GCSE & FE choices

It can feel like a big decision choosing the subjects to take for GCSE and Post 16 as they can have an impact on which careers are open to them after their education. How can you as a parent, carer or guardian give the best advice so your young person can make good choices that are good for them?



    Students usually choose their GCSEs during Year 9 and it can feel like the most important decision of their lives but by following the subsequent tips and tricks, you can ensure your young person feels supported while making these decisions.

    Most students will do between 8 and 11 GCSEs which means they receive a broad education in a range of subjects. This will help them to be well-prepared to make a range of choices at Post 16. Remember, at this age, choosing or not choosing to do a subject should not make too much difference to future learning or career choices.


    Some GCSE choices are critical to successful applications to Higher Education. For example, a good grade in English Language is usually a universal requirement for any course. A good grade in Mathematics is often requested when applying to study subjects such as Business, Psychology and the Sciences.

    However, beyond these subjects, look at your young person’s general ability and record of accomplishment in a specific subject. Success, enthusiasm and enjoyment of a subject are generally good indicators that that subject choice will be a success.


    At 13 or 14 years old, it is not fair to expect every teenager to be set in their life-long career choices. Start thinking early about what the options are so there is plenty of time to research all the options.

    Do not pressure the decision as this can cause anxiety and disengagement.

    An important thing to remember when picking GCSE choices is to ‘Choose something you love!’ as this will only make studying and coursework easier to undertake in the years to come.

    Try to ensure your young person feels ownership over their decisions when choosing their subjects.


    Speak with the school’s careers adviser or Head of Year to gain an understanding of how the subject option blocks have been put together. Ask if the GCSE classes are taught in mixed ability classes and which teachers will be taking each class or block and therefore teaching your young person.

    If the young person has a career path in mind, think about what subjects are most relevant. If they are interested in a career related to science, then they should think about doing double or even triple science at GCSE.

    If the young person knows they would like to work abroad, then studying a language at GCSE will help them with future employment.


    Undertaking education or training is now compulsory for young people in England until the age of 18.

    As a parent, carer or guardian you play a key role in supporting your young person to make the right decision for them.


    There are many different ways for your young person to continue their education or train, including at Sixth Forms and Post 16 Centres, Vocational or Technical Colleges, undertaking Apprenticeships or Traineeships or working while training part-time.

    Attend Open Days, speak to Careers Advisers and use the UCAS website to find out about all the different qualifications available to them.


    The most important thing to remember when making Post 16 options is to support your young person to think carefully about how they like to learn, what interests them and what plans they may have for the future.

    What study options will help them to thrive? Support them by helping them to understand what they enjoy and how their choices may fit with their future career or life plans.

    Most importantly, help them understand that the more research they complete now, the more happy and content they are likely to be in their post 16 study or work placement.


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