By Emma White 18th October 2019
So how much does it cost to home educate a child?
The truth is Home Education can be as expensive or as cheap as you like; it depends on your needs and preferences as an individual – but effective education at home, where the objective is to pass exams, is never free.
For some parents, appointing designated tutors who come to the home offers the closest parallel to school learning. Alternatively, those who are willing to let go of the tried and trusted security of teacher led learning may opt for online lesson providers. The choice is vast and some are excellent and they vary in terms of what they offer; from virtual online textbooks to real teachers who will answer questions in real time. But they do cost and some charge per year rather than per subject.
In school, most GCSES are run over the two years of Key Stage 4 and the majority of school children will take between eight and 10 subjects. So if this was to be delegated to online providers at an average cost of £350 per subject per year – well that’s £3,500 – and could be far more, whilst this doesn’t include the cost of exam entry fees which average around £135 per GCSE subject. Compared to independent school education of course, this is a drop in the ocean. The reality is most children opt to take a few GCSEs at a time, from home and the cost is spread across three years or more. However whilst aiming for the perceived requirement of five GCSEs may be fine, it could also limit choice further down the road if your child enters the competitive scramble for a university place.
Remember too that once a parent subscribes to an online tutor they are in someone else’s hands – the tutor may well be in charge of the options and the topics chosen. This is important because one of the benefits of home education is the autonomy it brings. For example, my son was adamant that he wanted to study America 1820 to 1941 for his A’Level, above and beyond the other options available and was willing to read around the subject in preparation. The course we looked at would have meant that he had to commit to the Tudors – yet again. I love the Tudors but he’s not a fan! Being in control of these choices can make all the difference where chosen topic areas can be a deciding factor.
An increasing number of parents now opt for self managed learning. The main consideration here is time – time to put aside and join a child in their journey; and confidence – confidence that as a parent, it is possible to do a child justice. The upsides are firstly, this method is cheap – simply the price of the relevant student book which is a match for the course. Secondly, it promotes self learning – children readily adapt to finding out what they need to know and become familiar with the process of learning without the aid of a subject specialist – and finally, it yields excellent results and ‘ready made’ students who are primed for managing their own studies when they reach university. The average cost here is to allocate £30 per subject to include the price of a text book and perhaps a revision guide. Beyond the text books there is also YouTube which offers a bountiful selection of free educational clips covering every subject in great detail. Though don’t forget endless ink cartridges and paper as well as some notebooks, pens and folders maybe, plus the inevitable exam entry fees. This method worked for us – 13 GCSEs so far – 10 A*s and three As. Nothing less.
If exams are a distant objective, then a parent can afford the luxury of getting under the skin of each subject without the pressure of looming deadlines. When children find themselves lifted out of school in year 10 or 11, the pressure to yield results quickly and effectively means that tutoring may be a life-saver. For those who are midway through their GCSE studies and able to follow the route plan of a GCSE specification, they may well be able to thrive without tutor intervention.
Mark My Papers has grown to fill a gap between tutoring and working independently. For children whose studies are parent led, the comfort and reassurance of having work marked by an official and experienced examiner brings great peace of mind. Interpreting exam Assessment Objectives (AOs) is a skilled job and even with the best will in the world, unless the person marking is familiar with the latest requirements and fully confident of how to apply them, marking can and will be inaccurate.
Mark My Papers marks for many tutor groups and online providers too because it is accepted that anonymous marking is free from the unintended emotional bias that subconsciously affects the most diligent teacher (and parent). Considering the amount of work and time children and parents commit to home education, the cost of having a paper or essay marked is a small price to pay to ensure that each child has the best chance possible. The sensible option is to budget for regular marking during the academic year. Far better to know that progress is on target in the early days than reach the exam season and find there are knowledge gaps, technique problems and shortcomings which cannot be addressed at a moment’s notice.
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