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Does anyone not take GCSEs

(23 Posts)
Sammi76 Tue 20-Sep-16 23:42:50

Just wanted to know if anyone takes another route to GCSEs , homeschooling my child who has severe anxiety and social anxiety, he's 13 and been out if school a year learning fun things to get his confidence back. Worried he don't be able to cope with taking GCSEs .

Saracen Wed 21-Sep-16 06:10:29

My 16yo hasn't done them. Our view is this. She doesn't have a specific need for qualifications right now, and may never need them because she's interested in a hands-on practical career and university doesn't appeal to her at all. Even the most academic of her friends have not really enjoyed preparing the GCSE syllabus. Many teens, parents and tutors say that as far as learning the actual material goes, GCSEs are a distraction, and a more open-ended self-directed study allows better focus on the subject matter.

With home education, there's no reason to suppose it would be any better to do GCSEs at 16 rather than any other age, so she may as well wait to see which if any she does need and do them then. (This is sometimes called the "just-in-time" approach, versus the schools' "just-in-case" approach of cramming in a large number of GCSEs at 16 just in case they may be needed.) Probably this will result in her doing fewer GCSEs, at a later age, and with a high motivation.

To anyone who finds this idea dubious, I'd put this question: would you make your teen sit their driving test at 17 if they didn't want to? Would you worry that failing to get that qualification behind them at an early age dooms them to a restricted life?

However, I do appreciate that she's in a somewhat different situation from your son, Sammi. I am confident that she'll have no particular struggles with doing exams, and this makes us relaxed. We aren't saying "never"; we are saying "not now". It must be worrying for you if you feel that GCSEs may not ever be an option for your son. I think it is well worth looking into alternative qualifications in order to put your mind and his at rest. There are other ways to study which are not so exam-based. For example, some people do entry-level courses with the Open University. Some who want to go on to university might wait and then do a Foundation course. It's likely that un inability to cope with exams would preclude certain careers altogether, but perhaps he will be lucky and not want one of those careers anyway. For most careers, there are many possible routes to follow. Many people say they never needed their GCSEs at all.

claraschu Wed 21-Sep-16 06:20:52

My HE son didn't do GCSEs, went to a specialist music 6th form, where he did 2 A levels. I know that's probably not relevant to you.

My other son went to a US university, which wasn't interested in his GCSEs or A levels.

Brockwood Park school doesn't do GCSEs either; you might have a look at some material about them for ideas. I do think there are other possible paths, but the ones I know of are quite specific.

Emochild Wed 21-Sep-16 06:21:43

My dd is also out of school due to anxiety, school phobia and high functioning ASD thrown into the mix

She should be in year 10 but has been out for 18 months
We attempted a new school this year, it hasn't worked

We are now exploring interhigh

The do igcses and can choose the number and mix of subjects

I think when you are forced to home ed rather than make a choice to home ed then you do worry more about formal qualifications -particularly if your child has previously demonstrated that they are academically able within a school environment

I'm still trying to reconcile myself with the idea that dd won't walk out with a stack of gcses under her belt at 16 -but i'm getting there

Saracen Wed 21-Sep-16 07:16:21

I think you are quite right to focus on helping your son gain confidence and happiness and put academics on the back burner for now. As he gets older, he might enjoy doing the sorts of things my teen has been doing.

She's carrying on with her current interests, mainly music and art. Increasingly as she gets older, she's trying out different types of part-time and temporary jobs and voluntary placements to expand her knowledge of the world of work and develop useful life skills. This will help her discover where her aptitudes and interests lie and find out how those match onto different jobs. There are all sorts of transferable skills which are more easily acquired out in the world than in an academic setting. This also makes for an interesting and substantial CV, which many young people don't have.

You may be able to do some voluntary work alongside your son if he needs support, or if organisations require parental supervision for under-16s. For example, conservation projects in our area welcome families for such jobs as scrub clearance, coppicing, and wildlife surveys. A young friend of ours volunteered at an archaeological dig and at a scrapstore, initially with mum in tow and later without her. There's a vineyard near us which needs volunteer labour for pruning, harvesting and bottling. Families can serve food and clear up at the soup kitchen. If you ask around locally, you may find some great opportunities.

