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How many gcse options does your school offer?

(49 Posts)
Milicentbystander72 Wed 27-Nov-19 09:14:18

I'm a School Governor (only been in place since April so still learning).

Our school currently offer 4 GCSE options to our students (as well as the normal Eng Lang & Lit, Maths and triple Science etc)
We normally manage to offer all the students all their choices. We don't force them into the Ebacc I.e don't insist on them choosing History/Geography and a language, although we do weight the options to encourage this. Our Ebacc uptake and success is fairly good but could be much better.
Overall, our attainment is around 70% of pupils achieving grade 5-9 in English, Maths. However our Progress 8 is below average.

We are a 'leafy' comp, very strong in the Arts serving a fairly MC/affluent area, however we border areas with lots more disadvantaged families. These students make up about a 1/4 of our student body.

Our Governing Body and SLT are currently discussing the possibility of reducing our number of GCSE options.
It's very early days (yet to have a full meeting about it).

However, in order to go with some gauge on how others do it, can I ask -

How many options does your school offer?
Do they weight the options to Ebacc?
Did the Arts options suffered and not taken as much or not encouraged?
If they changed from 8 to 7 (or less) Did it improve your academic results?
How do they present the options? Which subjects in which blocks/boxes.


OP’s posts: |
TeenPlusTwenties Wed 27-Nov-19 09:24:56

Our school has
- 2 English, 2 Science, 1 maths, short course RE
optional not using an option
- triple science but then you must select an MFL lower down
1 of History / Geography
any other 3 (but see triple science + MFL above)

So most end up with 9.5, triple science end up with 10.5, those doing full course RE end up with 0.5 less (i.e. 9 or 10).

DD has had 2 year GCSE courses except for science which started start y9.

I think the absolute minimum standard offer should be 8, but I think what our school does seems fine.

I think you maybe need to drill into your progress 8 to see which groups are underperforming. e.g. it could be an issue in KS3 not pushing the kids enough, or the 'better performing' kids not being pushed, or the 'less able kids' needing more English time etc.

A knee jerk reaction to cut number of GCSEs won't necessarily solve the problem. And may lead to more aspirational families going elsewhere.

JaneR0chester Wed 27-Nov-19 09:40:02

We're in a small state selective school, kids take 11 GCSEs and they have to do the EBacc. There is wiggle room in the 2 years that GCSEs are covered, so some kids may drop from triple to double science or move between exam tiers, but most will sit 11 GCSEs.

We were told that kids would fill in, in order of preference, their subject choices. Then the option blocks would be drawn up to accommodate as many people as possible, so the options are different each year I believe. Most years, only a handful of kids do not get all of their top choices and have to rejig one or two subjects.

So along with the 6 basics (Maths, English x2, Science x3) an MFL and a Humanity (RE was not compulsory, so could be chosen as well as History / Geography), kids could choose 3 more subjects. Of those 3, kids were encouraged to take at least one art/music/drama/food tech or product design type of subject.

Art is run every year, enough kids choose that. Drama was not run in our year group because not enough kids choose it, although I'm not sure what the number is for the subject to be run in our school. Music is also a popular choice at GCSE level (less so at A level).

Our school offers the usual subjects at GCSE plus a few that they wouldn't have studied at KS3 (business for example). And they offer 2 MFLs, which for my DC was great and the timetabling allowed both languages to be taken.

RedskyToNight Wed 27-Nov-19 09:43:14

Average comp in terms of intake:

School has mandatory GCSEs of
- English Lang and Lit
- Maths
- 2 science GCSEs (either combined science, or 2 of the individual sciences) If students wish to take triple science they will use one of their options picking the last science. Just under half the year do select triple science.

