Free Play park meetup, all ages, various Nottingham parks, Thursdays

Date: Thursdays throughout the year.

Time: Late morning through afternoon – typically starting about 12ish, and finishing whenever the last few people decide it’s time to go. If it doesn’t rain, some people are usually at the park till at least 3pm.

Venue: Various green parks around the Nottingham area, especially the ones with good playgrounds, good public transport and toilets.

Age range: All ages welcome. There are plenty of “regulars” in the 1 to 7 age range and several around 8 to 12. Presence of teens is a bit more random – maybe ask first who’s coming, or look out for one of the “teens-ish meetups” instead.

Price: Free. (Exception: if it’s the cold part of winter, then we might decide to meet indoors a few times, and people would chip in a quid or two to pay for the space.)

Organisation: To get announcements of the week’s meeting point without being on Facebook, join the EMHE email list. Or if you prefer Facebook, join the Home Ed Free Play Facebook group. There isn’t one organiser responsible for these meetups – it’s more of an evolving tradition, with suggestions of “how about ____ next week?”

Booking: No need to book. However, if it’s at a park big enough to have different areas, and you don’t have a phone number for someone else there that day, it’s worth turning up within an hour or so of the start. That way, it doesn’t matter if people move on from the original meeting point after a while.

What to bring: Water bottles and snacks, plus sun hats, sun cream and/or umbrella! People often bring picnic food, and a blanket to sit on. Parents may want an extra jumper, in case it turns out the children don’t want to stop playing as the day cools down.

Access: Wheelchair access and toilet situation depends on the park. The Forest and Wollaton Park each have a “Changing Places” toilet. If you have a favourite park which you know works well for your family, feel free to suggest it.

What to expect if you’re new, and tips:

  • There might be a dozen families that week… or there might be more, or fewer.
  • Where you see parents sitting around or standing around, come and say hello. We’re a friendly bunch. If in doubt whether it’s us, just ask “Home ed free play?”
  • Some children run off straight away to play. Some take a while to settle in, and join in more as the time goes on. Some children stay close to their parents, e.g. if it’s their first time at this group, or they were tired that day, or if they’re just enjoying the conversation with the nearby adults. It’s fine for each child to socialise as much or as little as they want to.
  • If your child wants to join in with something but feels shy getting started, you’re welcome to ask around, to find a child who’s happy to include them and introduce them to others.
  • If you’re bringing a teenager who specially wants to meet other people their age, it’s worth checking beforehand whether it’s a week when other teens are planning to go. Other than that, don’t worry too much about whether there’ll be other children the same age and same gender. Compared to school, home ed socialising typically has a lot more mixing across ages.

Against a background of woodland, the words "Home Ed Free Play / All ages park meetups / Nottingham area".

Swimming lessons, Kimberley, Monday mornings

These classes are specifically for home ed children.

Date: Monday mornings starting 5 June 2017, all year round except for Bank Holidays and 2 weeks at Christmas.

Time: each class is half an hour, which includes admin time.

Beginners 9.30 – 10.00
Beginners 10.00 – 10.30
Intermediates 10.30 – 11.00

Venue: Kimberley Leisure Centre, Kimberley, Nottingham, NG16 2NJ. It’s next to Kimberley School.

Area: Kimberley is a few miles north-west of Nottingham City, on the Rainbow One bus route.

Age range: 5+.

Price: Direct Debit £18.75 a month, or block payment £57.50 for 10 sessions.

Trial lesson is free.

If you pay by direct debit, then the price also includes free swimming in any of the public sessions. (You also get free swimming in public sessions if you’re under 8 with a leisure card.)

Booking: Pay in advance. Either visit the leisure centre, or ring 0115 917 3366.

Organiser: Lauren Tavener at Liberty Leisure. Email: lauren dot tavener at liberty-leisure dot org dot uk.

Liberty Leisure swimming lessons page

Three grinning young children cling to a red board or red edge of a swimming pool, wearing swimming costumes. The background is water splashing up in the pool.

For the beginners, a fully qualified teacher will be in the water to help aid and assist. There will also be a fully qualified teacher on the poolside, instructing the lesson.

Access info:

Accessible building, accessible changing rooms, and a hoist to help wheelchair users into the pool. The lessons are smaller than mainstream lessons, which would be suitable for children with autism or learning disabilities.

Map showing Kimberley Leisure Centre:

(pointer is on the leisure centre building, despite the label which makes it look like part of the school)

Bigger version of map showing Kimberley Leisure Centre

Nearest bus stop: The bus is the Trent Barton Rainbow One along Kimberley Main Street. On foot from Main Street, the shortest route is to walk up Noel Street (almost opposite Sainsbury’s) and take the only left turn off Noel Street. Bus stops “Library” and “Nottingham Road” are on Main Street about equidistant from the turn-off up Noel Street.

