Options at 14


Choices at 13/14

During Year 9 (although some schools start this in Year 8) you will have to make some important decisions about the subjects and courses you wish to study during Years 10 and 11 (Key Stage 4).

Read on to find out more about your Key Stage 4 choices.  You can also find out more from the Choosing your GCSE options pages on icould - watch videos, read articles and check out their guide to choosing your options. 

If you want to find out more about possible career ideas related to your favourite subjects check out BBC Bitesize Careers 


Staying in education or training until you are 18

Don't forget that you now have to stay in some form of education or training until you are at least 18.This doesn't mean that you have to stay on at school for an extra two years, but does mean that you will need to think carefully about your choices after Year 11.At 16 you can choose to continue your learning at sixth form or college, get an apprenticeship or traineeship or get a job with training.


Click on each of the sections below to find out more about your choices at 13/14.

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In Year 8 or Year 9 you will be making choices about what kind of courses and which subjects to study for the next 2-3 years. 

This will probably be the biggest decision you've made about your future so far, but don't worry - you can get lots of help and advice.

You will need to choose which GCSE subjects you want to take and depending on what your school offers, you may have a choice of other courses as well.

It's not just about GCSEs. You may also be able to do work-related courses such as an NVQ or other vocational courses such as BTEC's. This might mean that you go to another school, college or a training provider for one or two days a week.

Schools usually produce an options booklet for Year 8/9 students which gives you information on the subjects you can choose from.

Make sure you get a copy and read through it carefully.

You might also find this information on your school's website.


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Most of you will choose to continue with your Key Stage 4 studies full-time at your current school.  Your school knows you well and your tutor and teachers will give you information and advice about your option choices.

Your school will provide you with the core GCSE subjects of maths, English and science together with a range of GCSE subject options.  Some schools may also combine these with other applied or vocational subjects.

Alternative provision at a Further Education College or Training Organisation

Some of you may find that your option choices at your school include courses where you will spend some of the week at a local further education college or training organisation during Key Stage 4.  Here you usually learn more practical and work-related skills linked to a particular career area such as hair and beauty, animal care, construction, engineering or sport.


Young people - 78750300University Technical College Norfolk (UTCN)

You may choose to apply to join Norfolk's UTC in Norwich which specialises in science and engineering.  At Key Stage 4 you will study the core GCSE subjects of Maths, English and science together with a range of other GCSE subject options.  You will also study qualifications in engineering and undertake two weeks of relevant work experience.

300 x 300 photos - NervousHow to choose

You might feel nervous about choosing what to study for the next two years.  Perhaps you don't know what you want to do.  Or you have some ideas but want to make sure you're making the right choices.

Think about these questions:

What type of course will suit me best?

As well as choosing what subjects you want to take, you'll need to think about the way you prefer to study and learn.

  • Do you enjoy learning through hands-on, practical tasks?
    Vocational (job-related) courses offer you a chance to learn work-related skills through practical learning, projects and real workplace experience.
  • Do you prefer more traditional coursework and exams?
    GCSEs cover general education subjects such as English, maths, science and history.  Some subjects will combine coursework with exams while others will just have exams.
  • Would you like to combine both ways of learning?
    Some courses combine classroom and hands-on learning.  You may also be able to take vocational and traditional courses together.

Subjects you have to take

Some subjects are compulsory because they cover the knowledge and skills that you need for your future.  You'll have to study for exams in:

  • English
  • Maths
  • Science

There are also some other subjects that you will take courses in but may not have to take exams.  These include citizenship, sex and relationship education, religious studies, information and communication technology (ICT) and physical education (PE).


What subjects should I choose?

  • What subjects do you enjoy now?
    It makes sense to stick with what you know and like.  Don't be frightened of something new - have a look at everything on offer before making up your mind.
  • What do you enjoy in your spare time?
    Are there any subjects that tie in with your interests?
  • What's on offer at your school?
    Your school should produce an options booklet that shows exactly what courses and subjects you can choose from.  They may also put this information on the school website. Click here to view the courses on your school's website.
  • Could a subject help with your future career plans?
    If you have an idea of what you would like to do in the future it's important to check to see what qualifications you need.  That way, you can make sure you choose the right subjects for your future career.

The National Careers Service has information on over 800 jobs showing you what skills and qualifications you need.

You can also see examples of how subjects relate to future jobs on icould where you can view videos of people who have used their favourite subjects in their career.


What if I've no idea what I want to do in the future?

Don't worry if you've no career in mind yet.

Choose a broad range of subjects that will give you lots of choice post-16 and check out our brand new Careers Information section for some ideas.


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Don't feel that you have to make all of these decisions by yourself!

