Hundreds of Pembrokeshire pupils could have to travel to Swansea to sit their GCSEs, after provision in the county has been withdrawn.

Home educated pupils in Pembrokeshire used to be able to sit their GCSE exams at Pembrokeshire College. However, the college has now withdrawn this facility saying that it is at capacity.

With a particularly large number of home educated children who are ready to study and sit their GCSE exams, as well as many younger students who are at Key Stage 3 study, parents say the closest exam centre is now a sixth form college in Swansea.

Laura Griffiths, parent representative of the Elective Home Educated Children of Pembrokeshire group says that parents are now looking at whether their children will even be able to sit the exams due to the distance and the cost.

“Worryingly, many parents are now considering if they can even enter their children for GCSE exams as they cannot afford private GCSE online arrangements or they are unable to travel the significant distances needed for their children/child to sit GCSEs,” she said.

“This is incredibly sad when the parents so want this provision and also so too do the children.”

Laura said that the group had asked Pembrokeshire County Council for help with providing an exam centre and invigilator for home educated students.

“So far they have been unable to help and slow to take action,” she said. “We are currently awaiting to hear back again from the council, but as yet have not been contacted.”

She added that the group had contacted the council’s Community Learning Centres, which have facilitated private GCSE exam rooms and invigilation in the past.

“They have agreed they would be happy to do so again and can provide adequate space and rooms for this provision but would need adequate funding from the council to become an exam centre again,” she said.

After the college said it was at capacity with its own students, the Elective Home Educated Children of Pembrokeshire group contacted Pembrokeshire County Council.

The council said it had been making enquiries but that nothing was finalised and that it would be working on this as a priority from September onwards.

Laura says that the group has not been contacted by the council since then and that repeated attempts to try and get answers have been unsuccessful.

Laura home educates one of her children while the other two are in mainstream education.

“We are a large group, of over 600 parents, often with more than one child families and many with neurodivergent and ALN needs,” she says of the group.

“Our children absolutely love to study and socialise so well together, and we really are a true community - completely committed to the betterment of our children.”

She added that numbers of home educated children in Pembrokeshire were ‘increasing significantly’ particularly among families whose children had ALN needs.

“We are a very caring and committed community, who truly want our children to succeed, in whatever way they find ‘success’ means to them,” she said.

“Our children need equal, fair and easy access to privately sit their GCSE exams within their home county, so as not to impinge upon their dreams and their opportunity to an equal education.

“We are in most dire need of a place in their community our children can sit their GCSE exams at an affordable and reasonable rate, without signing up with companies and paying extortionate amounts of money.

“Pembrokeshire County Council needs to find an appropriate, affordable provision for this soon to be ‘lost generation’ of home schooled Pembrokeshire children.”

The council said that this was a complex situation but that it was doing everything it could to find a solution.

“The Education Welfare Service (EWS) knows how important this is for the children and young people of Pembrokeshire and we have had several meetings with organisations and internal departments to look at ways in which we can offer further support to our (elective home educator) EHE families,” said a council spokesperson.

“We have also held a number of meetings with Learning Pembrokeshire to discuss possible ways forward, which are progressing.”

The spokesperson added that this was a ‘very complex situation’ with lots of factors to consider.

These include finding a suitably registered provision and being able to support children with additional learning needs to sit their exams with the correct levels of individual support required.

“We would like to reassure the EHE community that the EWS is doing everything we can to enable our EHE children and young people to sit their exams in Pembrokeshire,” added the spokesperson.