Art qualifications are difficult for home-educated students to access, because both GCSE and IGCSE Art and Design have practical elements. Few exam centres will take external candidates for this, but some that we know of are listed on this page. There are alternatives. If you want to take art at college, you can build up a portfolio and consider taking the Trinity Arts Awards, or there is an option to obtain a Level 2 Certificate in Art and Design through distance learning; details of all these are below. In some areas there are part-time college schemes for home-educated children aged 14-16, and art is sometimes available this way.
If you are new to taking exams from home education, please read the Quick Start Guide first. Once you've got up to speed, please Join the HE Exams community to get support from fellow home-educators. There is a Facebook group: Home Education UK Exams & Alternatives, and an email group, the HE Exams Yahoogroup.
GCSE Art requires coursework to be produced under controlled assessment conditions. As such, it is difficult for home educators to do. There are a few centres where it is possible - if you know of more, please mention them in the comments or click the Edit button and add here.
Sometimes you can access GCSE art through an adult-education college or specialist art college. Sometimes your local home-ed group will know about an art tutor who has a special arrangement with a school which allows them to take a group through GCSE art. For small groups it helps to ask around to find out about the tutor's approach and/or have a trial class before signing up as the amount of work required for art GCSE, and the critical feedback necessary, means the relationship between student and art teacher can be more important than with other subjects.
There is now only one option available to private candidates who wish to take IGCSE Art, as Edexcel have discontinued theirs for UK external candidates.
CIE IGCSE Art and Design (0400) - the current syllabus is available for exams until November 2019. Note: For 2020 exams onwards the syllabus will have 50% compulsory coursework. The new syllabus states that it is not available to private candidates (although exam centres can still enter you as an internal candidate at their discretion, eg if you are receiving some tuition there). It will become much harder to find an exam centre willing to take this on.
The current syllabus includes a compulsory 8-hour controlled test, plus another option. More details in the syllabus - p8 explains the options for private candidates.
The broad areas of study are:
- painting and related media
- three-dimensional studies
- photography, digital and lens-based media
- graphic communication
- textile design.
The syllabus says that candidates can respond using any of the media above, but in practice you may find that an exam centre will limit your options to those which are practical for their premises, eg some restrict it to drawing/painting only.
Comments from home educators:Edit
"Yes the CIE Art and Design can be done as an external candidate if you choose the exam-only (with prep boards) option. However,it's not easy or cheap to find exam centres willing to take practical exams, particularly 2 x 8-hour exams, like this. The centre will need to have a room with a sink, power points, large desks to work on, and have a large enough safe on-site to hold all the artwork (which might, for example, include life-sized sculptures!) You might also need to book an additional session after the exam for students to photograph larger pieces and/or mount work. We did the syllabus as a group and used the art room of a local Montessori school to sit the exams during half term. In schools each exam would usually be broken into 4-hour sessions, but this isn't always possible for schools to accommodate. An 8 hour exam with only a half-hour break makes for a long day!
As with most arts subjects, the syllabus is quite woolly. We spent quite a bit of time combing through examiner reports and I would advise doing the same: similar topics tend to come up every few years. There's not a lot of help online, except for examples of 'perfect' work (disheartening if your child isn't producing anything near it!). It helps to have a tutor who is familiar with the IGCSE syllabus as the emphasis seems to be somewhat different to the GCSE. The design part, in particular, requires a different approach to the art part of the syllabus, so having a few sessions with someone experienced in the design process would also be helpful...
The student has 8 weeks to produce their prep boards, and then there are 2 x 8hr exams - one for art, one for design. The biggest hurdle is probably finding an exam centre that will let you do the exams. You'll also need to book some additional time at the centre, outside of those 8 hours, for photographing 3D work/mounting work on site.
Student Art Guide We found this site helpful.
Online College of Art and Design (www.artcoursework.com) offer a distance learning course for IGCSE Art and Design, but they do not arrange the exam centre for you; you still have to sort that out yourself. See reviews under Level 2 Certificate / Btec Equivalent in Art and Design. Note that the relevant page on the OCAD site does not (as of November 2018) reflect the recent change in the available IGCSE syllabuses - see above.
