Years 8/9: Choosing Key Stage 4 options
Your son or daughter's next few years will be full of opportunities - with a wide range of courses, qualifications and work-related learning to choose from.
They will be:
thinking about which subjects and courses to study at Key Stage 4 – essential subjects such as English, maths, science, and Functional Skills have to be taken by everyone
deciding which optional GCSE subjects, or other courses, they want to take. Their school may offer a range of other courses - that they can take alongside GCSEs. Your son or daughter may need to attend another local school, college or training provider, to take some of the optional courses on offer in your area
working out how their choices made for Key Stage 4 will affect the choices they make at 16 - remember that all young people will be expected to continue in learning until at least their 18th birthday (although they do not have to "stay on" into 6th Form, they must remain in learning or training).
What are the main options on offer at 14+?
General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) is offered in a wide range of subjects such as English, maths, history, sciences and languages. Most young people at this stage study GCSEs – alongside other qualifications
A Foundation Learning Programme -personalised learning for your son or daughter if they are not ready to move on to GCSEs or a level 2 course yet
Your son or daughter may also be able to take some work-related qualifications
Need more information about qualifications?
Not sure what level your son or daughter should be aiming for? (See qualifications and levels chart)
Find out what's on offer locally on UCAS Progress
You can help your son or daughter by:
- discussing what they enjoy – and what they don't - at school or college.
- talking to subject teachers about how they are doing and what support you and the teacher could give – are they doing well at subjects they enjoy? Is there a reason they don't like a subject that they will need for their future such as English, maths or science? Could this situation be improved with a bit of extra support?
- thinking about the ways they like to learn – do they do well in exams or do they do better at projects? Some subjects and courses at Key Stage 4 have more practical content
- taking advantage of all the support and advice on offer from school or college tutors as well as from the school's careers adviser
- finding out as much as possible yourself about what's on offer and what is going on in the world of work
- encouraging them to have at least one back-up plan
What about Careers?
You may feel that it is too early for your child to start making decisions about their career plans, and most under 14s do not have a clear idea of what they want to do.
It is very important to keep an open mind and not fix on just one or two career ideas, but it is equally vital that they start to explore what types of jobs they can do. Once they have a few possible job ideas they can find out more about the personal qualities, work-experience, subjects and qualifications they will need.
From year 9 onwards they should have structured lessons and activities to help them move forward with their career planning. If you – and they – want to make a start you can help them to move forward – but keep it as informal as possible at this stage.
You could start to discuss jobs that:
- they have thought about already
- are in the news or on TV programmes
- you or family friends do
- link in with subjects, hobbies or interests they like
Once they have some ideas you can also help them to find out more. Look it up in the National Careers Service Job Profiles.