Year 9 GCSE Options: How To Support Your Child

Education News | by | 18th Jan 2016


During Year 9 your child will decide what they want to study at Key Stage 4 (KS4), which means what GCSEs they will be sitting in Years 10 and 11.

This can be an exciting time for pupils, as it’s the first time they will have a say on what they want to study. For some this decision-making can also be a bit daunting, so it’s important that both of you have the information and resources to make the best choices.

Different schools will have different compulsory subjects depending on if they’re English medium, Welsh medium, academies, church schools and so on, so it’s best to check with your local school. Yet there are some subjects your child will have to study, which are:

  • English
  • Mathematics
  • Science
  • Welsh
  • As well as Religious Education (though you have the right to remove your child from this subject), Personal and Social Education (PSE) and PE

As a quick side note, the Mathematics GCSE changed in Wales in September 2015 and was split into GCSE Mathematics – Numeracy and GCSE Mathematics, the video below explains the changes…

Careers Wales has lots of useful information for pupils and parents, including this FAQs for young people and this PDF for parents.

If you and your child are wondering which subjects they should study then an open and honest discussion about their options is the best way to go. It’s essential they pick subjects they’re interested in and find enjoyable, and find a balance between different types of topics, such as humanities, the arts, design and technology, and foreign languages.

It’s normal for children and young people to change their mind about what they’d like to do as they get older, so they need to provide themselves with a well rounded education with plenty of options moving forward.


The number of subjects can also be important, the range is usually between 8 and 12, but things like workload and stress have to be thought about. It’s also worth considering if it’s better to get fewer good grades, say 8 A-Cs or more lower grades such as 12 Ds. It is a balance of quality and quantity that has to be found by student, parent and teacher. If your child is hoping to head to university eventually then they may need to study 9-10 GCSEs.

Key Stage 4 isn’t just about GCSEs though and some schools offer BTECs, which tend to be more vocational (in other words relating to an occupation or employment), and if your son or daughter struggles in exam situations then BTECs may be better suited to their skills.

Whatever path they choose it’s essential that you listen to what your child wants to study and keep an open mind and be positive, especially if it’s different to what you were expecting. It’s important to ask why they want to study these subjects – if it’s because they don’t like the teacher or their friends are doing it, then long term it may not be the best choice for them. Also bear in mind that very few teenagers have a career path set in stone at 14.


To help your son or daughter make an informed decision, point them in the direction of this Choosing A Subject at 14 guide from Careers Wales and this Do’s and Don’t’s.

As posted about recently on FamilyPoint, Education Begins At Home is the big new campaign from Welsh Government and talking with your offspring about their GCSE options is a great starting point. A lot of schools host an options evening, so try your best to attend one of these if your local comprehensive is holding one.

If you want further information and advice of education options Careers Wales can be contacted via:

Cover Photo Credit: RXrenesis8 via Compfight cc

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