blog that I read has no idea. I was a bit amazed at her plan A for DD1 and asked a friend whose DCs have gone the same route if it was realistic. She thought not-it obviously wasn't because Plan A was never mentioned again and they are onto Plan B which also sounds unrealistic-that has gone quiet too. I keep reading to see what happens in the end.
The GCSE's can't take 30 hours a week for 2 years-and a lot of the work is stuff they would need to cover anyway. All I can see is that you don't have a completely free range of which books you read, which period of history you study etc-but then you never do at university. There will be parts of the course that you love more than others.

julienoshoes Sat 17-Nov-12 20:28:34

you'd have laughed at my plan then exoticfruits...I didn't have one!

exoticfruits Sat 17-Nov-12 22:43:55

I wouldn't risk it-it is way too important to just hope. I wouldn't laugh-just be a bit surprised.

exoticfruits Sat 17-Nov-12 22:44:54

I think that people need the right advice.

sieglinde Sun 18-Nov-12 12:02:34

Think we are all on the same page, in that all of us see that many unis will ask for exams, but I did meet many HE parents who had 16-year-old children and realised suddenly that their kids would need GCSEs or equivalent; some were horrified and amazed to discover this. I got a bit sad and shock

exoticfruits Sun 18-Nov-12 12:08:28

If you think about it it is only fair-why should the majority slog away at a syllabus and work hard for 2 years and then others swan in saying airily 'we wanted to do our own thing-exams are soul destroying so we didn't bother!'

They should start with a level playing field-exams first-and then find out more.

SDeuchars Sun 18-Nov-12 15:22:09

The GCSE's can't take 30 hours a week for 2 years-and a lot of the work is stuff they would need to cover anyway.

FWIW, I didn't say that I thought exams were only for drones and HEers should have special dispensation. I was specifically addressing the question of why HEers might not just do 9 GCSEs anyway. My comment about 30 hours per week for two years was a reference to what happens in school in years 10 and 11. I'm not sure what exoticfruits means by the above comment. A lot of what happens in GCSE courses is not stuff that needs to be covered.

For example, ICT GCSE is extremely dull. My DC covered very similar material in about 40 hours of ECDL (after several years of using ICT for real purposes). I am not suggesting that this reflects badly on young people who take ICT GCSE - it is a problem with the school system which is concerned with teaching what can be tested (rather than testing what is worthwhile to know). Several GCSEs basically test that the student can follow step-by-step instructions.

My DS is currently doing A-levels and is applying for university. He has no GCSEs but he has 210 OU credits. That surely shows that he can read, write and understand at the appropriate level for tertiary education. He is doing A-levels to show that he is competent for the specific courses he wants to study. We did research how to access what he wants to do and we had a number of options available - he has chosen to do A-levels because that is the relatively no-brainer option for admissions tutors.

exoticfruits Sun 18-Nov-12 15:49:49

I think it is fair enough to offer alternatives - you need to do your research first to find what is needed.
They should all have some qualifications, something on paper to prove they are up to the course. It doesn't have to be GCSEs or even A'levels but I was really talking about the type of HEer that I read in the blog who thinks her DD can waltz in with nothing and get a place above those who have put in the hard slog. Apparently the admission tutor should just recognise her talents without any proof on paper! She has gone all quiet on the subject so probably it was fair and she didn't manage it.
I also think it very dangerous to circulate stories of DCs who do manage top universities with no qualifications- parents think it is the norm and not the exception. Most DCs are average, even MN DCs and HEers DCs!

seeker Sun 18-Nov-12 17:40:49

"Because home education is about more than exams and we don't necessarily want to spend the best part of 30 hours a week for two years doing (often soul-destroying) GCSE work"

Well, sDeuchars, the above certainly should to me as if you're saying that you think in order to get 9GCSEs you have to spend 30 hours a week for 2 years doing. (often soul destroying) work. Forgive me if I'm wrong...........

