Year 9 GCSE options: what parents and pupils need to know when preparing for a big school year

Year 9 pupils on Teesside are preparing for big changes at school.

Hundreds of 13 and 14 year olds across our patch will soon be choosing their options – the subjects they want to study in their final two years of secondary school.

Many schools have already sent letters home and started making appointments to discuss the choices with their young charges and parents who will be eager to help their children get it right.

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Here’s what you need to know if you’re a parent or one of the 9-year-olds choosing your options this term:

What are the options?

Simply put, options are the subjects children can choose to take at GCSE level.

They usually choose their options near the end of year 9, then spend years 10 and 11 studying them, leading to exams usually in the summer of year 11.

Some schools also offer Btec qualifications as well as GCSEs.

Are there any subjects I have to take?

There are three core subjects that all Key Stage 4 students must take: English, Maths and Science.

Some schools might also make other key subjects compulsory such as history or geography or a modern language.

Schools must also ensure that they offer students the opportunity to study at least one subject in four so-called ‘law’ areas which are not compulsory: arts, design and technology; human sciences, languages.

How many GCSEs will I take?

Most students will take at least seven subject exams by the end of year 11.

How to choose what to study?

Some options may be influenced by abilities, your interest in a subject, what you might consider as a future career – it’s up to you.

Few children in grade 9 know what they want to be when they leave school. So the advice is usually to choose a wide range of subjects to help them keep their options open. They can major later in college or university.

Scheduling issues also play a role – if two subjects are running at the same time, for example music and drama, you may need to choose which one you prefer.

A good rule of thumb is to choose at least one subject from each of the four qualifying areas in addition to the core subjects.

If your child already has a specific career in mind, encourage them to look at the qualifications they will need for that and consider studying them.

Your child might also want to pick a subject that they are good at and will enjoy.

Try to discourage them from choosing a course because their friends do or because they like the teacher – circumstances change, leaving them stuck with a subject they don’t like.

Most high school students pick their options in Grade 9

My child’s school talked about an Ebacc – what is it?

The English Baccalaureate, or EBacc, is a group of five core academic subjects studied at GCSE level.

Schools are ranked in league tables based on the number of students who obtain the EBacc and it is considered a strong subject combination that is viewed favorably by universities and employers.

EBacc subjects are English, maths, dual or triple science, history or geography and one language.

To obtain the EBacc, students must obtain a mark of 5 or higher in each of the five subjects.

Why does my child’s school offer different subjects and options than another school in my town?

Not all schools offer exactly the same subjects at GCSE level.

Some might also offer Btec qualifications.

What schools offer depends on a range of factors, including the school, teacher specialties and schedules.

Some schools, for example, teach French and Spanish, others may offer German. Or in the arts, they may offer studies in drama and music or media.

Others may have to take a language, while it is not mandatory elsewhere.

How do your children manage the choice of their options? Do you find this process easy or stressful? Let us know in the comments below.

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