Choosing options is an exciting process, though a little daunting. We have not structured the process with performance tables in mind so there is still considerable choice and we have maintained a strong offer in the arts and technology subjects. The only things that are compulsory are those designated by law, so nobody is forced to study a language or humanities subject if they really don’t feel it suits them. This gives students the ability to choose courses that they enjoy and help develop their talents. Of course a wide choice also brings its own challenges.
We would ask people to look seriously at our BTEC courses. In the past people have considered these an option to suit those for whom a full curriculum of GCSEs might be too challenging. That is no longer the case. They are harder than before, still taught rather differently and offer routes to some attractive university programmes. More broadly both GCSEs and BTECs offer the chance to start professional life without going into further education. It may seem early, and not a traditional idea, but there are some terrific apprenticeships of all kinds on offer at 16 and 18 years of age. It would be sensible to look at these with an open mind, even at this early stage.
The second thing to reflect upon is the English Baccalaureate (EBacc). This is a qualification comprising 5 GCSEs at grade 4 and above in English, Mathematics, two sciences, History or Geography and French or German. At the moment it is a performance indicator for schools. It is possible that university departments, certainly in the higher status universities for some courses will regard it as a feature in selection of candidates in future. There is no sign of this yet.
Many schools are making Humanities and Languages compulsory for all in response to the government’s initiative. Many more are insisting that those capable of passing them should be made to take a Humanities and Languages option. Our governors looked at changing the options to make some subjects compulsory for some students, which would certainly help us in the league tables. However, we feel it better to allow families to make the choice, while being fully informed of its significance.
If your child chooses not to study for the EBacc there is a danger that in four years’ time they will not be able to gain access to the university course or a profession that they want. It is also possible that some sixth forms will look for it for at least some courses. We do not know precisely how key this qualification will be but there is a chance it will become useful in some areas, particularly for students who are more able academically.
We are happy to leave the decision to you and your child. We appreciate that you may be happy to take the risk of not opting for the EBacc in order to allow them to study a combination of subjects they enjoy and feel will offer them more.
Your child will have a discussion with a member of the Senior Leadership Team and there will be a chance for you to gather more information through the options evening. If your child’s options do not include the EBacc, and we feel they could pass it, we will write to you again. We will not look for a return, nor follow it up. We are merely seeking to ensure you feel we have paid sufficient respect to your freedom to choose and allowed you to do so in full knowledge of the issues surrounding the EBacc.
I hope you find this information useful. As ever, the options process is about communication so please do get in touch with the school at any time if you have questions or concerns.
J Marston, Headteacher