Year 9 Options Information

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It is our core purpose as a school to ensure all pupils find their purpose and thrive as citizens as of the world. The Year 9 options process is a crucial milestone on this journey as we guide them, collaboratively with parents and carers, to move into Key Stage 4 on an ambitious and appropriate pathway towards their futures.

What does ‘selecting options’ mean?

If you are reading this, your child is currently in Year 9 and will starting Key Stage 4 study in September (Year 10). During Year 10 and Year 11, pupils study towards the qualifications they will leave secondary school with, which will determine which doors of future study and employment (at post-16 and post-18) are open to them.

In addition to many GCSE qualifications which are compulsory for all pupils in the UK, your child will also have choices over additional qualifications which they will take. ‘Selecting options’ means choosing this mixture of other qualifications they will study.

Which qualifications are compulsory?

At Dean Trust Ardwick, all pupils in Year 10 and 11 study towards:

  • GCSE English Language
  • GCSE English Literature
  • GCSE Maths
  • GCSE Combined Science (worth 2 GCSEs)

GCSE History OR Geography OR a Language (e.g. French or Spanish)

Why is selecting the most appropriate qualifications important?

Grades achieved in Key Stage 4 qualifications have a sustained impact upon a young person’s and an adult’s career path throughout their lives. All employers will ask for an ‘education and qualification history’ whenever applying for a job, at any age, and therefore ensuring that a pupil achieves their highest possible potential at Key Stage 4 is crucial to their future pathway.

During the first term of Year 11, your child will apply for further study or apprenticeships at post-16 level; the combination of qualifications they are taking and the grades which they are predicted to achieve will have an impact on where they can apply and which type of apprenticeship or further qualifications they can study.

Taking qualifications at Key Stage 4 is incredibly demanding for a young person and therefore it is important to select qualifications which are in line with their interests to maintain their curiosity, grit, motivation and resilience.

What are the entry requirements for study and apprenticeships at post-16 (after secondary school)?

Here at Dean Trust Ardwick, we continually remind pupils of the end goal of gaining qualifications. In the first instance, this is to ensure that all pupils achieve the qualifications and grades needed to take their next steps into post-16, after Dean Trust Ardwick. The table below shows a summary of the entry requirements for different post-16 pathways:

Post-16 Pathway Entry Requirements
A-Level (academic pathway) Six grades 9-4 at GCSE or equivalent including English Language and Maths with grade 6 in any A-Level subject.
BTEC Level 3 (equivalent to A-Level – vocational pathway) and T-Levels. Six grades 9-4 at GCSE or equivalent including English Language and Maths. Grade 6s help secure entry.
Blended (mixture of A-Level and vocational) Six grades 9-4 at GCSE including English Language and Maths. Grade 6s help secure entry.
Apprenticeships/Traineeships Entry requirements are varied depending on the level of Apprenticeship. Most apprenticeships require at least grade 4 or above in six qualifications.
BTEC Level 2 Study (equivalent to GCSE study) Required route if a young person has not passed GCSE Maths or English Language at grade 4.

What choices does my child have for Key Stage 4?

Your child must first choose a pathway for study through Year 10 and Year 11. A pathway is a mixture of qualifications. During the week beginning the 7th February, you will receive a letter which recommends which pathway we believe is most suitable for you child in terms of being ambitious and appropriate to allow them to achieve the highest grades possible across all of their qualifications. It is important though that you understand the different pathways which are available.

What are the 4 different pathways?

There are 4 different pathways:

  1. EBACC (English Baccalaureate) pathway

This is the most preferred pathway for any pupils aspiring to study A-Levels and then go onto to university after secondary school.

On this pathway, pupils study:

GCSE English Language

GCSE English Literature

GCSE Maths

GCSE Combined Science (worth 2 GCSEs)

GCSE History OR GCSE Geography

GCSE Spanish OR French

+ 2 additional qualifications of their choice

  1. EBACC Reduced (English Baccalaureate) pathway

This pathway is the same as the EBACC pathway above, however, pupils will only study 1 additional qualification of their choice. This pathway is designed for pupils who might need extra support to ensure they achieve their highest possible outcomes in maths and English. Pupils will receive 3 extra periods of Maths and/or English on their timetable to support their learning towards these qualifications.

GCSE English Language

GCSE English Literature

GCSE Maths

GCSE Combined Science (worth 2 GCSEs)

GCSE History OR GCSE Geography

GCSE Spanish OR French

+ 1 additional qualifications of their choice

  1. Separate (triple) Science pathway (pupils must be successful in a science entrance exam to take this pathway)

This pathway is similar to the EBACC but, a pupil will study GCSEs in each science separately meaning that they will take:

GCSE English Language

GCSE English Literature

GCSE Maths

GCSE Chemistry, Biology and Physics as 3 separate GCSEs

GCSE History or Geography

GCSE French or Spanish

+ 1 additional qualification of their choice.

This pathway is only suitable for pupils with a keen interest in science as they will have a minimum of 8 periods of science per week on their timetable.

Please see more information below on the entrance exam.