It can be very difficult to find an exam centre to take candidates for either GCSE or IGCSE Art, because of the Controlled Assessment. Here are some exam centres which home educators have used, or tutors who arrange their own exam centres. Such is the scarcity of art exam centres, sometimes people travel long distances and stay overnight near the exam centre. Some centres that are known to offer art are listed on this page. However, do check your local exam centre listings too - look on Finding An Exam Centre and also ask on your local home-ed groups. If you find a new centre, please add it here in a comment.
Commercial exam centres may be prepared to offer GCSE or IGCSE art for a fee, even if they are not listed here. It's always worth contacting them to ask.
NB: Do make sure that you have an offer in writing, which states all exam fees, from the EXAM CENTRE, rather than an art teacher. A number of home educators have been caught out late on in courses when finding that an exam centre had not been secured at all.
The Rosetta Art centre, Newham, London , will commence teaching gcse art and design classes early March on Mondays 1.15pm - 3.15pm. The centre will deliver 36 sessions leading to gcse edexcel art and design and students will sit the exam at the centre in summer 2017. The total cost of this course is £465 and covers all 36 sessions, resources, exam fees. The centre is still accepting enrolments. This is the first time the centre is running the GCSE course (they are an accredited exam centre) they won't know if they will run the course next year until this intake is nearly finished. Trisha McCauley is the course co-ordinator if anyone wants to pursue directly, ring her at the centre.
Blackheath Conservatoire, London SE3 - GCSE art class for ages 13-18 . Can join mid-way through the term. It is an exam centre as well as providing tuition.
Safeschool, London SE9 - a home-education tuition centre which offers GCSE art (AQA board).
Hounslow TW3 - Cherry Hill Tuition does CIE Art and Design IGCSE practicals, and classes. Travelodge nearby. Fees for CIE IGCSE Art (as of Jan 2018) : £300 for 1 exam + historical assignment submission, or £400 for two exams. Summer & autumn sittings available. Usually only 2D/fine art. No info on whether they will be able to facilitate the compulsory coursework component from 2020 exams onwards.]
Sydenham SE26 - Pippa Stacey runs GCSE Art classes for home-educated students and arranges exams for her own pupils.
Wimbledon - Tutors & Exams - CAIE IGCSE Art and Design.
Coventry : Tutors and Exams- CAIE IGCSE Art and Design. Fees (as of Jan 2018): £250 for the two-exam option.
Bolton - Tutors and Exams - CAIE IGCSE Art and Design
Trinity Arts AwardsEdit
The Trinity Arts Award Scheme offers arts qualifications at Level 1, Level 2 (GCSE-level) and Level 3. They can require a lot of work, but can be a great project for a group or an individual. Many home-educated children have taken them. From the Arts Award site, a description of the Silver Arts Award:
"Silver Arts Award, a Level 2 qualification, has two units – Unit 1: arts practice and Unit 2: arts leadership. Doing Silver involves achieving an arts challenge, reviewing arts events, researching artists and arts organisations, and delivering an arts leadership project with other people. Young people need to plan their work with an adviser and keep a record by creating their own Arts Award portfolio. Young people can pick their own style of portfolio – this could be a diary, video, website blog – or something different altogether. Silver is available to young people aged 11 to 25. There are no entry requirements or set time limit for completing Silver Arts Award. It will take young people around 60 hours to complete their Silver award."
Are Arts Awards GCSE equivalents? Edit
Trinity Arts Awards are qualifications which are accredited by Ofqual at levels 1-3. This means that their difficulty is accredited at these levels, although they are a different size from GCSEs and A-levels. The size is measured in terms of teaching time ('guided learning hours) and, for Level 3, in terms of UCAS points for university entry. For instance, the Silver Arts Award is accredited at 60 Guided Learning Hours, while a GCSE is 120 - so a Silver Arts Award demonstrates ability at higher GCSE level, and is worth roughly half a GCSE.
- Bronze Award is Level 1 - the same standard as a GCSE grade 1-3 (D-G)
- Silver Award is Level 2 - the same standard as a GCSE grade 4-9 (A*-C), but half the teaching time.
- Gold Award is Level 3 - the same standard as A-levels, with UCAS points equivalent to a grade B at AS-level or half a grade C at A-level.