Seeker What are year 10 and 11 pupils doing in their 30 hours a week for two years if it isn't prepping for GCSE's?

seeker Sun 18-Nov-12 18:54:30

Well, in my dd's case, lots of sport and music and drama. And travelling to and from school. And changing lessons. And waiting for teachers to turn up. And breaks and lunchtime and assemblies. And all the stuff the absence of which makes HE a more effective and efficient way of learning.

People do talk as if "maths" and "GCSE maths" are somehow two completely different subjects. But they aren't. You do maths. Some of it will be relevant to GCSE maths- some isn't. You just make sure that enough of the relevant stuff is included- and there you are,

exoticfruits Sun 18-Nov-12 18:54:45

The 6 hours a day is when they are at school with PE, lunch, form periods etc. The DC at home doesn't even have to waste time commuting so they could manage in half the time and still have most of he day free.

exoticfruits Sun 18-Nov-12 18:55:12

Cross posted with same thought.

julienoshoes Sun 18-Nov-12 21:06:53

"why should the majority slog away at a syllabus"

because their parents choose to send them to school?....or like me previously, simply don't know that home education is an option?

I'm not criticising anyone's choices. One of my passions is that everyone should know that home education is a legal viable option, so that parents can make an informed choice about what is right for their families at that time.

But you don't have to spend 11 years at school following a curriculum..nor even home educate formally, in order to get to the stage where they can start a course leading to qualifications.

exoticfruits Sun 18-Nov-12 21:19:08

They should all start with the same. Qualifications on paper- whatever they are- before anything else is looked at, otherwise it is unfair. Luckily I think that a lot of modern selection methods sift first.
Home education doesn't mean that you can't get formal qualifications. A poster was complaining only a few weeks ago that doors had been closed to her because she had the misfortune to have a mother who didn't believe that exams were necessary. She was finding life very hard getting them in later life.

julienoshoes Sun 18-Nov-12 21:21:13

We home educated autonomously and completely informally, because we had such brilliant examples in front of us, and because our children had been so badly damaged by school, that structured formal work didn't suit them at all.

We've found it is a really efficient way of learning-through living life and enjoying yourselves, right up until the children decided to take themselves to FE college or do an OU course. And yes I have parented a child who went all the way through the school system, so know that this way is best for us.
Once they had decided on the direction they wanted to take, we facilitated that as we had everything else they wanted to do, and they researched what was needed qualification wise and went for it.

I looked at the Russell Group list of Universities, when I last joined in this conversation...and I know of formerly autonomously home educated young people within our close friends circle at Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff, Oxford, Edinburgh, Imperial College, Nottingham, and Warwick, right now.
I know of others who have been through others Unis on that list and done very well.
All of them informally educated with no curriculum, and no formal work.....until the youngster chose to move things to a more formal basis, and start some sort of qualifications in order to get into the Uni of their choice.

It may be your choice, but it works for us and thousands of others.

exoticfruits Sun 18-Nov-12 21:24:40

I don't quite understand- your last sentence appears to be saying that they have the necessary formal qualifications.

julienoshoes Sun 18-Nov-12 21:35:34

They do...but we didn't need to do formal work, or follow a curriculum for years in order to get to the stage where they could start the required courses, or tackling the work needed to do the exams.

I do know of an occasional Home educator who has got into a more 'creative arts' based course with a portfolio of work...but that is not what we are talking about here is it?

exoticfruits Sun 18-Nov-12 21:45:49

We are at completely cross purposes then. I couldn't care less what they do earlier- how they learn is up to the individual. I do expect them to research what they need to get a place and do it, like everyone else, and not expect special treatment.
Creative arts based courses need a portfolio for everyone. My DS's course was based on his portfolio more than exam results - he knew that and so he produced one. If you know a course needs 3 A's at A'level then you should produce them(or an equivalent)

seeker Sun 18-Nov-12 22:28:11

That's the whole point! You don't have to follow a curriculum for years- it's incredibly easy to incorporate the necessary hoop jumping into any sort of HE programme. But it's important to do it- because otherwise the kids might be buggered. Like my nieces. Who have had to struggle ridiculously because they didn't have the bits of paper they needed when in their 20s they decided they wanted to follow a more conventional educational path.

julienoshoes Sun 18-Nov-12 22:36:09

You don't have to follow any programme until the children want to, in my experience.