Parking: there’s a car park right in front of the leisure centre. Arrive via Newdigate Street. To the right of the school frontage, follow small road to get to the car park and leisure centre. (On some maps, this small road is named as a continuation of Noel Street, but by car, it doesn’t join up with the other end of Noel Street, where it connects with Main Road.)

GCSEs etc for home ed teens: info event, Nottingham city centre, Wednesday 26 April

Note that New College Nottingham (NCN) and Central College are in the process of merging as Nottingham College – so although the venue this time is NCN, the courses being discussed here include the ones pioneered by Central College in recent years.

Date: Wednesday 26 April 2017.

Time: 6pm to 7pm. Recommendation: allow extra time at the end for possible chatting.

Venue: NCN City Campus, The Adams Building, Stoney Street, Nottingham NG1 1NG. Main entrance is up a flight of steps from Stoney Street; there’s also a back entrance from St Mary’s Gate. Either way, go to reception, and someone from the team will be around to direct you.

Area: East side of Nottingham City Centre, in between Lace Market Square and Stoney Street.

Price: This info event is free, and the courses are also free (government-funded).

Booking: Please book in advance for this info event if possible. You can email centralchoices@centralnottingham.ac.uk, or call 0115 884 2278. This is also a good way to express initial interest in the courses. However, extra people turning up on the night wouldn’t be turned away.

Age range: The various courses are for young people age 13 up. The info event is open to all. (Some parents will probably bring their children to hear the info first-hand.)

These courses are all ones which young people can do while keeping their status as “home ed”. In that way, it’s different from registering at a school.

Courses for 2017-2018 will include:

Year 9 is the academic year where you start age 13 & finish age 14.
Year 11 is the one you start age 15 & finish age 16.

If you already know what you want to do, you can download an application form (PDF) online already.

(For more description of all the options, look out for another post which we hope to do soon. Here’s the explanation from last year to be going on with; that’ll be useful to explain the jargon terms and overall framework, even though some of the details are out of date.)

Photo of Adams Building, New College Nottingham. It's a large brick building which used to be a lace mill. In front of it is a courtyard. The view is across the courtyard, showing a little bit of nearby buildings as well.

Map showing the Adams Building:

Bigger version of map showing the Adams Building

Page about NCN City Campus.

Nearest tram stop: “Lace Market”, about 100 yards away. All trams running through the city centre stop here. Tram information.

Nearest bus stops: “Fletcher Gate” and “Broad Street” are probably the nearest, each at around 200 yards away; the Victoria Centre is about 500 yards away.

Parking: Lace Market car park is run by the City Council. Stoney Street car park is run by NCP. They’re both pretty close, within 200 yards; Stoney Street is maybe a little bit closer, but also more expensive.

Access: Flat access to reception is available from the St Mary’s Gate / Lace Market Square side of the building. At time of writing, the room for the event had not yet been finalised, so please check with the organisers that the room they’re booking would also meet your access needs.

Art: Nottingham city centre on Tuesdays, Bingham on Wednesdays

These groups are run by Sam of Altered Art, for home edders 8+. Optionally, this can be part of working towards Arts Award qualifications (in which case you’d also do other things, e.g. going to some kind of arts event and reflecting on it). Or you can just explore creativity in different ways.


Bingham on Wednesdays

Date: Wednesday afternoons, potentially all year round.

Time: Two groups, each one hour. 2pm to 3pm, and 4pm to 5pm.

Venue: Folks and Fables café, 37 Long Acre, Bingham, Nottinghamshire, NG13 8AF.

Area: Bingham is about 9 miles east of Nottingham, via the A52, or 15 mins by train.

Price: £5 per young person per week, payable in 5 week blocks after an initial trial session, if required.

Physical access: The room where the art happens is up a flight of stairs. The main café area is downstairs, and parents are welcome to stay there.


Nottingham on Tuesdays

New group, starting soon. (The Bingham groups have been running a while.)

Date: Tuesdays, middle of the day, potentially all year round.

Time: 11am to 1pm.

Venue: The Dice Cup Café, 68-70 Mansfield Rd, Nottingham, NG1 3GY.

Area: North side of Nottingham city centre, next to Victoria Bus Station and just slightly north of the Victoria shopping centre.

Price: £8 per young person per week (2 hours), payable in 5 week blocks after an initial trial session, if required.

Physical access: The Dice Cup has flat access. There is a toilet with flat access and a wide door, but without extra bars to help with transfer from a wheelchair.


Information which applies to both venues

Booking or enquiries: contact samalteredart at gmail dot com. Not everyone has to start their five-week block on the same week, so you can potentially start any time if there’s space.

Age range: 8+

For Bronze Arts Award it’s ideally 10 years plus but in my current group in Bingham I’m currently teaching 8 – 14 year olds. I’m happy to discuss with parents their young person’s individual needs. I am qualified to teach from 4-25 years old under the Arts Award scheme and have taught Primary age within schools and adults in the community.

