GCSEs: Helping Your Teen With Year 9 Options

Education | by | 23rd Jan 2017

Doors as options for GCSEs article

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

This can be an exciting time for pupils. It’s the first time they will have a say on what they want to study. For some pupils these decisions can be daunting. Therefore it’s important that both of you have the information and resources to make the best choices.

Compulsory subjects

Different schools will have different compulsory subjects depending on if they’re English medium, Welsh medium, academies, or church schools. 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 these pupils will also have to study Sex and Relationship Education and Religious Studies. However they may not have to take exams in these topics. Also you have the right to remove your child from parts or all of these subjects. Personal and Social Education (PSE) and physical education is also part of the curriculum.

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.

Be flexible and find a balance

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. It can be a good idea to 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. It is important then that they get a well rounded education with plenty of options moving forward.


What the right number of GCSEs to study?

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.

Qualifications other than 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. A lot of schools also offer the Welsh Baccalaureate.

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.

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

FamilyPoint Helpline

If you feel you need to talk to someone about this issue or any other problems your family is having then call our advisors on the FamilyPoint Cymru helpline. The helpline is open 9am – 5pm Monday to Friday. They can help you to find organisations that can help.

If you liked this article there are lots more articles in our Magazine section. Here are a selection of them:

Overcoming Exam Stress

Primary School Application Deadlines 2017

Careers Wales: How they can help your child (video)


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