I know your experience is different to that Seeker, you have said so before. But it's not something I recognise from all the people I know.

There is a very good group linked to on the 'Websites on home education' thread, for HE families interested in taking exams, for those who do want to plan ahead, or those that have reached the stage when their children have decided to take a more formal path and want advice.

exoticfruits Sun 18-Nov-12 22:38:03

It really doesn't matter how you choose to educate , formally, child led, whatever- you should end up with an educated, motivated DC who has the ability to choose their path in life, be it university, apprenticeship, whatever- find out the entry point and get the necessary qualifications.

seeker Sun 18-Nov-12 22:43:27

I retract the word "programme". I used it because it was the least dogmatic word I could think of. I offer the word "lifestyle". or maybe just "life". The fact remains that people need bits of paper.

seeker Sun 18-Nov-12 22:46:33

Sorry, I retract that. People might need bits of paper- and you don't know until possibly too late whether you will or not. So better to get them if you can when your peers do. Because, sadly, you might end up competing with those that do.

exoticfruits Mon 19-Nov-12 07:17:29

Especially into today's job market. I is all very different from the way it was 10 years ago, or even 5 years ago. I know this for a fact because I have one who graduated 10 years ago and one who graduated this year. Of course you wil get the odd person who makes it, but why handicap your DC? Why not just get the piece of paper that ensures that all doors are open?
I know so many people who are handicapped in later life by lack of the right qualifications, they were not HEed, they just had poor advice or didn't work when they should have done. They either have to settle for less or they have the financial upheaval of getting them later in life.

MrsBovary Mon 19-Nov-12 11:27:34

Interesting reading. I had no idea not doing the exams all in one sitting might be detrimental.

My children are doing IGCSE (then to college for, all but one, A' Level), they're sitting some in the spring, then more in the autumn, then the rest in summer of the following year, at 16 years. Financial factors weren't a consideration, I would stress. It just seemed to suit us to arrange them this way.

sieglinde Mon 19-Nov-12 11:40:54

I am an Oxbridge tutor, and I must say that I never see exams at different dates in a bad light. My ds did 3 early GCSes and then 9 more... think this is quite normal if kids are ready early, as ds was, and done often in the indy sector, at e.g. Manchester Grammar. IMHO it's less important than readiness. Readiness is all.

julienoshoes Mon 19-Nov-12 13:48:12

"So better to get them if you can when your peers do."

here is somewhere we will have to fundamentally disagree Seeker.
IME it's much better to do an exam when you are ready/interested/motivated, than just because it's when everyone else does.

You don't have to run your life on somebody else's timetable.

seeker Mon 19-Nov-12 15:24:16

"You don't have to run your life on somebody else's timetable."

Actually, sometimes, and with some things, you do. And the bugger of it is that sometimes you don't realise until it's too late. Or until it' not too late, but it really makes your life difficult and unhappy.

I don't believe in shutting doors for children. And not having at least very basic qualifications will slam some doors and lock them before they even realise they want to go through them.

SDeuchars Mon 19-Nov-12 15:34:44

I tend to agree with Julie, Seeker. If a young person is happy and is achieving what they want to, then they are doing OK. If they then decide to change track (as many adults do), they are starting from a different position and can find that there are different ways to achieve what they now want to do.

I have been an associate lecturer for the OU for 13 years and most of my students are people who have decided to change course. They may have been to university at an earlier age; of those who have not, many feel that the school system failed them by forcing them onto a timetable that was incorrect for them.

As someone from a working-class background who was the first in my family to go to university, I home educated from the beginning to give my DC the opportunity to access a much wider range of activities and not have them pigeon-holed at a young age. My DD went to university at 18. My DS hopes to enter at 19. Neither is "wrong" just different. If he is not offered a place for next year, he may be even older. The extra years will not be "wasted" in his opinion (or mine).

Narked Mon 19-Nov-12 16:01:33

As an OU lecturer you seethose who don't fit the system.

