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2021 grades for GCSE & A Level Home-Schooled and Private Candidates

Students who haven’t studied with an exam centre can now find somewhere to assess their work and award them a grade.

Following the decision to cancel the summer 2021 exams, Ofqual announced that in place of the terminal exam they would rely wholly on teacher judgement. This presents an obvious issue for teens (and adults) who are not in school or college. Ofqual were clear in their decision that private candidates would be able to get a grade (unlike 2020) but it was not clear how.

The Joint Council of Qualifications (JCQ) has published a list of centres that will accept private candidates. The deadline for entry is 26th April 2021 and so it is really important to get this sorted soon.

Using JCQ’s list to find a centre

Students who have not yet found an exam centre can enter their postcode, exam board and subject to find a suitable provider.

You can select a centre to find out more about how they will assess students and also whether they will claim DfE Private Candidate Support Grant or if they will be passing on the cost. You will still pay for exam entry as usual. This grant is to cover the cost of the additional, evidence gathering work centres have to complete. To enrol, you should contact the centres directly.

And remember that all-important 26th April 2021 deadline!

Am I a private candidate?

Simply, if you’re studying for an exam and you’re not doing it through a school or college then ‘yes’. Specifically JCQ classes private candidates as students who are:

  • school-age and have been home-educated;
  • adults who have studied independently;
  • studying with a distance learning provider which does not offer exam entry;
  • studying an additional subject outside of school or college;
  • returning to school or college to resit a qualification.

How will private candidates be assessed?

Private candidates will be assessed along the same lines as school-based students. That is to say that the grade will be based on a a range of evidence.

Exactly what will or could form evidence will largely depend on the centre and you should check with them. The difficulty will be that there is no relationship with a teacher to be able to cherry-pick work or tests that reflect the grade. Some centres may be happy to accept pre-existing evidence (e.g. marked by a tutor). However, in many cases, centres may require private candidates to sit Exam Board provided test assessments. Centres may request supervision for this work.

These future tests are of course complicated by the fact that a student will only be assessed on the content they have covered. This is an interesting idea for home-schooled students who’s self-directed learning will doubtless mean they have covered most if not all of the specifications. This is something that you will discuss beforehand with the centre.

Can private candidates appeal?

Yes. The same right and route to appeal apply to private and school-based students. Remember that this is about correctly following the procedure in the first instance and then correct application of teacher judgement. This is always going to be a tricky situation for home-schooled students. It is unlikely that not performing as well in the centre arranged evidence as they would normally, will count.


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