Arts Awards are similar to other Ofqual-accredited alternatives to GCSEs like music grades or ECDL (in use of computer software). They demonstrate your ability at GCSE level or above, and as such they may help you get onto a college art course which normally requires, eg, GCSE art, which you may not be able to do from home education. However, colleges may not count these qualifications towards the total number of GCSEs in their entry requirements, because they're not the same size as a GCSE. They may, or may not, count them towards entry to study other subjects. It is important to talk to any colleges you're thinking of applying to and asking them to confirm their policy on this in writing.
Comments from Home - Ed Arts Awards providers: Edit
Here are some explanations and advice from home educators who have their own businesses providing distance learning support for Arts Awards. Please note that comments have been edited for brevity and consistency.
Kate Pavey - Arts Award advisor Edit
Can you use Silver Arts Award to build a portfolio?
Silver Arts Awards is a great qualification which is essentially more about challenge and leadership than anything else. The student could have a challenge which would necessitate her building a portfolio, which might help her focus her ideas. However she would also need to do the leadership and all the other bits and pieces to complete the award, all of which could of course be tied into building that portfolio.
The portfolio could be part of her evidence for doing the award. It could show her progress though the award. The important point here though is that the portfolio in itself would not be enough. There needs to be a specific challenge - for example: producing a picture in mixed media. Her portfolio would then be all the evidence leading up to that - bit like a GCSE portfolio.
In silver it's the process that process that's marked rather than what is produced. It awards autonomous working which is why I really like the awards. The important thing will be whether the student achieves the challenge she sets herself and even if she failed - it would be about her evaluation of that process.
So for example my own daughter did pottery for her challenge. She wanted to be able to throw well enough to make a tall vase. The reality was that this was far more difficult than she realised and she had to be content with a small vase - but it was the evaluation that was important. Her portfolio consisted of drawings and photographs. The photographs were of her many attempts to throw and experimenting with different glazes etc.
It's also important to say that silver is a level 2 qualification and the student needs to be working at GCSE equivalent standard to do this award adequately. I find most are ready at about 14yrs.
Do you need to do Bronze before taking Silver?
You don't need to do the Bronze award before taking Silver. Bronze is a great qualification too, but I'd say it depends on the young person as to whether it's worth doing it. It's an interesting fact, that most people who do bronze and silver never go on to do Gold and most people who do Gold have never done bronze or silver.
Carol Leach - Arts Award Initiative Company Edit
Arts Awards are not GCSEs and they are not A levels; they are a different kind of qualification with a different focus. All these qualifications are focussed on learning about different art forms and media and all levels of the Arts Award focus on expanding and enhancing art skills and understanding. However, they do so in slightly different ways to GCSE/A levels.
1. Subject matter varies much more with Arts Award, you can learn about any art form or media as it encompasses everything which can be called ‘art’ - and at AAI we have seen just about all the different art forms there are, from fire juggling, oboe playing, jazz dance, cake decorating, and illustration.
GCSE/A level Art focuses on expanding an understanding of art and artists.
Arts Award allows young people to focus on the art skills they value the most and gives them practical qualifications for the work they would have done anyway whilst following their passions.
2. Although Art is the foundation for this qualification, and art skills are explored at Discover, Explore and Bronze level, and progressed at Silver and Gold level, Arts Award has a different depth of learning. Particularly, when taking Silver and Gold Arts Award, you study specific art forms/media in depth and you learn a lot about how artists in your field work in the community - it is, therefore, a very practical qualification for a young person who wants to work in any artistic profession and some professions, such as illustration, value this deeper understanding of the artistic community and the way it communicates with the world.
When taking GCSE/A levels you study a greater variety of art forms and media, and you learn many art skills at a basic level (although if your course is well led you may become a master of some).
Arts Award allows you to specialise.
3. When Arts Award was conceived it was granted its accreditation as a qualification different to GCSE/A level for the strength of the researching, reviewing and reporting skills which the student learns. Hence it is a valuable qualification to take if you want to learn skills for life - and many students use it to get into professions which value these skills - not just the practical arts such as illustration, architecture etc. but others such as science, teaching etc.
GCSE/A levels are obviously best suited to those who want to study fine art etc, but some young artists have complained that they knew nothing about their profession after taking GCSE/A levels.
To clarify ‘points’, there is a file containing the most up to date information from Trinity which compares them as qualifications, on the fb page mentioned below.
