Helping your child with choosing their GCSEs

It is important to think carefully about GCSE choices, even though your child’s career may seem like a long way off.

Your child’s GCSE option choices may affect their education and career options post 16. Most colleges, apprenticeships, universities and jobs will require a certain number of GCSE passes and may need specific GCSE subjects and grades.

1. What age will my child have to choose their options?

This usually happens in Year 9 (age 13 to 14), although some schools do this in Year 8 (age 12 to 13).

2. What if my child doesn’t have a clear idea about what they want to do in the future?

Taking a broad range of subjects will help to keep their options open. English, maths and science are compulsory and all students will have to take them at GCSE level. There may also be extra subjects that your child’s school decides to make compulsory.

For their optional subjects, schools must offer at least one option from four subject areas (although your child doesn’t have to take a subject from every area):

arts, such as art and design, music, dance, drama and media arts

design and technology

humanities, such as history and geography

modern foreign languages

3. How many GCSEs should my child take?

Up to 9 or 10 subjects is common, although some children do as many as 12. The right number will depend on your child’s academic abilities and their school’s recommendations and limits. Sometimes a higher workload can lead to lower grades overall, so be sure to balance quantity with quality.

4. What if they can’t take all the subjects they want to?

Your child may not be able to take all the subjects they would like, either because certain subjects aren’t offered or because of timetable clashes. If this happens, you could consider other ways to supplement their learning, such as:

out-of-school clubs

activities like sport, dance, music or drama

voluntary work

work experience

5. How can I help?

If your child has a specific education or career goal in mind, check online to find out whether there are specific GCSE requirements.

If your child is unsure about their future career, read course material for available subjects and encourage them to think about:

what subjects they enjoy

what subjects are they good at

which subjects best suit their learning style

whether they would like to study languages or work abroad in future

6. Need more advice?

Many schools host options evenings, giving parents and children the chance to chat with teachers and careers advisors. Alternatively, you may be able to arrange an appointment to discuss options with your child’s teacher.