You can get as much help and advice as you need from all sorts of places. Here are some suggestions:-

People who know you well

It might help to talk through your ideas with someone who knows you really well.  They might help you to sort out what you want to do in the future. This will make choosing your options much easier.

You might like to talk about your ideas with your:

  • parents, carers or other close relatives or family friends 
  • friends 
  • subject teachers, careers co-ordinator and form tutor at school.

Other sources of help and advice

Sometimes it helps to talk things through with people who may not know you but who can offer professional help and advice:-

  • Careers Advisers are available to talk to you from 8am to 10pm every day.  You can contact them by ringing 0800 100 900 or by the National Careers Service website
  • Speak to your school's careers leader or careers adviser.  They can talk through your ideas to help you make decisions about what's best for you.

Useful websites

  • There's useful information on the National Curriculum at Key Stage 4 in GOV.UK's Guide to the National Curriculum 
  • Check out the Help You Choose Careers Information Videos Library, a free online library of careers related films, news and information. The case study films show real people doing real jobs to give you an idea of what a job is really like. 
  • icould has over a thousand career videos as well as games and lots of information.  In the career stories people talk about what they do, what it's like, how they got there and their hopes for the future. 
  • for careers inspiration take a look at icanbea.  Find out about local employers in Norfolk and Suffolk and have a go at their careers wizard to help generate some career ideas.

I've got special educational needs - who can help me?600 x 300 SEND photos - 3

Talk to your SENCo (Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator) at school or your form tutor who will help you with your option choices.

If you have a Statement of SEN, your annual review in Year 9 may be used to talk about changing your Statement of SEN to one of the new Education Health Care Plans (EHC Plans). 

At the meeting you and your parents/carers will talk about how you are getting on at school, your post-16 choices and start thinking about how you can be helped to prepare for adulthood. This means that you should be given the opportunity to talk about your aspirations and abilities, what you would like to do when you leave post-16 education or training and the support you will need to achieve your ambitions.

These are some of the topics that might be talked about:

  • The support you need to meet your goals around employment, independent living and housing, friends and community participation and health and wellbeing.
  • What might be the best post-16 provision to help you achieve your career aspirations and achieve your goals.  This may include inviting representatives from post-16 institutions to review meetings.
  • Planning your transition to adult social and health services, if needed.
  • How the outcomes in your EHC Plan will be achieved and what new skills you need to learn in order to achieve your goals.

Don't forget, this meeting will be all about planning for your future and what support you will need.  The meeting should give you the chance to say what you would like to do when you leave school and as an adult.  Your school's careers co-ordinator and SENCo will work together to support you with your ideas and help you to plan your transition to post-16 education or training at the end of Year 11.

You can find out more information and links services that can help in our SEND section, Planning from Year 9.


Need some more information?  The answer to your question might be here... 

Why can't I do just what I want?

It may not be possible for your school to offer everything you want, when you want it.  And unless you are very sure of what career you want to pursue, you should make sure you have a good balance of subjects rather than simply opting for your favourites.


Isn't it a bit early to be choosing to study for a work-related qualification?

A vocational qualification can be a good way of beginning to learn about an area of work or a job and can give you a head start.  As long as you  have a balance with the rest of your subjects there isn't a problem.  But don't feel that you have to take a vocational course.  Do if it's right for you.


How do I find out what a subject will really be like in Years 10 and 11?

Ask the subject teacher.  Also try asking some students in Years 10 and 11 and have a look at the work they've done.

You might like to ask them about what topics the course includes and how their work is assessed.


Why can't I just choose the same subjects as my friends?

You can - having friends around can be a big help when things aren't going well.  But don't let someone else make your choices for you.  Your friend isn't you, and what's perfect for them may not be right for you.


I'm choosing German because Mrs Bloggs is my favourite teacher.  What's wrong with that?

Nothing.  A good teacher can make a subject interesting, and if you're interested you're likely to do well.  But what happens if Mrs Bloggs leaves or she doesn't teach you in Year 10?

You have to like the subject as well as the teacher.


The career I want means that I have to study a subject I'm no good at and don't like.  What should I do?

Research the job you want to do in the future again and look carefully at the subjects you need to do it. The National Curriculum has been designed so that you will study the most important qualifications anyway, and so it is difficult to go too far wrong with your choices. if you know that you definitely need a subject, you have two choices:

a) Work hard at the subject so you do well. You might find you like it more in Year 10.

b) Talk to your careers teacher, parents and friends and ask yourself why you have chosen a career that requires a subject you dislike so much. There are many different jobs and careers just waiting to be explored. You might be happier doing subjects you are good at and enjoy.


You can find out here about most of the subjects you can take in Years 10 and 11.