Sammi76 Wed 21-Sep-16 07:37:18

Thankyou for the replies! Pits my mind at ease a little, my concern is to what to teach him now at home? Just incase he does want to go down that route of gcses? I see everyone using all the key stage 3 books and gcse books preparing their children for it all, but just don't know, I'm worried I'm letting him down and I've made the wrong choice taking him out of school, but felt I had no choice. His anxiety was terrible along with school phobia, it only starred when he started secondary school. He was under camhs for over a year and reduced timetable, but nothing was helping and his mental health was getting worse! He is a lot happier but still has some down days saying hell end up a loner with no friends, which breaks my heart. He has a few friends where we live, but he refuses to join any clubs or mix with other HE kids.

Saracen Wed 21-Sep-16 09:57:08

He'll get there! You have all the time in the world. There is no deadline by which he needs to have learned specific things. There is no deadline for having friends or joining clubs - if he wants to do that, he can do it in his own time. It sounds like he is slowly recovering some confidence but doesn't yet feel up to jumping into certain types of social environments. Maybe he never will find them easy, but he'll eventually learn to tolerate them now and then in order to achieve something he wants.

Suggest things to him which you think he might enjoy. Something structured, where everyone is working toward a goal together or separately, might feel easier. But you don't have to push it if he doesn't want it now.

Reassure your son that it will never be too late to do the things he wants to do. Growing up is a long-term project with no schedules. Lots and lots of people have difficult circumstances or health problems along the way which mean they follow a different path. People start careers at different ages, move out of their parents' home at different ages, go to uni at different ages, have their first boyfriend or girlfriend at different ages. In the big scheme, it really doesn't matter.

waterhorse123 Sat 24-Sep-16 22:55:02

My second son who is now nearly 28 was at school in France and chose to return to sixth form in the UK where he was admitted to the sixth form with no GCSEs at all. The only question posed on uni application was whether his English was good enough and they took our assurances that it was. He did Maths, Physics, French and Art A levels and now has a really good job in computers.

RealSLOAH Sat 01-Oct-16 20:55:24

It sounds like you want to build his confidence around exam preparation, with the aim of encouraging him to feel able to sit GCSEs if he so chooses.

Have you heard of Arts Award? It's a type of qualification obtained via moderated portfolio work. The bronze and silver Arts Award are equivalent to GCSE level work but without (in my opinion) the stress. There's no time limit, and you aren't judged on 2 hours of one day in your life.

As for the social interaction... He's only been out of school for a year, with a lot of background issues. Keep fostering his strength and happiness at home. It's okay that you haven't found the right group meet, or activity class, that he likes yet. Nobody bonds with the first person they meet just because they have the same education background. Keep providing opportunities, and give him time. x

Sammi76 Sun 02-Oct-16 10:28:36

Thankyou for everyone's kind words, it just gives me that bit if strength when I'm doubting myself or feel like I'm letting him down. As for groups or meeting up with new friends he's dead against it, he's a teenager that says that's just sad and for little kids! Any ideas as to what what work to cover if we are not aiming at gcses just yet, I feel if I don't cover key stage 3 he won't be ready if he does come to take gcses x

BertrandRussell Sun 02-Oct-16 10:48:36

It's very difficult. I have a niece who is still,playing catch-up in her career because she thought when she was 16 that she would never want to do anything involving academics then discovered when she was in her 20s that she did. If you asked her, she would categorically say that she wished she had jumped through the basic hoops at the same time as her friends did, because doing it when she was older and had to make a living at the same time was incredibly hard.

As a home educated person myself I would say that the "never having to do anything that you really don't want to" is at once a blessing and a curse. Obviously, If we're talking about SEN or MH issues then nothing I have said necessarily applies. But I would hate a child of mine to have a door closed to them because they don't have even the basic paper qualifications.

Sammi76 Sun 02-Oct-16 11:09:10

The reason he's homeschooled is due to severe anxiety and bouts of depression, he had a really traumatic year trying to style into secondary school, including breakdowns and awake most nights worrying and stressing until 5 in the morning. He went to CAHMS fir a year, but still nothing helped, so I felt like this was the only option. Upon first taking him out he was traumertised by the year he had and a year on is still only just getting over it. So what I'm saying is my option of homeschooling was not just because I wanted to I felt I had no choice, my eldest is at uni and other daughter at school and both doing fine, as for my son I don't know what path he will take, but his mental health at the time seemed more important than school. X

RealSLOAH Sun 02-Oct-16 11:18:28

CGP publish good study guides and workbooks for KS3. Plenty of stuff out there, if you're looking for structured education resources.