Please be aware, not all Colleges/6th forms will accept an Arts Award in lieu of a GCSE/A level because the content is different. If you are taking an Arts Award because you want to take a specific course you MUST speak to your course administrators in advance.
from Carol Leach, Director Arts Award Initiative Company Limited
There are many ways to take an Arts Award, and they are endlessly accessible to all home educated students, mainly via online courses. To chat to people who have taken these Awards please feel free to join the Home Ed Arts Award forum on Facebook:
The Arts Award Initiative group is led by Carol Leach, who was a Moderator (examiner) for several years before discovering she prefers being an Adviser. Her company Arts Award Initiative was set up by her with advice from Senior Trinity Management, and is focussed on Home educated students. She offers workshops and meet ups around the country and she offers all levels of the Award, online. Her daughters, who were all home educated at some time during their education, work with her, Michaela was the first person in the country to offer Discover and Explore; Abi worked with Trinity as part of the Trinity Youth Scheme; and the youngest, Ely, moderated at Gold, Silver and Bronze at age 11 and now helps with all meetups and freebie days and volunteers at The Hub on the High Street, Crawley on their free Arts Award scheme. Carol offers study packs which were designed specifically for home educated children by her and Alice Young (former CEO of Arts Award), and updated annually with Julie Neville (Trinity trainer). These online study packs focus the work, minimise time spent creating a portfolio, leaving more time for actual learning, and they ensure a pass first time. They are especially suitable for young people who have difficulties creating a portfolio themselves for any reason as they can be completed by a parent/guardian typing from dictation by the student. To work with Carol and the girls, email: email@example.com.
Watch out for savings in the 'notbacktoschool' sales in September, and the group discount prices.
Sarah Cowley-Catchpole, CYAC founder and Arts Award Examiner: Edit
I have been an Arts Award Adviser since 2007 and home educator for what seems like forever!! I truly believe the Arts Awards are great, all of my 3 children have done mixtures of all 5 levels.
I set up a creative youth club so they could do the awards with friends and so we could apply for funding to do bigger and better activities. At CYAC, you can see some of the things we have done over the years here. CYAC has grown since then.
I have found that the Arts Award qualifications have really helped home educated young people gain entry to college as it shows a level of working comparable to GCSE, commitment and organizational skills, as well as showing off their creativity. I have had 16 young people go from CYAC into college on either level 2 or 3 courses, which is great.
You have to be registered with Trinity through Arts Award, once you have found an adviser linked to a centre they will register you, I offer distance Arts Awards so that is possible too.
Depending where you do your award, there are some costs fixed by Arts Award themselves to consider as well, these are ( at September 2017):-
Discover (5-25) £3.75 for moderation ( approx. 20 hrs guided work )
Explore (7-24) £12.75 for moderation ( approx. 25 hrs guided work, + 10hrs independent learning time)(Entry Level Award in the Arts (Entry 3)
Bronze (11-24) £5.50 for the kit & £23.00 for moderation ( approx. 40 hrs guided work, + 20hrs independent learning time)( Level 1 Award in the Arts equivalent level to a GCSE grade D-G)
Silver (11-24) £6.00 for the kit & £23 for moderation ( approx. 60 hrs guided work, + 35hrs independent learning time) (Level 2 Award in the Arts equivalent level not size to a GCSE grade A*C/ a short GCSE)
Gold (11-24) £6.50 for the kit & £40 for moderation (approx. 90 hrs guided work, + 60hrs independent learning time)(Level 3 Certificate in the Arts equivalent level not size to an A Level/ half an AS)(35 UCAS points)
The cost of taking part and accessing the guided learning from a trained adviser depends on where you go and who you choose, some are subsudised by local authority or school most are independant, so prices and time scale will vary nationwide.
Learning hours stated include times spent visiting places and taking part in art programmes, the actual hours spent on the portfolio can be minimised by a good Adviser.
They should all be recognized but I always advise my students to take the printed Arts Award qualification table and explanation to make sure, I also give them an Arts Award information booklet to leave at the college in case they are not familiar with the awards. The Gold Award now carries 35 UCAS point as well, which helps with Uni applications.
Trinity also do the Trinity Rocks music grades in popular music, they are great too, you can do them in bass, guitar, vocals, drums, keyboards and as a band grades 1-8, they are worth a look if your child is interested in music.