MulledWineOnTheBusLady Mon 19-Nov-12 16:07:00

I think Seeker makes a valuable point. Some things in life that are ultimately rewarding are also difficult and boring and restrictive of your autonomy during parts of the process, and I wish I'd appreciated that more when younger.

SDeuchars Mon 19-Nov-12 16:10:53

Narked, I think that was my point - the system does not fit all and it is often not helpful to suggest that it is the person who is wrong. Home-educated DC often have a more relaxed attitude to what they should be doing and are less constrained in how they consider the future. Not being told (however subtly) that one is an academic failure as a child/young person makes a huge difference to how one approaches learning as an adult.

SDeuchars Mon 19-Nov-12 16:15:52

MulledWine, autonomous home education does not necessarily mean that you avoid that lesson, just that is not imposed arbitrarily. For example, a DC who wants to be in an orchestra will autonomously choose to do the less fun bits of practice, knowing that it is necessary to achieve the DC's goal. As the HEing parent, I do not have to invent boring tasks (such as, IMO, GCSE ICT spread over two years).

seeker Mon 19-Nov-12 16:35:24

<shrugs and gives up- wondering yet again why she ever try to post on HE threads>

SDeuchars Mon 19-Nov-12 16:39:15

Was that aimed at me, Seeker? I'm not sure why as I thought it was a reasonable discussion.

Narked Mon 19-Nov-12 16:44:57

What I should have said is that you see the downside - those for whom the system hasn't worked. You don't get to see much of the upside. And there is an upside.

I think that it's worth noting that a lot of people on here are talking about home ed and then college for sixth form. It's worth remembering that home ed might be right for them now, but that in two or four years time it might be right for them to go back into the system. Stay flexible.

As for GCSEs, it must be a hell of a lot faster to teach (and learn) when you don't have 29 other DC asking questions and needing the teacher to go over things again for them. I don't think you'd need to spend the same number of hours doing it at home as you would at school - it can be a much more efficient way to learn.

exoticfruits Mon 19-Nov-12 17:03:40

IME it's much better to do an exam when you are ready/interested/motivated, than just because it's when everyone else does

That may well be true, but financially and responsibility wise it is much more sensible to do it when everyone else does. My father did his late-it wasn't easy when he had a day job, had to work in the evenings and had 2 small children. He got exactly where he wanted in the end-but he would have been much better off doing it when everyone else did. My mother was always held back because she didn't get the right bit of paper-and she never did get it.

If you are going to run it on your own timetable I should get all the facts first-you may be well be sensible to run it in someone else's-at least it holds the doors open if you want them later.
I know countless people who have had hard slog and sacrifice doing it in mid life. When you are young and supported by your parents, without dependants, is much the best option and I would definitely try and get them to see it.

julienoshoes Mon 19-Nov-12 17:09:44

and I have now seen countless people do it, successfully on their own timetable...sometimes before others and sometimes later.

"I would definitely try and get them to see it"
Okay. I get that you would.

It's not my way...but hey that's okay too.

Probably why I home educated so happily

exoticfruits Mon 19-Nov-12 17:14:35

Maybe you don't worry about the money aspect-it is the thing that would worry me and the issue of doing it when young-not with a partner and children. Some people want to but simply can't.

SDeuchars Mon 19-Nov-12 17:34:30

The money aspect definitely worries most home educators, IME. It is expensive and difficult to do GCSEs outside the school system. That is why many go into college at 16 and do GCSEs and A-levels there, a year or so behind their school peers. Until September 2013, college cannot easily be accessed for free by under 16s. (And I'm reserving judgement on how easy it will be then.)

My father did his late-it wasn't easy when he had a day job, had to work in the evenings and had 2 small children. He got exactly where he wanted in the end-but he would have been much better off doing it when everyone else did.

I'm guessing that he was not forcibly prevented by an irresponsible and shortsighted HEing parent, LOL. So it can be done, whatever has caused the delay. I think most of us would agree that it is easier to study without family responsibilities. IMO, that does not necessarily mean doing 9 GCSEs at 16, 4 A-levels at 18 and a degree at 21/22. As HEers, we are saying that there are other (not necessarily more difficult) ways of getting to the same end point.

