How can you get science laboratory experience, or conduct practical science investigations, from home education? This page is for KS4 (GCSE-level) and beyond, with ideas for workshops, residential courses, and how to approach practical work from home-ed.
If you are considering taking Science A-levels from home and want to find out about the practical endorsement, please see our Science A-levels page , where you will find listings of exam centres which will do your science A-level practical assessment. Most of these will offer a course of classes or an intensive course to learn and then practice the skills required.
DIY Approach Edit
Many of the practicals recommended in GCSE-level syllabuses can be carried out at home; it is surprising how much can be done with relatively little kit, but you may also find that equipment is often affordable. Some home educators get together to form science practicals groups, or hire a tutor to run some practical activities for a group. For more information, see our pages on Biology Practicals, Chemistry and Physics.
For those experiments which you are not able to carry out at home, there are many videos on YouTube. Many school chemistry classes use videos rather than hands-on practicals for a reasonable proportion of the syllabus.
You can get most chemicals and equipment you need for IGCSE level, in small quantities, on eBay. See our Biology Practicals page for some specific biology supplies - eg Visking tubing, bacterial cultures, agar plates, microscope recommendations etc.
Kitchen Chemistry on eBay sells small quantities of chemistry kit spares.
See also the following suppliers of equipment and/or chemicals which have been recommended by home educators:
- Rapidonline - great for electronics and general lab equipment, glassware etc.
- Philip Harris - good for small quantities of Dialysis tubing
- Sci-Mart will split packs for home educators seeking small quantities.
- Betterequipped.co.uk good for equipment and experiment kits.
Workshops and Events Edit
Workshops are held by some companies, universities and charities to give children hands-on laboratory experience. Search your local university's website for "STEM KS4" for instance, or "laboratory workshops GCSE".
Some are listed here; if you know of others, please add a comment.
London: The Royal Institution L'Oreal Young Scientist Centre has workshops which involve practical lab work for different age groups. London home-ed groups regularly organise school sessions there, but you can also book as individuals during their Summer School, for instance.
Birmingham - Femtinos : workshops aimed at the GCSE and IGCSE science syllabuses.
University of Wolverhampton STEM Outreach can provide GCSE-level workshops for groups.
Salford University Chemistry Club - a wonderful opportunity: "Sponsored by BASF Chemicals, I and my postgraduate students have opened-up the university’s chemistry teaching laboratories to GCSE Yr 9,10,11 and A-level/BTEC Yr 12,13 students to promote and enthuse all of the merits and delights of chemistry! Practical classes covering the strands of the chemical sciences (biochemical, analytical, inorganic and organic) are held on a rota basis between 10 am and 1 pm on selected Saturday mornings. There is no charge to attend at all and this is an unique chance for young people to discover what the chemical sciences are in their function and gain valuable laboratory skills."
University of Central Lancashire Young Scientist Centre - run workshops in collaboration with the Royal Institution and modelled on their London Young Scientist Centre. You can make a group booking, or book individual children in during events in school holidays: "The centre is a state-of-the-art lab used to deliver interactive workshops, allowing young people to creatively explore science. It is the first national branch of the YSC outside of London and it is a beacon for science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) in Lancashire. At the UCLan and Ri YSC we aim to provide a facility that will help inspire and engage the scientists and engineers of the future. ..We run a wide range of STEM workshops for students aged 7-18 years. With a capacity of 30 for most of our workshops you can bring along a whole class to take part in our fun, interactive and curriculum-linked sessions. "
Please contact the YSC Manager Dr. Liz Granger for more information: Email: email@example.com Telephone: 01772 894 286
BioGrad Laboratories in Liverpool - do A-level science laboratory sessions and will arrange GCSE-level workshops if you get in touch with them. They are keen to work with home educators.
Queen Mary's University of London - Engineering, Medicine and Dentistry workshops for 16-18 year-olds.
Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition in London - hands-on activities, demonstrations and opportunity to talk to scientists about their work
Keep an eye out for events like The Big Bang Fair - Young scientists and engineers event. Good chance to play with some expensive equipment!
Some tutorial colleges and Further Education colleges offer practical science courses, although these are most often aimed at A-level students - eg in London, Campbell Harris A-level Chemistry evening course
Evening Classes - in some areas you can study GCSE-level science at an evening class. While these classes are usually aimed at adults, some colleges will let a child attend if a parent enrols alongside them. Check how much laboratory experience they will offer within the course, and what range of grades the class is targeting, as some will be targeted only on a grade 4 or 5 (old Grade C).
Smallpeice Trust (Engineering, short residential courses) Smallpeice Trust - highly recommended by several home educators. A variety of workshops, usually held at universities.
University of Kent Space School Astronomy weekends for 11-18 year-olds - several in August and some at other times.
Mission Discovery - Space and STEM Summer School in London.
"Secondary school students from ages 14 - 18 get to work with NASA Astronauts, rocket scientists and NASA personnel for a week. Mission Discovery works off a first-come first-serve basis. There is no selection process, giving everyone equal opportunity to get involved. In teams, students will propose an idea for their own scientific experiment; the best idea will be launched into space and carried out by Astronauts aboard the International Space Station."
Space School at the University of Leicester Residential courses for ages 13-15 and 16-18.
Forensic Science Weekend at University of Kent - held in April 2015, for 14-16 year-olds.
Headstart engineering and technology residentials , including the Inspire girls-only course for engineering, science, maths etc. Aimed at Yr 11 and Yr 12, ie approx age 16 and 17.
"Students spend three days and two nights at the Host University, staying in the University Halls of Residence, and using the laboratories. They carry out new, exciting experiments, and have the chance to delve into areas of chemistry that are perhaps not covered at school. Further background information is presented through entertaining lectures and (often noisy!) demonstrations. In the evenings, practical work in the labs is put on the back burner, and students enjoy a variety of social activities."
Home-ed parents can nominate children in the same way that schools can, and several home-ed children have highly recommended these camps in the past. Students should be in Year 10, ie aged 14-15; not sure if there is any flexibility on this. They also run the Salters Festival of Chemistry for younger children.
Summer Schools - some science practical options on this listings site.