More about the activities:

I teach creative arts. Not drawing and painting as such but experimenting with different mediums and using different techniques. I vary my classes depending on where the young people’s interest lies. I use a lot of recycling and eco friendly products. My group in Bingham have created handmade books using a variety of techniques, some scrap doll/creature/monster/robots and we are now working on a set of Artist Trading Cards to swap with each other! I provide lots of exciting and stimulating materials. I show the young people the techniques needed to complete a project but I encourage a lot of exploration and personal development. There is no “getting it wrong” with my classes and I aim to boost self esteem and self-directed creativity.

I enjoy teaching art to home schooled young people for a number of reasons, including smaller group sizes allow my attention to be more concentrated on each young person, there’s no need for a fixed “learning outcome” and the development of the art projects flow more organically to where a young person’s interest lies rather than, in my experience, where a school wants them to be taught. There are more details about my education background and arts experience on my WordPress site.

Access:

I am happy to accommodate any young person or parent with autism or any learning disability, the location is quite calming and I have a lot of experience with young people who are on the autistic spectrum.

Altered Art website

Altered Art on Facebook

A collage of several photos. The one in the middle has a flower made of fabric. On the left, a young child is making a collage of an owl. Only a glimpse of their face can be seen. Their hands are holding a small piece of something. On the right, an older child with long hair is smiling to the left, as if interrupted in the middle of doing something with a small tin and some kind of pink craft. Across all the photos are the words "Altered Art by S size-mediumam",.


Travel info for Bingham

Map showing Folks and Fables:

Larger version of map showing Folks and Fables

Train: Bingham railway station is about 470 yards’ walk.

Bus:

The bus from Nottingham to Bingham is the Rushcliffe Mainline, run by Trent Barton buses, available to pick up on Friar Lane or Broadmarsh bus station.

Rushcliffe Mainline timetable at Trent Barton

Parking:

There is a free car park 5 minutes walk away and often some onstreet parking in front of the café.

Travel info for Nottingham

Map showing the Dice Cup:

Bigger version of map showing the Dice Cup

Nearest tram stop: “Nottingham Trent University”, about 800 yards’ walk. All trams through the city centre stop here. Tram information.

Nearest bus stops: “Victoria Bus Station” (where many of the Trent Barton buses terminate), “York House” and “Victoria Centre”. Many of the Nottingham City Transport buses come to one or other of these stops; the ones which don’t, mostly have stops on or near the Old Market Square, about 700 yards away.

Nottingham railway station and Broadmarsh bus station are less than a mile away.

Parking: at the Victoria Centre car park (click link for prices).

Swimming lessons, Bramcote, Thursdays & Fridays

Lessons with Liberty Swim School. These sessions were set up specifically for non-school children.

Date: Thursday & Friday mornings throughout the year, except Bank Holidays.

Time: Half hour sessions through the morning.

Venue: Bramcote Leisure Centre (Liberty Leisure), Derby Road, Bramcote, Nottingham, NG9 3GF.

Area: Bramcote, on the A52 near Bramcote Park. West side of Nottingham, about a third of the way over towards Derby. Reachable by Trent Barton bus.

Age range: 4+ for beginners / foundation level. Tends to be 5+ for ASA levels 1-3, 10+ for ASA levels 4-6.

Price: £18.75 per month. Payment is monthly direct debit. It goes all year round because the lessons do too. Besides the lessons, this payment includes free swimming for the child at any other public session.

Booking: Book by contacting Helen Kirk, helen dot kirk at liberty-leisure dot org dot uk or 0115 917 3585.

Helen says “I am looking to put on more lessons to accommodate demand, so they may need to be patient with me.”

Bramcote Leisure Centre

Three grinning young children cling to a red board or red edge of a swimming pool, wearing swimming costumes.  The background is water splashing up in the pool.

Additional info via one of the home ed parents:

Swimming lessons for home ed kids in the area. Initially suggested by a home ed mum, they took up the idea, and it seems to be going well.

They follow the ASA stages, and the ability levels are

  • Foundation: never been in a pool before
  • Stages 1-3: starting to learn to swim independently, from 1-2m unsupported, to 25m by the end of stage 3
  • Stages 4-6: swimming widths of the main pool, progressing to swimming lengths of the main pool.

Classes are limited to 6 students.

There is a large seating area by the main pool where parents can wait, or a reception area downstairs.

The viewing area is NOT open to the public during lessons, except during the summer holiday when there is a disabled swim session in the main pool.

Map showing Bramcote Leisure Centre:

Bigger version of map showing Bramcote Leisure Centre

Buses: Heading west (from Nottingham), nearest bus stop is “Bembridge Court“, by the Sherwin Arms, stop ID “ntsadamd”. This is about 500 yards from the leisure centre as the crow flies. Trent Barton 18, 20, 21 and i4 stop here.