Students must then choose
- history or geography. If they wish to take both, they can use an option to select the other

- 1 option from each of 4 blocks.
The blocks are weighted such that 2 blocks contain mainly "creative" subjects and science (so you would either do triple science and 1 creative subject, or combined science and 2 creative subjects) and the other 2 blocks more academic subjects

The school promise that everyone wanting to take a MFL is able to do so, but do not mandate it (and in DD's year only just over a third of the year is taking a MFL). They do not make this promise about any other option - where students may have to take a second choice if numbers do not allow them to have their first choice option.

So students will end up with 10 subjects in total (which might be a mix of GCSE and BTEC)

spacepyramid Wed 27-Nov-19 09:50:06

They have to do Maths, English Language, English Literature, RE, Core PE. If they are doing triple Science (3 individual GCSEs) then they get to choose 3 other subjects, otherwise they can choose 4, one of which must be HIstory or Geography so 8 in all. It used to be 9 GCSEs so they chose 4 or 5 others but it dropped to 8 GCSEs when the new, harder GCSEs came in.

AnneOfCleavage Wed 27-Nov-19 09:51:15

My DC school there is two pathways. One an academic one (ebacc) and one a vocational one (offers childcare/ hairdressing etc.

My DC does the ebacc pathway and has to do: a MFL and a Humanity plus 3 other choices on top of the normal Eng (lit and Lang), Maths, Science (triple or combined). The other 3 choices are from a range of art, dance, drama, music, DT plus lots of others. It is a 3 year course.

However, as of next Sept they are changing it to just 2 choices on top of MFL and Humanity and doing a 2 year course. Not sure if they are stopping the vocational pathway - the school have got a new head who has made it more academic therefore pushing out the less able which I thinking is despicable (thank goodness we are leaving) as I know they are stopping textiles, DT and food tech 😕

EwwSprouts Wed 27-Nov-19 10:14:36

Usual maths, 2 eng, 3 sciences then choose from
comp sci
RE (optional)
business studies
Most do 9.

spacepyramid Wed 27-Nov-19 10:20:28

Anneofcleavage It sounds like she's introducing selection without altering the admissons criteria.

Milicentbystander72 Wed 27-Nov-19 11:17:12

That's interesting thanks.

Most of our surrounding schools with similar intake (although we are a smaller comp) seem to do 8 or 7. Many are reducing to 7.

I'm am wary and I will make my concerns known. The Head has said he could easily be persuaded to reduce but not said more (as I said we've yet to discuss fully in person). If we do decide it will have to done quickly in time for options in February. I'm personally concerned that it's too quick and a 'knee jerk' reaction like another PP said.

Our Arts are very strong and it's what attracts many to the school (myself included). I just feel like parents will encourage their dcs to stop the drama and Art etc in favour of a more 'academic' subject if options are reduced. Which would be to the detriment of the school.

We also have OFSTED due around February. I think this might be adding to the panic.

Our Head has been in place for 3 full school years. The last Head rose the school on a traditionally good reputation and behind the scenes there was much fire fighting to be done. I think our new Head is a good one but we need to start making in-roads into the performance figures.

OP’s posts: |
PandasandRabbit Wed 27-Nov-19 11:33:41

Small to mid-sized comprehensive, above average results and Progress 8 consistently.

Eng Lang / Eng Lit / Maths
Double or Triple Science (Very much ability split - triple comes out of PE time)
1/2 GCSE in RE in year 10

Then 4 options out of:
French if previously taken
Spanish if previously taken
Statistics - you also do FM as well with this so 2 qualifications.
Music if taken as y9 option
Art if taken as year 9 option
Drama if y9 option
Dance if y9 option
Food tech if year 9 option
Health and social care not a GCSE
Business studies not a GCSE
Engineering if year 9 option
Design and tech if year 9 option

Think that's it. Quite a split in results by subject, some highest result is a 6, others have several 9s and several 8s, generally more traditional subject school gets much higher results in though languages results are low. Not sure why this is but very clear divide. Seem to struggle to recruit in languages, food tech, engineering, design and tech and think this impacts results there.

