Year 9 Options: Frequently Asked Questions

Common Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

How many GCSEs should I take?

There is no set number.  The Government has several performance measures for schools, one of which measures the best eight of each student’s grades, so clearly this is a number below which a student should not fall. In addition to this, at Heart of England we believe that students should leave open as many future options as possible, therefore students will achieve 10 GCSEs in total by the end of Year 11. This number is on a par with local schools.

Why do I have to study a language, or History or Geography?

A modern Foreign Language and History or Geography are part of the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) suite of subjects. These are the subjects which at A level, according to the Russell Group, open more doors to more degrees. They provide a sound basis for a variety of careers beyond the age of 16.  In the Government’s response to the EBacc Consultation they say:

 ‘They also enrich pupils’ studies and give them a broad general knowledge that will enable them to participate in and contribute to society. A recent study found that pupils in a set of 300 schools that increased their EBacc entry, from 8% to 48%, were more likely to achieve good English and mathematics GCSEs, more likely to take an A level or an equivalent level 3 qualification, and more likely to stay in post-16 education.

Therefore, even if you know already that you do not plan to do A levels, there is good evidence that this suite of subjects will help raise your achievement overall.  We also want to ensure our pupils are able to compete with educational high performers in a local and global economy.  In line with the government’s ambition that 75% of year 10 pupils in state-funded mainstream schools will start to study GCSEs in the EBacc combination of subjects by September 2022, the majority of our students will study these subjects.  It still leaves students free to choose two other subjects so, far from limiting their choice, we are preventing them from limiting their choices in following years.

We believe that pupils of all abilities can benefit from studying the full range of subjects the EBacc offers; they provide an academic foundation for young people, help to keep their options open and enrich their studies and interaction with the world around them. For some students an alternative curriculum pathway might be more appropriate due to a range of factors and parents/carers of these students will be contacted directly with an alternative curriculum.

Can I refuse for my child to study a subject that’s part of the Core Curriculum e.g. Science or a language

The Core Curriculum is set by the Leadership Team and agreed by the Governors and is in line with equivalent schools nationwide.  “My child doesn’t enjoy it” is not a good enough reason to allow a child not to follow the Core Curriculum.  This curriculum provides the highest quality of education for our students and is complemented by the opportunity for students to follow their passions and pick two subjects that they enjoy and feel that they will achieve most in at Key Stage 4.  Students should feel pleased that their teachers believe they can study this collection of subjects and achieve well at them and should approach the curriculum with a mature, can-do attitude.

How are the students who follow the reduced Core identified?

The government leaves it up to schools to make decisions on a case-by-case basis with schools taking a range of factors into account; this could include things such as SEN needs or additional numeracy and literacy needs. If we are saying that your child will study the EBacc suite of subjects it is because we believe that they can be successful in them.  On the other hand, no student is excluded from following the Ebacc and pupil ability, on its own, does not determine whether a student should enter the EBacc.  It would not be right to share other students’ details with parents and we cannot enter into individual discussions around circumstances.

Does it matter if I don’t know what I want to do for a career?

Not at all!  You do not have to choose subjects with a career in mind, but do select carefully so that you do not restrict your career options. The more a career choice is delayed the better – there is more chance to change your mind.

Will I Sit GCSE Exams?

We hope so!  You will study GCSEs which will be awarded a 1 – 9 grade (with 9 being the highest) rather than A – F. The GCSEs are designed to be linear, with external exams at the end rather than internally assessed coursework, although practical subjects have retained some controlled assessment which is done during the course and counts towards your grade. You need to read each subject description thoroughly to see exactly what the assessment arrangements are.  All of the qualifications that you will choose have some externally examined element and exams will be at the end.  There will be no resit opportunities; you need to make sure you get it right first time around! The 2020 and 2021 exam series were changed due to the Coronavirus pandemic but we hope that by the summer of 2024 (when you sit your exams) everything will be back to normal.

Will I definitely get to study the subjects I choose?

Whilst every effort is made to give students their first choice, courses may be oversubscribed or there may be insufficient numbers for a course to be viable.  In this eventuality, all students’ choices will be considered carefully.  It is therefore extremely important that students also think very carefully about what they would choose if one of their options did not run.

In most cases students will be able to study their preferred subjects.  Occasionally, students may be asked to choose again if:

  1. there are insufficient student numbers to make a course viable
  2. the options chosen do not fit with the timetable structure that is arrived at
  3. the subject has too many students opting for it
  4. it is recommended that students follow a special course of study

What Do I Do When I’ve Chosen? How do I make my Options?

These will be entered online via a portal called SIMS Options using each student’s school email address. A separate ‘How To’ guide will be released in March to show people how to do this.  The deadline for doing this is:

  • Wednesday 16 March 2022


Options: Key Dates 2022

  • w/c Mon 31 Jan
    • Year 9 Assemblies
    • Virtual Launch to Parents/Carers
  • Weds 9 February Submission of Options Morning choices
  • Thurs 17 February Taster Day, Periods 1 and 2
  • Tues 1 March Year 9 Parent/Teacher Consultation on SchoolCloud
  • Wed 16 March Deadline for submission of GCSE options
  • March-May Processing of options forms
    • Consultation with individual students
    • Final option choices confirmed
  • May/June Students informed of options choices
  • September 2022 Courses commence