(Nottingham City Transport buses don’t run to this area – nearest is the Pink Line 30.)

Cars: Lots of free parking available at the leisure centre.

Coming from Nottingham on the A52 Derby Road, you’ll want to pass the leisure centre on your right, go round the next roundabout and double back onto the A52, as it’s a dual carriageway at that point. Then you can turn off left for the leisure centre.

Heading east (into Nottingham), there’s a slightly nearer bus stop, “Leisure Centre“, stop ID “ntsadama”. The i4 stops there.

Access info:

The leisure centre has good access for wheelchairs: lifts, a hoist into the pool if needed.

The main pool area is large, and can be very echo-y. The smaller teaching pool is less so.

Instructors sometimes change at the last minute, which some children find hard to cope with.

Fun Club, Stapleford, first Tuesday in the month

Fun Club is the main regular meet up of East Midlands Christian Home Educators Group. “Membership is open to all who are willing to respect the aims of the group and its Christian ethos.”

Date: First Tuesday in the month. No formal meeting in August, although a “park meet” is usually planned.

Time: 10am to 2pm, inc lunch break.

Area: Stapleford, west of Nottingham, close to the A52. (Exact venue intentionally not listed here.)

Age range: “An all age family event, with an upper age range of about 13 years in terms of activities planned but all are welcome. (Young people must be accompanied by an adult who remains responsible for them.)”

Price: First visit free, then membership subscription if you decide you want to join. Annual subscription is currently £40 per year per family, paid as two instalments of £20 – or check the membership details page for any updates.

Booking: Send email to express an interest. There may be a waiting list. When there’s space, you’ll be invited to visit.

Email: tuesdayfunclub at gmail dot com.

Web site: East Midlands Christian Home Educators main web site.

A group of about 20 children aged perhaps 3 to 13 stand in a circle in a large, bright room, holding the edges of a huge piece of fabric which fills the middle of the circle (possibly a parachute).  The fabric is slightly off the ground and is light coloured.  The children on the far side of the circle are facing the camera;  those nearer to the camera are facing away from it.  From the way the children are looking across at each other, it seems like something's about to happen - perhaps they're about to whoosh the fabric up into the air and some of them will run underneath.  On the left, also with their backs to the camera, an adult with long hair carries a small child and both are watching what's happening.

A monthly “hall meet” with a variety of activities planned by members through the year to meet the needs of the age range. Sometimes a “main” activity altogether, maybe with an outside provider (eg: mobile planetarium). Other times a variety of different activities, perhaps around a theme, run by members of the group. Usually start with a games session (2 age groups). Bring a picnic for lunch which we eat together. Afternoon tends to be more of a free play/self directed activities time – and a chat/cup of tea time for parents/carers! Christmas and Easter are celebrated. In summer we have a Sports Day at a local park.

More info here about a typical Tuesday meetup.

Travel info:

Easy access from A52 and M1.

On the i4 bus route from Nottingham and Derby.
On My15 bus route from Long Eaton/Ilkeston.

1/2 hour walk from the Toton Lane Tram Stop/park and ride.

Parking is unfortunately tricky: Best to examine google maps and look for possible “on-street” parking in the vicinity. A small amount of long stay parking in the council car parks – pay and display.

Access info:

The building is accessible on the ground floor where most activities take place. There is no lift to the upstairs rooms. The toilet for those with extra needs is a little small.

When everyone attends the group it is very “busy” and can be quite noisy: walking straight in could be quite daunting.

However we are very flexible and have ways of providing quiet spaces and alternative activities for children who need them.

Tap jam, city centre, Sunday 19 February

Date: Sunday 19 February 2017.

Time: Tap jam itself is 7pm to 9pm. Extra workshop at 6pm, optional.

Venue: City Arts, 11-13 Hockley, Nottingham, NG1 1FH.

Area: Hockley area, east side of Nottingham city centre. Venue is about 700 yards east of the Old Market Square, just north of the ice rink.

Age range: All ages – as long as young ones are able to cooperate with the atmosphere. So when it’s not their turn to dance, they’d either be watching and encouraging the other dancers, or entertaining themselves fairly peacefully, e.g. with a game or book.

Price: Entry to tap jam £6 / Free after 8pm / Free for under-14s. Loan of tap shoes included if you don’t have your own (if they have the right size for you).

6pm-7pm workshop with special guest Junior Laniyan is £12, or £8 for under-14s. Or £15 combined price for workshop and jam.

Booking: No need to book, just pay on the door.

Organiser: Jess Murray from the Tap Rhythm Project. This isn’t a home-ed-specific event, but Jess ran some tap dancing try-out sessions for local non-schoolers last year, which were much enjoyed 🙂

Text: Tap jam with live band! Sunday 19 Feb. Colourful background, mostly abstract shapes, including some music notes. "Tap Rhythm Project" logo in blue at the top.

