GCSEs are a pivotal point in your child's education, so there's no doubt that you'll want to help and support them towards choosing the best subjects for their needs and ability.
It's difficult to make decisions on important issues without knowing the full picture first, so this is the lowdown on GCSE option choosing designed to help you - and your child - reach the best solutions.
What is a GCSE?
A General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) is the main qualification that children aged 15-16 in the UK take, although you can also take them at any age in a particular subject that interests you.
A GCSE qualification usually involves studying the theoretical elements of a subject, which can involve some practical and investigative work too. GCSEs are usually studied full time by children at school or college, and will take two years to complete.
Why should my child take GCSEs?
GCSEs are widely used to measure students' achievements, so they serve as a gateway - be it to schools, colleges, universities or employers - and will help your child gain access to a wide variety of careers, or higher education.
What GCSE subjects are there, and how are they assessed?
GCSEs are subject-specific qualifications, and there are over 40 different subjects that can be studied, ranging from Art & Design, to Japanese. You'll need to check which GCSE courses your child's school offers, as they won't be able to offer all the subjects.
Methods of assessment varies between subjects, but it tends to be either through a series of examinations, or by controlled assessment. Students will be awarded a grade ranging from A*-G; if the student doesn't achieve enough marks to pass with a G, they will be given a U for 'unclassified'.
How can I help my child choose GCSE options?
Helping your child to choose their GCSE options can be a really tricky and nerve-wracking process. Teacher and Curriculum Leader Anna Robinson offers her expert opinion and provides a few simple tips below to help you to navigate the mine field.
Tips for deciding on GCSE options
Choose enjoyable subjects
First of all, the most important thing to remember when choosing option subjects is to choose the subjects that your child really enjoys. If they enjoy what they are studying they are much more likely to put in the time and effort when work begins to stack up. Hopefully they will continue to take pleasure in their learning, and develop skills that they have a natural talent for, or interest in.
Let your child choose GCSE subjects
You can't choose the subjects for them.
Give them advice and talk with your child about their ideas, but don't put pressure on them. It isn't fair to lead students into choosing certain subjects because you like them, think they'll be helpful, or because you are good at them and feel you'll be able to help them with their studies. It has to be their choice.
Research course content
Find out about the courses your child is interested in. Most importantly, look at how they are assessed and the course content. Students are sometimes misled into thinking that more practical courses like Drama and PE are less academic or are the 'easy option'. Often these courses are extremely time consuming, with lots of extra-curricular demands.
Seek advice from teachers
GCSEs can be very different to what students have experienced at Key Stage 3, with much more analytical and written components than expected. Ask advice from your child's teachers. They will tell you if they think your child should be making a different choice or going in a slightly different direction.
Pick a wide range of options
Finally, try to advise your child to take a range of courses which allow them to keep their options fairly open and don't steer them in too narrow a direction.
Even if they are adamant that they want to pursue a certain career when they are older, they may want to change direction later. A good balance of GCSE subjects will allow them to do this.