I hope some of this information helps you, let me know if you would like to know anything else, or to find out about remote Arts Award through CYAC...
What level would you recommend for age 12/13? Do you need to start with bronze/explore or can you go straight in to silver?
You can start at any level you think is appropriate there is quite a leap in work load and leadership skills but it depends on your child completely.
I think Bronze is a good place to start at that age it gives you a good idea of what is expected in terms of assessment and then you know what you need to do more of for your Silver.
Bronze is split into 4 very clear parts where as Silver is split into 2 larger parts the first personal development within a chosen art for and research into possible future plans, education and career paths, and a more detailed review the second part is a leadership project the aim is for it to take around 3 months-ish and this requires evidence of planning, execution, and finally feedback and review.
Level 2 Certificate / Btec Equivalent in Art and Design Edit
There is now a distance learning option for an accredited Level 2 award in Art and Design, from the Online College of Art and Design. The Certificate is awarded by ABC Awards, and is Ofqual-accredited at Level 2. This means it is the same difficulty as a GCSE, but usually will be a different size - see Are Arts Awards GCSE Equivalents? above. OCAD offer a distance learning course with no exam, so as with the Arts Award, this could be a good way to build up your portfolio and the certificate itself may help you to be accepted onto a college arts course later. However, you cannot rely on it being accepted as a GCSE equivalent.
OCAD also offer a distance-learning course to prepare for IGCSE Art & Design, but do not arrange the exam centre or coursework accreditation for you - so anyone using this option needs to find an exam centre for themselves.
Comments on OCAD from home educators: Edit
"My daughter is doing their level 2 "BTEC equivalent" course. The resources and lessons are excellent. It uses exactly the same resources and live sessions as the IGCSE, but there is no exam. No guarantee it will be accepted like a GCSE, but a good way to build up a portfolio." - N.
"We've done the first year of the OCAD CIE IGCSE course so far, and have been really impressed. There are a lot of resources, the course seems thoroughly planned out and the teacher is excellent. My daughter has learnt a huge amount this year and is doing art that she would never have been doing left to herself." "It is quite a big time investment if you want to make the most of it; you could easily spend all week on it! I remember the teacher saying she knew that some people only had a couple of hours a week for art homework, but I can't see how you could do it effectively in that. However, my impression is that everyone says this about GCSE art, regardless of where they're studying. OCAD doesn't sort of the exam centre - you have to do that bit yourself." - M
"Lots of online resources, videos, tutorials, and Iive lessons. Not all the lessons are of interest to my DD, but so far I've been quite impressed with the variety of what is on offer. We have access to all the past lessons and resources, too." - NM
"My son has just completed this course. It leads to ABC level 2 award and is Ofqual regulated. It is a very comprehensive course and there is a lot of tuition time included in the cost. In our second year, we have also had a lot of 1:1 advice, skype calls, messages etc. to support final project. It has been a lot of hard work and he has built up a good portfolio. Although there is obviously a need to consult with individual colleges regarding acceptability, my feeling is that having evidence of following this highly structured and varied course should be a positive factor in negotiation. Alternatively, there is the option to continue to Level 3 with OCAD if you wish...We originally started it when my son came out of school in year 9, having just opted to take art, drama and music as GCSE options and we were looking for best alternatives that could realistically be achieved while HE. At that stage, he was looking to progress to a creative subjects at A level (at college) and although that plan has now changed, this course has helped him achieve a balance of qualifications, should he wish to change direction again in the future." - RO
Is it structured with deadlines, or self-paced?
"There are set tasks to work through at your own pace, plus a huge amount of self-access resources - OCAD tutorials and video lessons, plus links to other YouTube videos and online resources. The student is expected to submit work regularly to their study platform for tutor feedback (and will be nagged if they don't, so I'm told!) There are also twice-weekly live lessons with the art tutor. The lesson content is not specifically connected with the set tasks, but can be techniques or artist studies which can help towards the tasks or the final project, or just done on their own merit. The "btec" course and the IGCSE course use exactly the same resources and the same tutor and live lessons. lessons are recorded so the student can watch them again, or if they missed them. If a student followed all the links and did all the tasks and live lesson art projects, they could easily spend 15 hours+ a week doing it. (My DD is more selective and only spends around 5-6 hours a week on it)."