It is certainly more efficient in time for a motivated young person to do GCSEs from home. That still does not mean that they want or need to do 9 - many colleges only want 5 to admit for A levels (and there are many validated stories where less than 5 have been accepted, unlike the "entry to uni with no formal qualifications" stories). If you only need 5 GCSEs, then many people will only do 5 GCSEs so that the rest of the time is spent doing other things that they would rather do.

Some of Julie's DCs are doing things on a very different schedule from what typical DC would have done at school. But had it been left up to school, Julie's DCs would have no qualifications or any chance of them. You may think that the average DC can do things just like in school but unless you are supporting our DC, you are not really in a position to say that we are spoiling their life chances. My DC are happy to have been involved in the decisions about their education all the way along. My DS is now having his choices constrained because he decided to do A levels at college - he had the option of doing them from home.

exoticfruits Mon 19-Nov-12 18:31:16

All I am saying is that they need the facts. It would make sense to me to go to college and get them for free at 16-it isn't school.
I would definitely encourage them to get them at the right time. My father wasn't HEed, but he didn't get it at the right time. Had we not been able to live with my Grandfather he couldn't have fulfilled his later ambitions and as it was he had to do it all with a full time job. It must have been stressful in the extreme. It is all very well saying 'do it on your own timetable' if you have pots of money-most people don't and need to get on and do it to someone else's timetable.

exoticfruits Mon 19-Nov-12 18:35:49

I forgot to say-my father couldn't do his first choice-the doors were closed-it had to be second choice.

seeker Mon 19-Nov-12 19:06:26

Not aimed at anyone in particular, SDeuchars- just at the general attitude among mumsnet HEers that therenis non space for suggesting that th is even the possibility of even a tiny glimmer of q downside to any aspect of HE.

And on a personal level that my knowledge and experience counts for nothing and is either completely ignored or negated. But I do realise that's my problem!

julienoshoes Mon 19-Nov-12 23:48:18

"if you have pots of money"

Ha! I gave up a career to do this. My dh has been retired on the grounds of ill health for more years than I care to remember. We have done this on next to no money. My children have a very healthy respect for money-but have been in all along on the choices we have made and fully support them.
I know hundreds of home educating families now. I know one HE family that has pots of money.

Seeker-I hear what you have been saying, I know it is your reality, but can't agree with it-it simply is not my experience or that of others that I know. So I don't know what you want me or others whose experience is like mine to say?

I have parented a child who has gone right the way through school as well, I know the ups and downs of that.... and for us there is no downside on any aspect of HE

seeker Tue 20-Nov-12 07:02:29

Julie- I know your children have done incredibly well, and that's truly wonderful. But I do worry that your "come on in the water's lovely" may well give people unreasonable expectations.

It is a fact that it is - well, I was going to say impossible, but I will change the to "vanishingly unlikely" - that you would get into medical school, or law school, or an oversubscribed university on the strength of a portfolio alone. And once you have missed your intake, your chances of getting in, even with all the conventional qualifications diminishes. And the days when you could get into Oxford on the strength of a brilliant essay-or, more likely, on the strength of a letter from your father to his old tutor- are long gone.

And it's not going to get any easier. And people starting on the HE journey need to know this.

exoticfruits Tue 20-Nov-12 07:11:25

I doubt if you are going to be able to afford to keep an adult DC with dependants,Julie, if they decide to do it on their own timetable. My father had help but he still couldn't afford his first choice because he couldn't have done it with the day job.

I suspect that we are again at cross purposes and you are talking about DCs who are more or less on the general timetable. I was 19yrs when I left school, a friend was a year ahead of her school year and went to university at 17yrs, my DS's girlfriend left school just after ASs, worked and then decided to go to university so went to college and got the A'levels and went 2years later than she would have done. It is very usual. It isn't in the least what I am talking about- no doors have been closed.

I am talking about those who failed to get the qualifications they needed and that door are closed so they have a very stressful time and great financial hardship to get them - so that it makes sense to get them at the right age(with a little flexibility) so that they keep the doors open, if they need them in the future. Unless you do have the pits of money you are not going to be able to support an adult child with dependants.