  1. Open pathway

This pathway allows pupils the widest choice of additional qualifications. On this pathway pupils will study:

GCSE English Language

GCSE English Literature

GCSE Maths

GCSE Combined Science (worth 2 GCSEs)

GCSE History OR GCSE Geography OR GCSE French OR GCSE Spanish

+ 3 additional qualifications of their choice

Which ‘additional qualifications’ can my child choose from?

At Dean Trust Ardwick, we offer a very broad range of other GCSE and vocational qualifications for your child to choose from. Vocational qualifications are equivalent (worth the same) as GCSEs however, contain more practical work-based knowledge and are graded through a child’s completion of work throughout the course rather than a terminal exam at the end of Year 11. Below is a table which summarises the difference:


2 year courses

Vocational Qualifications

2 year courses

Grade is determined by exams only at the end of the course (June 2024) with the exception of Art and Design/Photography and Design and Technology. Graded from Level 1 Pass to Level 2 Distinction*

Level 2 Pass is equivalent to a Grade 4 at GCSE.

Not linked to industry or work Courses are split into 3 or 4 units. The mark for each unit added together determines the final grade.
Only Grades 4-9 are considered to be a ‘Pass’ Most units are coursework or controlled assessment units;  each qualification has 1 exam which can be taken at any point during the course.
Grade 5 is considered to be a ‘Good Pass’ The content of the course is linked to work place knowledge and application in industry.


The qualifications we offer at Dean Trust Ardwick are:

Child Development
Sports Studies
Design in Engineering
Travel and Tourism
Performing Arts
Hospitality and Catering


Religious Education (RE)
Art and Design
Design and Technology
Computer Science
Information Technology (IT)
Physical Education (PE)

What does my child need to do if they are interested in the Separate Science pathway?

For entry onto the Separate Science pathway, your child will need to secure a place through their performance in an entrance exam. This is because places on their pathway are very limited (a maximum of 2 classes).  If your child is interested in taking the Separate Science pathway, they will need to sit the exam on Wednesday 26th January at 3.15pm in school.  Your child will need to find out the topics to prepare and revise for the exam beforehand by speaking to their science teacher or form tutor and ensuring they sit the exam on this date.

Results for the exam we be shared with pupils during the week beginning 7th February.

Does my child have to study Separate sciences in order to go to university to study medicine, pharmacy, dentistry or veterinary science?

No. The entry requirements into study of these subjects at university does not require a child to have GCSEs in Physics, Biology and Chemistry separately. What is more important to consider though is the following:

  • Entry requirements for studying medicine usually are at least 7 GCSEs at grades 7 or above as a minimum.
  • Entrance onto these courses at university requires study of A Levels in 2 Sciences (usually Biology/Human Biology and Chemistry) AND maths.
  • To study science A-Levels at most colleges/sixth forms, a pupil must have achieved grade 6 or above in double science AND maths.

With this in mind, it is much more important to select a group of qualifications which will ensure your child achieves grades 7, 8 or 9 across at least 7 different GCSEs. This includes achieving at least a grade 6 in double science and grade 6 in maths.

What does my child need to do to select their pathway and qualifications?

During the week beginning 7th February, you will be sent a letter which includes the school’s pathway recommendation and a paper form to complete to select qualifications.

This form needs to be handed into your child’s form tutor no later than  Monday 14th February.

Once my child has selected their options, can they make changes?

Monday 14th February is the deadline for first choices. After this, there is one further opportunity for your child to make changes which will be between 28th February and 14th March. After 14th March, pupils will no longer be able to make changes. This is because immediately after this, their timetables for Year 10 will be produced and finalised.

Many pupils believe that they can change their qualifications once they have started key stage 4 study in the September of Year 10.  This is not the case. Classes, by this time are full and pupils who change qualifications put themselves at a disadvantage by missing out on learning time. It is therefore very important that pupils use the spring term of Year 9 to select carefully and with all necessary information.

Can my child sit a qualification in their home language?

At Dean Trust Ardwick, we are blessed with a community of pupils, parents, carers and staff who speak and are literate in a diverse range of languages. As a school, we encourage and support pupils to be multi lingual and therefore similarly encourage our pupils to take language qualifications (where possible) in home languages.  These qualifications are usually taken in addition to the pathways described above, although we offer curriculum lessons for GCSE Arabic and GCSE Urdu as options.

Should you wish to discuss the possibility of your child taking a qualification in a home language, there is a section on the options form to complete and we will be more than happy to try and accommodate the request.

Unfortunately, awarding organisations (exam boards) do not currently offer qualifications in all languages, including Somali, so we cannot guarantee a qualification is available.

Where and when can you get further information?

Date Information Opportunity
Week beginning 10th January Pupils will receive form time sessions, an assembly and an online briefing, giving them information about the process and their choices.
Week beginning 17th January Pupils will have taster lessons of the qualifications which they do not currently study such as Design in Engineering and GCSE Photography.


Pupils will also watch videos about each qualification in form time.

Monday 24th January Parent/carer online briefing
Thursday 10th February Year 9 Progress Evening – this is an opportunity to discuss your child’s progress, attainment and thoughts about options with your child’s teachers and form tutor.
Please note, we are in the process of updating our website and therefore further information will be available for you shortly.


A link to access this will be text to you following the completion of any updates.

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