"I'd say allow at least 4-5 hours a week, on top of the 2hours of live lessons for the level 2 "btec equivalent". A friend's daughter was spending close to 10 hours a week. The "btec equivalent" is over two years. You can compress it into less time, but the submission of the final project for external marking only happens once a year, so you might finish the course and then have to wait to submit it. "
"If you're looking at their 2 year IGCSE course, do be aware that the IGCSE art syllabus is changing. Autumn 2019 is the last sitting for the current syllabus. After that, the syllabus is 50% coursework, which will make it very difficult to arrange as an external candidate." - NM
Free online tutorials
Loads on YouTube - here are some recommendations:
MOOCs - Massive Open Online Courses, on platforms such as Futurelearn, Coursera, EdX, Alison etc. Some free, structured art courses available.
The Virtual Instructor - free art lessons and tutorials.
Mrs Kunstler's Classes - Free complete high school artcurriculum - also offers classes etc
Free art and design softwareEdit
Suggestions from one Son of the HE-Exams List:Edit
GIMP <http://www.gimp.org/> ("GNU Image Manipulation Program") is a free
competitor. Given, yes, it isn't as powerful as the Adobe suite, but it has
some unique features. With Gimp you can also draw and paint.
Google's Picasa <http://picasa.google.co.uk/> is useful for slight
adjustments and cropping, it is very easy to use.
Recently, Adobe released their old [http://www.adobe.com/downloads/cs2_downloads/index.htmlCreative Suite
2] for completely free (this IS legal, don't worry). This is good if you want to check out what sort of things the software
There's also Photoshop Express<http://www.photoshop.com/tools/expresseditor>,
which is online. (You don't even need to download anything.)
Remember that actually being good at taking photographs is a good start,
Again, Adobe Illustrator <http://www.adobe.com/uk/products/illustrator.html> is
popular for a lot of artists, but there are more free drawing programs than
you could shake a very, very long stick at.
My favourite is MyPaint <http://mypaint.intilinux.com/>, a little-known
piece of software that deserves way more attention. With MyPaint you can,
well, paint... but it actually simulates the mixing of paint in a realistic
manner, should you want it to. It has a load of drawing/painting tools for
you to use. Some are based on real mediums, such as pastels, and pencils.
Others are more digital-art orientated.
For more of a solely painting package, Krita <http://krita.org/> is pretty
good. There's Paint.NET <http://www.getpaint.net/>, too. Although I get
irritated of all the different windows.
Another that I also enjoy is Livebrush <http://www.livebrush.com/>. With
Livebrush you can draw some really interesting patterns, as well as some
very stylized art. Its main feature is that it draws in vectors, meaning
that you can make the image as large or small as you'd like, and it doesn't
lose any quality.
Alchemy <http://al.chemy.org/> is pretty interesting, too. It focuses on
making really messy stuff with could be used as a base for drawings.
You can also draw online, rather than having to download anything. Check
out deviantART muro <http://muro.deviantart.com/>,
- 3D Graphics.*
This is where you're spoiled for choice. There are hundreds of 3D packages
out there, such as Cinema 4D <http://www.maxon.net/en/home.html>,
, 3DS Max <http://usa.autodesk.com/3ds-max/>, but since these are all
studio-quality, they have a studio-quality price tag. These programs can
also be incredibly confusing for people starting to look into the world of
3D art and design. There's lots free software in this area, though.
Google Sketchup <http://www.sketchup.com/intl/en/index.html> is a great
place to learn the basics. You can create whatever you can thin of using
basic shapes. The tools are incredibly easy to use, and newbie friendly.
Sketchup lacks the ability to make more organic shapes, since it is mainly
for product design.
That's where Sculptris <http://pixologic.com/sculptris/> comes in. It lets
you 'sculpt' a virtual model as though it was made out of clay. You can
also add colour to your sculpt. Consider it a step-up from Sketchup.
This is when we come to Blender 3D <http://www.blender.org/download>; the
best free software there is. Full. Stop. It is a serious competitor to the
paid software that I mentioned earlier, and in a lot of respects much
better. It provides tools for sculpting, animation, rendering and more, all
in one piece of software. Blender has most of the same features as its
high-end competition, but in a smaller, less over-the-top manner. It can be
a pain to start to learn, but there's more free tutorial sites for it than
I have fingers.