Facebook page for the event

A Tap Jam is a place for tap dancers to improvise with musicians and other tap dancers. Everyone is welcome, whether to take part or simply to watch and enjoy. Tap Rhythm Jams are open to dancers of all levels of experience, from complete beginners to professional performers. We even have tap shoes that you can use for free if you don’t have your own!

About the tap improvisation workshop, 6pm – 7pm (additional cost)…

Special guest Junior Laniyan will lead a musicality and improvisation workshop before the jam starts. You can try improvising in a low key environment and learn some easy approaches to get you started.

Video clip of Junior Laniyan and Andrew Nemr dancing at the London tap jam in 2010

Video clip of Annette Walker and Jess Murray dancing at the London tap jam in 2010

(You don’t have to be amazing dancers like them to give it a go! Beginners welcome!)

City Arts “how to find us” page, including access info.

The tap jam will be in the ground floor space, which has a wheelchair-accessible toilet and flat access.

Nearest tram stop: “Lace Market”. Any tram through the city centre will stop here. Tram information.

Nearest bus stops: “Hockley” opposite the venue (all red or lilac line inbound buses), “Boston Street” 150 yards (all red or lilac line outbound buses), “George Street” 350 yards (which is on the “city loop” bus route, so turquoise line all buses, green line all buses, orange line number 34). Bus information.

Parking: “Arena” car park, Lower Parliament Street, 150 yards – or on nearby streets. Outside the venue you can only drop off or pick up, not actually park.

Leadership Academy at Nottingham City Gymnastics Club

Participants at Nottingham City Gymnastics Club who are 11 or older have the option of joining in with the British Gymnastics “MY Leadership Academy”.

Here’s a short video from British Gymnastics, explaining it (about 4 minutes)

The end of the video talks about sending off for info from British Gymnastics, but that’s what a club has to do if setting up the scheme. NCGC already has the scheme running, so the next step for an individual young person is tell the NCGC organisers that you want to do it, and they’ll tell you more.

British Gymnastics summary page about the Leadership Academy

Related info: NCGC runs four gymnastics sessions a week aimed at home ed young people. See earlier posts here (for times) and here (for more description). Or if you’re ready to book onto a series of sessions, just click through to the club’s booking page.

Logo for "MY Leadership Academy". It's just the words in white text on black background.

New home ed sessions at Nottingham City Gymnastics Club – now 4 days a week.

The sessions at NCGC are proving so popular, they’ve now added extra ones on Monday and Wednesday mornings. And the times for Tuesday and Thursday afternoons have changed slightly.

The times of home-ed-specific sessions are now as follows:

Monday 10am-11am “Structured” session
Monday 11am-12 noon “Unstructured” session
Tuesday 12.45-1.45pm “Structured” session
Tuesday 1.45-2.45pm “Unstructured” session
Wednesday 10am-11am “Structured” session
Wednesday 11am-12 noon “Unstructured” session
Thursday 12.45-1.45pm “Structured” session
Thursday 1.45-2.45pm “Unstructured” session

Other info about the club and sessions remains the same, so please see previous writeup. Or if you’re ready to sign up, just click through to the club’s booking page.

Nottingham City Gymnastics Club logo

GCSE & other courses for non-school teens at Central College, Nottingham

Update 2018: please note that this writeup is about the 2016-2017 academic year, so OUTDATED by now. Central College has since merged with New College Nottingham to form Nottingham College, and the GCSE courses are now at Stoney Street in the city centre, not in Beeston. Also, the assessment process has changed: to get onto a GCSE course you will have to pass a maths and English assessment comparable to what you’d have learnt in school by the end of Year 9. However, the overall structure is likely to be similar, so if you’re looking into exams & courses for non-school teens, it might still be useful in helping you get your bearings.


This write-up is about free (government-funded) courses available to “electively home educated” teens at Central College, Nottingham. It’s based on an info event which was held at the college on Thursday 5 May 2016, plus some follow-up conversations.

Thanks to Jo Edgerton, Choices Team Leader at Central College, who was immensely helpful in explaining the practicalities of all this and decoding the jargon!

Overview by school “Year”

Central welcomes home ed teens from Year 9: that is, age 13+.

This translates as: To start in autumn 2016, you’d have to have been born before 1 September 2003.

And if you want to start one of the GCSE courses in autumn 2016, you’d normally1 have to have been born before 1 September 2002.

(Likewise, the people starting in autumn 2017 would’ve been born before 1 September 2004, or 2003 for the GCSEs.)