I don't really know why we are arguing- your examples are quite clearly sensible DCs who make sure the doors are open- even if they don't do it a set way. The way doesn't really matter.

I know that I paint a rosy picture of schools and it isn't like that for many families, but I feel that you paint a very rosy picture of HE families, Julie, that I have no doubt is absolutely true, and if you lived in your area it would be a fantastic experience for most, however I do feel that some people must read it and feel despondent because their experience of HE is very different.

exoticfruits Tue 20-Nov-12 07:12:33

Sorry iPad pots not pits

exoticfruits Tue 20-Nov-12 07:17:04

I agree with seeker- that is what I was trying to say about the 'rosy ' picture. I think it unfair to make it all look so easy - it isn't. It has got harder even in the last 3years. HEers know that many people have prejudice about HE, that is why they get so touchy. University admission tutors and employers will have the whole range of opinions- I don't know why it assumed that they will all look on a HEed candidate. Safer to get the right pieces of paper than trust to chance.

exoticfruits Tue 20-Nov-12 07:19:05

Sorry again-should have read - look on a HE candidate favourably.

exoticfruits Tue 20-Nov-12 08:29:07

You will only get into a university on the strength of a portfolio if they have asked for one!
It is very easy-go to UCAS click on the institution you want, find the course and find the entry requirements. Even if you are doing art based subjects they want more than a portfolio.
It is foolish-not to say unfair to the rest-just to try and by pass it all and say in an arrogant way-it wasn't on my timetable to spend my time on someone else's syllabus but I am just the sort of student you want!
Ucas is perfectly clear. A good idea to look at it before you are 16yrs.

SDeuchars Tue 20-Nov-12 09:59:57

I absolutely agree with both your last two posts, Seeker and ExoticFruits - if a HE DC wants to go to uni at 18ish, then looking to see what they need in the way of academic qualifications and then finding out how to get them is the most sensible thing to do. In fact, I don't think there is a regular poster on this board with older DC who has not done that.

There was a tendency until the early 2000s for HEers to say that any job or uni was open to "portfolio" applications. That may have been true in the 1980s and 1990s (and may well have been the historical experience of HE parents then) but it is almost never seen these days - except for practical art and music courses. What is talked about is DC who get jobs (sometimes with training or apprenticeships) on the strength of volunteering in a hobby passion such as sailing, conservation and horseriding. They do not necessarily have the advertised entry-level GCSEs but the people who get them started know them and know they can do the work. They then get the qualifications that they need to proceed.

Uni is not right for everyone at 18ish and I think being out of school makes it easier for DC (and their families) to consider other alternatives. I didn't go to uni (at 18 from a comp) because I had any specific ambition - it was because I was fulfilling other people's ambitions.

One of the reason I HEed was to remove that sort of pressure from my DC. We fell into the DC doing OU courses at 13-14 more or less by accident - because school exams were inappropriate for the DC's level of knowledge. As it turns out, the DC are reasonably academic but I would have been very happy for them to do a practical trade.

julienoshoes Tue 20-Nov-12 12:50:51

Why would you think I am having to keep my adult children exoticfruits?
They have been involved in all of the choices about their lives and the finances were always included.
They have always known that me giving up my career to home educate-and therefore the opportunity to save for their university careers, would mean they have to finance all Higher Education themselves and they would have to pay their way....and they most certainly do.

and I agree with SDeuchars last post.....and my experience is that home educated young people DO look at what they need for their future plans...sometimes before school children address it, sometimes afterwards.

