1. Make the big decisions first
Don’t get caught up in discussions about subjects and exam boards before you consider as a family what you want to do about exams. You don’t have to do IGCSEs at all. Some families opt to walk a different path – either doing alternative qualifications or none at all. For many of these families, their children will go to college at 16 and opt into English and maths GCSEs and BTECs. The big thing here is to discuss with your children what they may like to do in the future – and future here is simply defined as what they want to do at 16 and then 18. Now in truth, of course, most 13 year olds have little idea about what they want to do, and even less idea of how to get there. In this situation, the name of the game is simply keeping as many doors open as possible, and the reality is that doing at least a limited number of IGCSEs keeps more doors open than doing none.
2. GCSEs or IGCSEs?
GCSEs are what kids in schools do. IGCSEs are different – government-funded schools in the UK are not allowed to teach IGCSEs. Independent schools can offer IGCSEs and many do, because they prefer them to GCSEs. There are a number of GCSE subjects that home educated children will find it virtually impossible to sit exams in. This is because there are practical components of some sort that are required as part of the assessment or course of study. These include English language, geography, the sciences and modern languages. In these subjects, IGCSEs are effectively the only option. IGCSEs are regarded by the educational establishment as the equivalent of GCSEs – they will get your child into college and university just the same. CAiE and Pearson(Edexcel) both offer IGCSE courses.
3. Find an exam centre
Assuming that you have decided to go down the IGCSE/GCSE route the first thing that you absolutely need to do is find exam centres that will accommodate your needs. This might seem like a weird thing to put at near the top of the list, but without an exam centre you will get nowhere. The sad truth is that there have been hundreds of home educating families who have learnt this the hard way. Have a look at this wiki link which lists exam centres that have helped families in the past. Ironically, the availability of exam centres is likely to be a major influence on which exam board that you decide to go with. It is no good preparing children for CAiE IGCSE history when your nearest exam centre only offers Pearson and the nearest CAiE centre is 150 miles away!
Get in touch with exam centres, explain your situation in as much detail as you can; it is vital that you mention if your child is going to require access arrangements.
Try to get confirmation by email that the exam centre will take your child for the subjects that you are considering in the exam sessions that you want.
Finally, have a plan B. Once you have found your exam centre, spend some time looking for another – just in case your first exam centre changes their mind.