Purpledragon40 Wed 27-Nov-19 11:50:25

My school (albiet an awful school results wise but our intake is very deprived) does two English GCSEs, Double Science, Maths, RE and 4 options with one option being triple science. The arts don't suffer to much even though we push towards ebacc by having 5 option blocks and having to pick from 4 of them because most kids avoid triple science pushing them into picking an arts (languages bloc, humanities bloc, triple science, arts and variations on dt).

spacepyramid Wed 27-Nov-19 12:02:15

I looked at ours a bit more, I'm not normally involved with it.
They have to do at least one of History, Geography, French or Spanish plus either combined or triple science as well as the usual English, RE and PE.

Then they have their remaining choices from:
1. Art, Dance, Drama, Music, Music Practice (BTEC)
2. Computer Science, Creative ICT/Digital Media (Cambridge National), Engineering, DT, Level 1/2 Technology award (not sure what that is), Food and Nutrition
3. Business Studies, Child Development (Cambridge National), Health and Social Care (Cambridge National), and PE (GCSE) or Sport Science (Cambridge National)

TeenPlusTwenties Wed 27-Nov-19 12:23:23

You can't only do 7 surely?

Maths, Engx2, Sciencex2 = 5 and then you say only 2 other GCSEs?

Even 8 is very slim as a starting point. I think you would be seriously letting down your more able students if you did this.

I could understand different pathways/options
Maths, 2 English, 2 Science for all
Top level: 5 options to incl 2 of Hist/Geog/MFL/Triple
Mid Level: 4 options
Support: 3 options plus extra maths/English

A school that was standardly only offering 8 to even the best would I think be one which very quickly saw a move out of more able pupils.

Milicentbystander72 Wed 27-Nov-19 12:32:24

No Teen, I was counting differently to you in a more stripped down way. Classing Maths, English and Science as 3 subjects.

They do the mandatory 5 you mentioned but currently have 4 options so now 9 in all. My mistake for explaining it wrong in the first place.

OP’s posts: |
spacepyramid Wed 27-Nov-19 12:45:40

I don't see 8 as very slim as a starting point, I see it as recognition that the new GCSEs are much tougher and there is a need to consider pupil (and teacher) wellbeing.

TeenPlusTwenties Wed 27-Nov-19 12:48:29

9 is fine. They are thinking of dropping to 8?

If I were the parent of a more able child, I would think 9 was just about OK, but would be pretty unhappy with 8.

As a parent of a less able child, I think 9 is giving her a reasonable breadth at GCSE, but I would like the 'option' to drop one in y11 if needed in order to either have intervention in core subjects or to just have less to do.

What our school has done in y10 is pretty clever I think.
There are 4 flexible lessons per fortnight.
If you are doing triple science you do extra science in those lessons.
Some children get and Extra English, and Extra maths, and 2 ICT.
Most get 4 ICT lessons (which might lead to some qualification I'm not sure).

As a governor I'd be asking some pretty tough questions re which groups are pulling down the progress 8 scores and why. (Is it empty buckets, or just poor progress). If numeracy/literacy is an issue I'd be wanting to know what is happening in KS3 to address when they first join the school. Dropping the offer for all seems a very broad way of approaching the problem.

CMOTDibbler Wed 27-Nov-19 12:52:06

We are a ruralish area (school serves very small town and lots of villages, next nearest school is 7 miles away) in an area which scores very badly in social mobility. School has an ASD unit which covers a massive area as well.
There are 3 tracks where they can choose a split placement with the college, GCSEs, or EBACC
If you choose the GCSE route, you get 4 choices - you have to do one of french, german, geography or history, but no restrictions beyond that. They have to do science - norm is 2 award, but the top 60 are offered 3 but done in the same time slot

