The time has come for my younger son to take his GCSE options.
Since my eldest did his options three years ago, a lot has changed. When my eldest did his GCSEs, only maths and English were on the new 9 to 1 gradings. By the time my younger son takes his exams in two and a bit years, it will be the third year with all subjects graded 9 to 1.
At my son’s school, there are six core subjects which everyone has to do, which is probably slightly more than most schools. The core subjects are maths, English language, English literature, biology, chemistry and physics. I think a lot of schools do a combined science GCSE, worth two GCSEs, which is certainly what my eldest did.
In addition to the core subjects, my son has four options. The school wants them to take at least one language and one humanity. If they want to, they can take two languages and two humanities.
Most schools have their subjects arranged into columns and you have to pick a subject from each column. Some subjects might appear in two columns to make it easier, but it can be impossible to piece it all together to get the right subjects. Our school doesn’t do this – kids have completely free rein over what they choose, although they do have to pick a reserve subject just in case the school can’t make it work. But apparently less than 10% of kids don’t get their four chosen subjects.
Regular readers will know my son is at a grammar school for very high achievers, but the school sees no benefit in the kids doing 11 or 12 GCSEs, just because they are capable of it. Doing 11 or 12 GCSEs won’t help them with their A Levels or get them to a better university, but it will stop them enjoying life and having time to relax and enjoy sport.
The school also made it clear that there is no subject more important than any other and no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ subject. So geography isn’t more important than DT and history isn’t more important than computing. Kids should choose their GCSEs because they enjoy the subject and because they’re good at it. There’s no harm in a child who wants to be a doctor doing art.
My son was clear he didn’t want to do French or history and that he did want to do German and geography. In ‘my day’, and even at my eldest’s comprehensive, PE was seen as something that the ‘thick kids’ did. At my son’s school, there are clearly no ‘thick kids’. My son loves sport and he’s good at it. So why not do PE? There’s a big academic element to it and it is a good fit with biology, and potentially for anyone thinking of studying medicine.
So what else would he do? There’s PTE (philosophy, theology and ethics), which he is good at, but he really doesn’t like the religious aspects. He’s never shown any interest in business or computing and he’s not very good at DT.
I knew what I wanted him to take and I was pleased he wanted to take it too.
Ever since he’s been at secondary school, he’s surprised us with his art. He has got very good ideas and he executes them pretty well. He might not get a 9 in it, but he will certainly get a 7 or 8.
So he’s opting for art. Even though his brother and most of his friends think he’s mad. I think it’s a very good choice. And he’s going for PTE for his reserve subject.
Geography, German, PE and art.
I think he’s chosen a really good mix of subjects for his GCSE options and I’m sure he will enjoy studying them over the next couple of years.