Choosing GCSE Options

Over the course of the two GCSE years pupils will begin to take on responsibility for their own lives, their own learning, and start taking decisions with some very far-reaching results. In Years 7 to 9 everyone studies a large number of subjects. Nobody could possibly continue all to GCSE level - the workload would be just too heavy. During Year 9, therefore, you need to choose your subjects from a range of options.

Some subjects are compulsory; these are the core subjects. Everyone must study English, English Literature and Mathematics to GCSE. In addition, there are non-examined lessons in Choices and Games. The rest of the timetable, for most pupils, will comprise a range of other courses tailored to individual strengths and interests. There are some constraints to meet the requirements of the English Baccalaureate, introduced by the Government in September 2010. In addition to English and Mathematics, everyone must study at least one modern foreign language (French or Spanish), at least two sciences (from Biology, Chemistry and Physics) and one humanities subject (Geography or History). The other optional GCSE subjects are: Art and Design, Design Technology, Drama, Geography, History, Music, and Physical Education. In addition, for an ICT qualification, we offer the Certificate in Digital Applications (CiDA).

For those who benefit from learning support rather than a foreign language we offer an alternative programme.

It is very important it is to make the right decisions in choosing options. Pupils should listen to the advice of parents and teachers, but ultimately make up their own minds. The aim is to keep open as many doors to the future as possible, so that when the time comes to take the next major step - into the Sixth Form and the AQA Baccalaureate - a range of directions are available. Sensible choices now will facilitate good choices in the future.

Choosing, at this stage, is never easy. Inevitably, pupils sometimes have to give up subjects they enjoy. In selecting subjects, we always ask pupils to bear these factors in mind:

  • Enjoyment: pupils usually do best in the subjects that they enjoy the most.
  • Keep future options open: try and select a range of subjects and avoid a narrow curriculum. Choose subjects that offer the chance of attaining good results.
  • Learning style: choose subjects that suit one's preferred way of learning. For example, some people enjoy extended project work but others find it a burden.
  • Career choices: you should listen to advice from your teachers and parents carefully and avoid dropping a subject that may be essential to a career you have in mind e.g. if you are interested in medicine you must study chemistry at GCSE.

The Directgov website has a useful section on choosing GCSE subjects, with straightforward advice on subjects and careers. http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/EducationAndLearning/14To19/index.htm

The Independent Schools Careers Organisation (ISCO) site is also an excellent gateway to a wide range of web resources:

http://www.isco.org.uk/

Year 9 pupils often want to make choices based on what their friends are doing or because of a particular teacher. The timetable is such, however, that best friends will often find themselves in different groups and teachers may have different commitments. The procedure for deciding options is as follows:

  • In order to produce a timetable the classes are arranged into Option Blocks. All of the classes in a block are taught at the same time, so pupils must choose one subject from each option block. Many subjects appear in two or more blocks so a large number of subject combinations are possible.
  • Pupils are asked to make their choices from the Draft Option Blocks.
  • The aim is to meet requests, so if a subject proves popular an extra class may be added to the blocks. Conversely, a subject may not be placed in the final blocks if fewer than ten pupils select it. In these circumstances, we will have to ask pupils to choose an alternative subject.
  • After your choices have been confirmed there is still some scope for change, although opportunities may be restricted.

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