Here’s a summary of what’s available for 2016-2017:

Age group Age at start Age at end Current options at Central For autumn 2016 start, birth date before
Year 9 13 14 Pre-GCSE Programme

In exceptional cases, GCSEs1

1 Sept 2003
Year 10 14 15
  • Pre-GCSE

  • GCSEs

  • Art & Design

  • Possibly an ICT course, only if enough people interested

  • For those with learning difficulties/ disabilities, “Horizons”.

1 Sept 2002
Year 11 15 16
  • Everything that the Year 10s can do.

  • Various other vocational courses, along with non-home-ed students from older years. These are known as “infill placements”.

1 Sept 2001

Each of these courses is one year long – or, really, about 9 months, from September to June. How many days a week varies depending on the course(s).

Once you reach “Year 12“, there’s a huge amount available, and nothing to stop you continuing on at the college then, or indeed at another college! But this explanation will focus on ages 13 to 16, as that’s when these options will be especially useful to home ed families.

Geography & travel

Central College has multiple sites across Nottingham.

View college sites on OpenStreetMap. (If you’re on a computer with a mouse and can do “hovering”, hovering over each pin shows which subjects take place there. Or see static screenshot version further down this page.)

The home ed GCSE and pre-GCSE courses are all at the Beeston centre, which has a tram stop and orange/Indigo bus stop outside its front door. (Shown slightly brighter pink on OpenStreetMap page.)

Vocational courses may be at Clifton, Highfields, Beeston, or in the city centre, depending on the subject – list of subjects and locations are summarised below.

Central’s page with info on public transport to each of the sites.

Where we fit in to the college

Most of the college’s 4,500 students are between 16 and 19. A small proportion, only about 230 students in total, is younger than 16. Older adults are also welcome.

Within the college, the “Choices” team runs both the home ed courses and some other ones. (A school might pay for a young person to come to the college instead of to school.)

As the college overall is “a post-16 environment”, the Choices team people have thought a lot about what adjustments to make for supporting and including under-16s. For example, if a young person doesn’t arrive at their class, the parent gets a phone call. There’s a pre-course questionnaire to help identify special educational needs and any particular social needs.

There’s a large team of pastoral support people (for all students, not only the younger ones). A key person for this side of things is Vicki Stockdale, Behaviour and Safeguarding Manager.

The home ed courses are now going into their third year. In the academic year that’s recently completed, 50-odd home ed children age 13 to 16 were studying there.

Home ed teens can take part either in the courses specifically set up for them, or, for Year 11, in selected other courses around the college.

In principle, you can mix and match the different bits available to your age group, although not every combination will work. The timetables are organised centrally by the college, not by the “Choices” team.

You can take part in any of these courses and still retain your status as electively home educated – as you’re not registered with a school.

Levels

You’ll hear talk of “Levels”, so here’s a handy guide.

Level Roughly equivalent to…
Level 3 ‘A’ level, though more practical, not as academic.
Level 2 A* to C old-style GCSEs, 9 to 5-or-4 (approx) new-style GCSEs.*
Level 1 D to G old-style GCSEs, 3-or-4 to 1 new-style GCSEs.
Entry Level 3  
Entry Level 2  
Entry Level 1  

* Apparently the “old” GCSE ratings are being abolished soon, and there’s going to be a new scale of 1 to 9, where 9 is best. There are more divisions in grades in the new system, and new-style 9 is intended to be even better than old A star.

To start a course at Central, except for the Horizons ones, you’d need to be at least at Entry Level 3 or above, in both Maths and English, as shown by the initial assessment. Or more, depending on which course you wanted to do.

Year 9s who aren’t yet at that level would be advised to come back a year later.

Year 10s or Year 11s who aren’t yet at that level could access the Horizons “LLDD provision”, where LLDD stands for “Learners with Learning Difficulties & Disabilities”.

Assessments, discussions, decisions

When you start, the decision of which course(s) to start on would be made by the young person, the parents/carers and the college, together.

The process goes like this:

  1. You put in an application form.

    Choices programme page, inc link to application form.

  2. The Admissions team put your details into their system and send you a letter. This letter is an invitation something like “Come and do your assessment at this time and date and place”.

  3. Everyone does two online assessments at a computer at the college, one for English and one for Maths.

    There’s no time limit; you work at your own pace. You can choose whether to do English or Maths first. Most people complete both within one to two hours.

    The type of assessment is referred to as “Functional Skills”. The questions are meant to be similar to something you might encounter in real life: for example, how much it would cost to buy your tickets for a day out, or whether a sentence makes sense. Usually it’s easy questions to start with, then getting harder as you go through it.

    For the maths, you might use the calculator that’s on the computer. You don’t need to bring anything.

    (College policy is that everyone takes the English and Maths assessments when starting a new course, whether or not they’ve got existing qualifications – even if they’ve already been at the college a previous year.)

    You get your results on the day, and a chance to discuss your next steps with a member of staff from the Choices team.