Lonecatwithkitten Wed 27-Nov-19 12:53:31

I think you need to look at your data in more detail. Break your progress 8 score down looking at different demographics.
You need to know if your progress 8 score for your students from the leafy mc versus deprived. Have you got a large number of mc children who have been tutored for SATS and some their predicted grades are relatively high.
This will help you identify where you need to focus your efforts rather a gut change of cutting the number of GCSEs. You may need more flexible approach with certain students studying fewer, but more support in their core subjects.

hanahsaunt Wed 27-Nov-19 12:59:23

Big city centre comp. Ds did 10 this year and that was normal:

English x 2
Science x 3
then a further three

In the new regime I think that was one subject too many and his grades suffered - school agreed and I really hope that they revise it in time for the next boy coming up. It was one thing for ds1 to stroll into his exams with 60% course work completed and A or B in the bag; ds2 had do or die on the day which is really tough especially when there were weeks when he had 1 in the morning, 1 completely different in the afternoon and then a third random subject the following morning. Completely mad with no head room at all.

titchy Wed 27-Nov-19 13:01:25

As lonecat says, if your concern is your progress 8, then you need to find out which kids are pulling you down. A blanket 'reduce the number of subjects' applied to all students is frankly an appalling solution, and I'd be very concerned about a head prepared to implement that as a strategy.

English and Maths are double weighted for Progress 8 so any weaknesses there are effectively doubled.

Teachermaths Wed 27-Nov-19 17:29:41

Reducing options won't necessarily improve progress 8.

There needs to be a good look at where progress 8 is being dragged down. Is it English, Maths (both count double - although the higher English grade counts twice from lit and lang) or Science? Or is it the open basket subjects?

Do all students do triple science? In an average comp that would probably drag down prog 8 purely due to the huge amount of content.

PettsWoodParadise Thu 28-Nov-19 06:52:36

Grammar school - 10 GCSEs, no subject blocks or compulsory triple or double or chasing ebacc etc. Some students choose to do extra twilight GCSEs (dance, Japanese, Mandarin, Latin) but whislt these were encouraged in the past with the new harder GCSEs doing more than 10 is with all sorts of health warnings and with consultation. Started sciences and maths syllabus part way through Y9.

Nearby comp have 10 subjects for their top students, 9 for the majority, 8 for those struggling.

SabineSchmetterling Thu 28-Nov-19 07:49:00

If you’re on 70% 9-5 in English and Maths and have a negative P8 score then something is going wrong somewhere. Are there very poor results in non-core departments or is there an issue with very few students getting grades 7-9? Our students do 9 GCSEs (3 options, 2 English, Maths, 2 Science, RE). We’re non-selective with an average ability profile. Our 9-5 Eng and Maths score is lower than yours and we have consistently been well inside the top 1% of schools nationally for P8 since it was introduced. We were in the top 20 schools one year. I don’t think the number of options will make any difference. You do need to look carefully at what’s going wrong though. Even for a “leafy” comp 70% 9-5 for the English and Maths score is very good. Something has to be going on under the surface for progress 8 to be below average.

LolaSmiles Thu 28-Nov-19 07:55:14

Reducing options seems a knee jerk response to me.
Really there needs to be some proper analysis of P8 and the school need to look at which cohorts are doing well/underperforming and start from there.

Your English/Maths scores are looking good so the starting point would be why, and then look at option blocks. E.g. Are option blocks weaker overall? Do certain options under perform with the weakest part of your cohort? Do English/Maths routinely remove students from option subjects for intervention (making it much more difficult for option teachers to teach the course)?

Our students typically leave with 9 level 2 qualifications. Some do all GCSEs, others do core plus some vocational options, others do a mix.

Theworldisfullofgs Thu 28-Nov-19 07:56:54

Progress 8 is an odd measure, have you looked at how it is calculated and how it came as a measure in the first place.

My dcs school do 10 gcses, used to be 11. If you reduce to below 9 surely you are going to affect uni applications negatively.
I think you will also going to affect applications to the school. I wouldn't chose you.

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