Year 9 Options – a parents/carers guide

During Year 9 (ages 13-14) your child will choose which subjects to study at Key Stage 4 (Years 10 to 11, ages 14-16).

The school will give your child information about subject choices, and will also arrange an options event, but it will also be helpful if you discuss their choices with them. It’s important to choose subjects they find enjoyable, but also to keep a good balance.

Compulsory subjects

Some subjects are compulsory, these are

  • English
  • Maths
  • Science
  • Welsh 1st language in Welsh medium schools
  • Welsh 2nd language in English medium schools

Some schools have other compulsory subjects, for example Religious Education in faith schools.

Optional subjects

Optional subjects vary from school to school. But your child must be offered at least one course from each of the following groups:

  • Arts (including Art and Design, Music, Dance, Drama and Media Arts)
  • Design and Technology
  • Humanities (History and Geography)
  • Modern Foreign Languages

It’s not essential for your child to choose one subject from each area, but having a good balance of subjects keeps their options open in the future.

While some children are fairly confident with their choices, others may struggle and find the decision process confusing.  You can support them in different ways, for example by:

  • Helping them to think about the subjects they are good at and the things they enjoy
  • Talking with them about the kind of work they might want to go into in the future and helping them to do some research
  • Looking at how they can keep their options open, if they’re not sure what kind of job they want to go into
  • Encouraging them to choose for the right reasons – not just because it’s what their friends are doing or they think it will be the easier option
  • At this stage, few teenagers will have their future career mapped out, but if they do have an idea of the course or career in mind, help them research entry routes for different jobs; you can start by using our Job Information section, and if a course at higher education is part of the entry route, look at (University Candidate Application Service)  for information on entry requirements.
  • Avoid imposing your own preferences on your child as they need to be motivated and happy to study a subject that they find interesting.  Discuss the options, their pros and cons, but in the end it should be their choice, supported by the school and you.  If they study subjects they enjoy learning about, they’ll have more chance of success.

If a subject isn’t taken at GCSE, can they still do it at A level?  Sometimes, but not always.  With maths, the sciences and English, Welsh, Modern Foreign Languages, a GCSE in the same subject will be needed, but with others such as law, economics or business studies, it won’t be.  It’s worth double checking with teachers about entry requirements for certain A levels before making the final choice. 

Some vocational courses at sixth forms or FE Colleges may also have specific entry requirements, for example, BTEC Level 3 Art and Design may ask for a GCSE in Art or other relevant subject.  If your child is considering a vocational course after GCSEs, it’s also worth checking the entry requirements of courses on offer at your local FE College -  lists all Colleges in Wales.

Occasionally, the school may not let your child opt for a subject they would like to take.  The teaching staff might well have a solid reason for this.  It could be that they don’t feel the subject plays to your child’s strengths, that their mix of subjects isn’t balanced or there could be a timetable clash.  Make an appointment with the school to discuss things.

Careers Advisers are available during Year 9 to see pupils in school both in groups and on a one to one basis. They will also attend option evenings and welcome discussion with parents on subject choice and career planning.  You can also make arrangements to speak with a careers adviser by contacting us

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