  4. Within a couple of weeks, you get another letter. In most cases, this will be to invite you for an interview.

    (For Year 9s who aren’t yet at Entry Level 3, it would only be to say “Please come back next year”.)

  5. At the interview, the young person, the parent(s) and the college staff discuss which course(s) will suit them best, taking into account…

    • Level of your English and Maths skills.

    • Age, because of age limits for some of the courses.

    • Social maturity – if a course would involve being put in a group with people older than you.

    • General readiness for the new learning environment, e.g. study skills / habits / experience.

      For example, some people could jump straight into GCSEs in terms of their age and academic level, but prefer to spend a year doing pre-GCSE to get settled into the college routine.

    • Where you’d like to be headed in future. For example, if you want to continue to ‘A’ levels in future, you’re likely to need five GCSEs at grade C or above, including your future-‘A’-level subjects.

    • Funding rules from the Government.

      A key factor is that the Government’s very keen for everyone to get English and Maths qualifications. The funding rule in that area is: If you do more than 150 hours at the college over the year, your programme of study at the college has to include English and Maths, unless you already have the GCSE certificate at C or above.

      In practice, that means you can do one GCSE at a time without going over the 150 hours. Two GCSEs, or one and something else, and the rule kicks in.

    • Timetabling – as some combinations could clash.

    • Available places. At Central, English and Maths GCSE have a maximum class size of 20. For the other GCSEs, and the pre-GCSE course, it’s 15.

  6. If you’re doing one of the vocational courses, you might also have another meeting, this time with someone leading that particular area, to decide which level class you’d start in.

  7. [I’m not sure where the “pre course questionnaire” comes in this process – to be confirmed!]

As some options will be irrelevant to some people purely because of age, let’s take it year by year…

Year 9 options

If you’re Year 9 age, you have one main option: the Pre-GCSE Programme, described in the next section. This takes three days a week.

In exceptional cases, it might be possible for a Year 9 student to instead start GCSEs alongside the older ones. The Choices team would only consider this if (a) the young person were already at Level 2 in both Maths and English Functional Skills, and (b) they were socially ready to join the older classes.

Pre-GCSE Programme

From the leaflet (PDF):

This one year programme is for students in Year 9‑11 and will provide students with the skills that they need to progress on to a GCSE or vocational full time programme.

  • Level 1 & 2 Functional Skills in English and maths

  • BTEC Level 1 Certificate in Applied Science

  • Tutorial Programme that includes: Personal and Social Development and Employability and Progression skills

For this one, you can’t pick and choose among the different bits. It’s either do the whole lot, all three days a week, or don’t do it.

For example, in the 2016 to 2017 year, the draft timetable said Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, starting at 9am and finishing at 2.30pm, or 3.30pm on Thursdays.

Although everyone’s in the same class, they’re not necessarily doing exactly the same activities. A typical pathway would be to do Level 1 Functional Skills over the first half of the year, then Level 2 over the second half. But if, say, it took you all year to do Level 1, or if you were better at maths than English or vice-versa, that’s fine too.

Year 10 options

In Year 10, you can choose from:

  • The Pre-GCSE Programme described above.

  • GCSE courses.

  • BTEC Level 1 Certificate in Art and Design.

  • Possibly an ICT qualification, if there’s enough take-up.

  • In future years, possibly an “Automotive” programme. The web page for this is still up at the time of writing, but apparently there hasn’t been enough interest to run it in 2016-2017.

GCSEs

The current GCSE options are:

  • GCSE English

  • GCSE Double Science

  • GCSE Maths

  • GCSE Psychology

  • GCSE History

Over the year, each GCSE equates to approximately three hours a week in college. Double science is six hours and gives you two GCSEs at the end.

Typically, each subject would be scheduled as a three-hour chunk with a break in the middle, one morning or one afternoon a week. (There are pros and cons to this scheduling: they’re aware that students aren’t always keen on the long session, but the up side is it’s then easier to schedule the rest of the typical non-schooler’s busy week.)

GCSE exams for “external candidates”

At the moment, the five subjects listed above are the only GCSEs on offer. The main limitation to offering more different ones would be having staff to deliver the courses, as most of Central’s provision isn’t GCSEs. It’s not very likely to expand in the near future.

However, the college does also offer a paid service for “external candidates”, i.e. people who’ve done the learning elsewhere and want somewhere to take an exam.

That’s known as the “Exam only service“.

Art & design half-day

New in September 2016 for Years 9 & 10 is the Art & Design course for home educated students. It’s a BTEC Level 1 Certificate in Art and Design.

You can do this course by itself. It would be one half-day a week, at the Clifton site. Or you can do it together with another course, as long as the combination meets the Government’s funding rules and doesn’t clash in the timetable.