I'm not going to argue with you again about what my reality is, or the reality of the home ed families I know. I have stated it as I see it, I am not lying nor painting a rosy picture. Just stating my experience.

seeker Tue 20-Nov-12 17:55:13

Julie- of course you're not lying or misrepresenting your own experience. As I said, your children are doing fantastically well and you must be incredibly proud. What I am saying is that I am not lying or misrepresenting my experience either. And people need to be as aware of mine as of yours. Because they both are real and valid.

exoticfruits Tue 20-Nov-12 22:36:57

I really don't know what you are arguing about Julie- you appear to be talking about young people who are clued up about what they want to do and are getting on with it.
I am talking about something entirely different- young people who are not clued up- get doors closed and then either can never do it or find it very difficult. An example was a poster recently who was HEed, didn't do any exams- not through her own choice but because her mother didn't believe in them! She had done quite well but had got as far as she could and was stuck from going further or changing because she didn't have the right qualifications. She was married with children and couldn't afford to go and do it. Had her mother let her do her exams at the right age she wouldn't have been handicapped.
You are on obviously not going to keep your adult children, Julie, precisely because they are doing it now.
There is no need to go to university- I think that more and more will think it not worth the money- but they do need to keep the door open.

exoticfruits Tue 20-Nov-12 22:39:57

I don't think you are painting a rosy picture of your own experience, I believe it is just as you say. It isn't however everyone's experience - they are not lucky enough to live in such a supportive area.

julienoshoes Wed 21-Nov-12 13:56:02

Given the discussion here, this is an interesting possible development
Online courses provided by some of the top universities in the United States are going to be used by students at local community colleges, in a project funded by the Gates Foundation.

"If such open access online courses no longer required A-levels as an entry exam, she raised the question about what this would mean for the future of the qualification.

"What will be the point of our education system when university degrees can be accessed without A-level qualifications?" asked Ms Robinson in her speech in Liverpool.

"Will we have a freer sixth form curriculum and will our education system look more like the American one? And if we lose the necessity of our narrow three A-level prescribed university route, will there be need for GCSEs or even English Baccalaureate Certificates - personally I cannot see one and we all know that some of us are questioning the validity of them anyway.""

exoticfruits Wed 21-Nov-12 16:07:51

I am all for changing the present system but, at the moment, if we were to use our personal opinions we would be damaging our DCs futures - as in my example of the woman who didn't have them because her mother didn't believe in them. Future students ought to go on UCAS find out what they need and get it, not say 'we know it is asked for, but we think differently and haven't bothered'!

exoticfruits Thu 22-Nov-12 07:37:19

In answer to OP, who seems to have got lost in this, if your DC wants to do an unpopular subject in an unpopular university you can probably gamble on 'doing it your way'- it is all about money and places need to be filled. However, if you want a popular subject, in a popular university, then competition is intense and you need to maximise your chances by offering the basics asked for and more.
You can gamble on a sympathetic admissions tutor who will look on a 'different' application favourable, but it is a gamble. The application may be sifted out on criteria before it is read. Competition is more intense than it used to be, this may ease off with the higher tuition fees but Oxbridge will always be highly competitive. It depends whether you are a gambler or not- I would play safe with my DCs futures and make sure that they have the exams taken and all in one go. I don't think there is any harm in doing a few early, but I never understand why you need to do them early.

Crummymum Wed 28-Nov-12 16:07:54

Thanks for all the replies and ensuing debate! Unintentionally, I got an insight into the various debates within home education! It seems there are as many as there are educational pedagogies within formal school education. The hoped-for beauty of home ed is that it suits you and your family, rather than the one size fits all style of schools.

I think, personally, I would err more on exoticfruits side but I do see that not all children want or are ready for this. I think awareness of options is desirable, so one can fully exercise choice.

Thank you for all the interesting responses.

exoticfruits Wed 28-Nov-12 17:09:03

I think the 'awareness of options' is the important thing. They are all clearly set out on the UCAS site. What you decide to do is up to you, but you need to be aware.

morethanpotatoprints Thu 29-Nov-12 21:31:49

Hi, I know I have come to this late but would like to agree that some H.ed dc take it upon themselves to find out about uni, college and UCAS points, very early.
My dd is doing this for herself now and she is only 8. Now I admit part of this is because she has older brothers who have been through this, but the fact remains she is working it out now. She has found a route into what she wants to do and she believes she will have more than a third of the points required by age 14. I think most parents are aware of the importance of qualifications. I too read the post of the person whose mother was against exams but this could equally apply to a schooled person. I myself left school at 14 going back at 15 to take a few CSE's only because my parents would have to pay if I didn't. They didn't even know I didn't go to school any more.

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