As for little kids at group meets... One of my local groups has a regular meet that teens do attend. They mostly seem to cluster around laptops and tablets, with headphones permanently adhered to their heads, to do computer gaming. However, they do turn up. It just depends on the average age of the homeschoolers in the catchment area of any particular group.

Might be worth looking around your local group meets without him, to scout out which ones have more older kids? Alternatively, how does he feel about uniformed groups? He's about the right age for Scouts, Air Cadets, Sea Cadets, etc. With uniformed groups, they are split into age groups so everyone would be his age - plus or minus 1-2 years.

SealSong Sun 02-Oct-16 11:28:34

Sorry, this isn't related to your question re GCSEs, but I am concerned that it sounds like your sons mental health problems are not currently being treated. He sounds unhappy and still has severe anxiety.
I'd really recommend a further referral to CAMHS, or if you don't want to go down that path, look into private CBT.
Just because the CAMHS involvement didn't cure the anxiety when you saw then before doesn't mean that they can't offer more treatment that might help. I worth that if he remains untreated his anxiety will persist into adult hood. At the moment all he is doing is avoiding the things that makes him anxious.
I say this as a CAMHS practitioner.

SealSong Sun 02-Oct-16 11:29:46

Should say I worry not I worth.

Sammi76 Sun 02-Oct-16 17:12:36

He isn't anxious and has developed into a confident young man, he doesn't need CAMHS at the moment as there is no anxiety to treat, when I told the CAMHS adviser I was going to homeschool she agreed it was best too as he wasn't engaging in the CBT. He felt let down by CAMHS and had a really difficult year, I know by avoiding situations doesn't help but I think also forcing someone into difficult and distressing situations can have a long term affect, so by doing things in a way he doesn't realise he's been helped is working much better for him. I really have a happy confident child back !

Sammi76 Sun 02-Oct-16 17:21:05

Also I asked for other help through CAMHs, and was told that CBT was the only option, i felt very let down!

ClashCityRocker Sun 02-Oct-16 17:32:17

Have you spoken (obviously on a no pressure basis) to him about what whether he would like to work towards GCSEs?

Clearly his mental health has to be a priority and you sound like you've done a great job of getting him out of an awful situation. At 13, it might be empowering for him to have control over how his educacation will look and he can get involved in exploring different options.

gillybeanz Sun 02-Oct-16 17:37:36

Hello OP, there is absolutely no reason at all why your child could not enrol on a course at college when older without any GCSE's.
In fact once they find out what they want to do they can cut out all the additional things they don't need.

I used to teach young school leavers and adults who had been failed by the school system and left with nothing.
A level two requires no GCSE's to attend, irrespective of subject.
Instead of GCSE for maths/ English they can do an equivalent on line multiple choice test, with a lesson once a week to prepare.
Once they have completed their level 2 course they progress to level 3 which is A level equivalent.
There are other qualifications that are equivalent to GCSE Btecs/ National Diploma etc.

I think the main thing is he chooses what he wants to do and there is no rush for this.

SealSong Sun 02-Oct-16 17:46:43

OP, glad to hear that his mental health is much better. It didn't come across like that in your earlier posts hence why I posted, but thanks for updating me. Re the CBT, it is the best initial treatment for anxiety, that's why it will have been offered.

ReturnfromtheStars Sun 02-Oct-16 23:49:59

Sorry, nothing to do with original question, but would he like to take up a sport? He is just the right age to learn a new sport.

Waitingfordolly Fri 07-Oct-16 09:50:23

We sound in a similar situation to you. I took DD out of school because of her mental health and we are still finding our way. It's hard. We are just starting slowly with GCSEs, with just one or maybe two that she likes and feels confident with. I don't think there's much point doing the whole range that she'd do at school, so we will probably aim for around five or six to keep her options open. I know theoretically that she could do them at anytime but it is difficult not to feel she needs to "keep up" with her old friends (and the bullies that meant we have ended up here).

BarbarianMum Thu 20-Oct-16 16:29:16

<<A level two requires no GCSE's to attend, irrespective of subject.>>

You may not need GCSE's everywhere but you can't just enroll on an A level course with no or little background in the subject and expect to just pick it up as you go along - there is already a jump between GCSE and A level in most subjects. And if the stress of GCSEs is insurmountable, the stress of A levels won't be any better.

That said there is certainly no great rush and of course the OP's son's mental health is more important than being on the same "track" as everyone else.

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