Year 11 options

In Year 11, you can choose from:

  • Any of the things from Years 9 and 10 described above, if they’re at the right level to suit you, and/or

  • Joining in with older students on a selection of “intensive vocational learning” courses across the college.

The jargon word for becoming part of the older ones’ courses is “infill“. So that option is known as the “Year 11 Infill Programme”.

Year 11 Infill Programme

Here are the “Infill” options:

Subject Where?
Art & Design Clifton
Automotive London Road
Business & IT Maid Marian Way
Care & Early Years Maid Marian Way
Construction Beeston
Engineering Highfields
Photography Maid Marian Way
Science Maid Marian Way
Sport Clifton
Travel & Tourism Maid Marian Way

Map showing central college sites in Beeston, Stapleford, Clifton, Highfields and the city centre. Based on a screen shot from OpenStreetMap, as linked elsewhere in article.

(Click on map to see it full-size. Or to zoom in for local details, use original map from which this screenshot was taken.)

Each of these courses would be about two-and-a-half to three days per week.

They can run alongside GCSEs and/or half-day add-ons, if the timetables don’t clash.

The qualification could be e.g. BTEC, City & Guilds, CACHE, IMIAL or another industry specialist one, depending on the course you’re doing. For more about each specific course, click through from the list at Central’s page for people age 14 to 16.

These courses are divided by “levels” (as discussed above), where Level 2 is meant to be roughly equivalent to GCSE A* to C, and Level 3 is roughly equivalent to ‘A’ level.

Home ed students could potentially do Level 1, Level 2 or Level 3. Which level you started at would depend on a combination of…

  • English & Maths levels from your initial assessment.

  • Other qualifications you’d already done.

  • Maybe a portfolio, e.g. if the course were art or photography and you already had work to show.

  • Discussion with the course leaders.

  • Whether you’re 16 yet, for some Level 2 and Level 3 courses. (Level 1 would be available to all Year 11s.) There are various reasons why the organisation running a qualification – known as the “awarding body” – might set a minimum age for Levels 2 or 3. The Choices team have sometimes been able to get exceptions where a 15-year-old could participate, by talking to the awarding body for that particular course – depending partly on why the limit was there in the first place.2

Even within the same level, on these vocational courses there can be several alternative classes running at different times of the week. So if you apply to these ones together with a friend, you could find yourself in different classes. But if you were at the same level, you could put in a request to be in the same class – no guarantees.

Finding out more

If your question isn’t answered here…

  • You could ring the Choices team on 0115 884 2278.

  • You could email them: centralchoices @ centralnottingham . ac . uk (without the spaces).

  • You could comment here (anonymously if you like) and we’ll invite the college people to comment back. This would be especially useful if you think other people might be wondering the same thing.

  • It’s also possible we’ll schedule another meeting.

Possible meet-and-chat

Brendan from the college kindly said that if there were enough of us – say 5 or 6 families – he or one of the team would be willing to travel to us, and do another little presentation and chat and answer our questions.

Subject to weather, this could be in a park, e.g. Wollaton or Highfields, so that children not very interested in the grownups’ chat can play. In that case, we would probably schedule a fall-back date in case of rain.

This possible meet-and-chat could also be a nice opportunity for some of the potential future-year-classmates to say hello.

If we do a meetup like that, it’ll be open to all current and potential home edders, and mentioned again on the blog. However, to find out whether enough people would be interested, please comment here (anonymously if you like, but including an email address) if you’d like to be invited.


Footnotes

1. Starting GCSEs in Year 9: As discussed later on in the explanation, a young person who’d already got far enough both academically and socially could possibly start GCSEs in Year 9, but this would be exceptional.

2. Minimum age 16 for some Level 2 & Level 3 courses: These age limits exist for varying reasons.

  • When it’s primarily because the government wants to discourage specialising at an early age, this likely wouldn’t apply to non-school students.

  • If it’s because of the content of the course, this would be a case by case basis, possibly depending partly on where the young person’s 16th birthday falls in the academic year.

  • If it’s because of health and safety, it’s unlikely to be varied.


Quick links to sections
GCSE & other courses for non-school teens at Central College, Nottingham
Overview by school “Year”
Geography & travel
Where we fit in to the college
Levels
Assessments, discussions, decisions
Year 9 options
Pre-GCSE Programme
Year 10 options
GCSEs
GCSE exams for “external candidates”
Art & design half-day
Year 11 options
Year 11 Infill Programme
Finding out more
Possible meet-and-chat


Note on anonymity when commenting:

If you put your email address in the “email” bit of a comment box here, it won’t be published. But blog admin people can see it, and (in this case) use it to make sure you know about the meetup.

The name you fill in would normally be shown, so if you don’t want your real name to be visible either, just write “Anonymous for this” in the “name” box, or use a made-up online name.

(All comments are pre-moderated to avoid spam, so don’t be surprised if your comment doesn’t pop straight up.)