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How To Help Your Child Choose GCSEs

During Year 9, children decide which subjects they will study for GCSE. Which options are available to your child will vary from school to school, but there are of course the core subjects of English, maths and science which are compulsory at GCSE level. Children must also be offered at least one course in each "entitlement area” of study. These areas are arts, design and technology, humanities and modern foreign languages.

The process of choosing GCSEs can feel daunting to both parents and teens. Decisions made at this stage can go on to inform which A Levels they take, and even which degree course they opt for. That said, nothing is irreversible. It is always worth remembering that many schools will consider allowing children to switch courses early in Year 10, and many GCSEs can also be picked up later on if your child really feels they need them for their chosen area of study.

Although this is a decision about your child’s future rather than yours, they will still most probably need a little guidance from both parents and teachers.

Here are a few points to consider when helping your child to choose their GCSEs:

  • Try to remember that whichever subjects they choose, they will need to stick with them and study hard for the next two years - so it is important they choose subjects they enjoy and not just what you consider to be "safe” or "sensible.”
  • At this age, a child’s enjoyment of a topic can often be largely based around their connection with the teacher. Be sure to ask about who will be teaching the subject at GCSE level, and consider whether having a different teacher will have an impact on your child’s enjoyment of it.
  • Listen to your child’s teachers. They will be able to advise on which subjects will play to your child’s strengths. Most schools will hold at least one open evening in the lead up to choosing GCSE subjects, where you will be able to talk to teachers who will be teaching at GCSE level.
  • Try to avoid limiting the breadth of their study. Both employers and universities will expect to see a wide range of study so it is important not to limit things too much. That said, if your child is thinking about some of the most academic universities, these will expect to see more academic subjects, with not more than one creative or practical subject.
  • Encourage your child to keep their options open. They may have their heart set on a particular career right now, but we all know that things can change. It’s better to hedge your bets now than to have to go back and pick up subjects later on.
  • When you think you have come up with a short list of options, sense check it to ensure there is a range of different areas, a creative or practical subject, a language and a humanity as well as the core subjects.
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