Frequently Asked Questions
How many GCSEs will pupils get?
Pupils will study between 7 and 12 GCSEs. The majority of pupils will study 9 GCSEs. They will be awarded six GCSEs in the core subjects - English Language, English Literature, Maths, Biology, Chemistry and Physics, and they will supplement this with 3 GCSEs from their preferences subjects.
Some pupils will be entered for more GCSEs – if they are entered for additional maths, a community language or Latin, for example, or if they undertake an additional preference course through enrichment. Other pupils will study one or two fewer courses – if they are taking double rather than Triple Science, for example, or if they receive additional core subject support in place of one of their options.
Will pupils have a better chance of applying to the top Universities if they study additional GCSE subjects?
No. Universities are far more interested in the quality of qualifications achieved than the quantity. Grades at GCSE and A-level, rather than the number of subjects that pupils study, are seen as a more accurate predictor of ability to study a University course. The basic expectation nationally is that pupils study 8 GCSEs and the new government performance measures are all based on idea that this is the norm.
Most schools, both in the state and independent sector, have cut the standard number of GCSEs that most pupils study in recent years, in the light of reforms to the examination system and more challenging courses in Maths and English in particular requiring more teaching time.
Do you have to study English, Maths and Science?
Yes. These will become optional courses like any others at A-level but these are core subjects up to the age of 16 nationally. All of our pupils will study English Literature and Language, with three periods of each. All pupils will have 5 periods of Maths, 6 of Science, a double period of PE/games and then 3 periods for each of their preference subjects.
Where can I access advice about careers and the choices I have to make?
Civitas tutors are as ever your first port of call in school. Careers guidance is also one of Mrs Robinson’s many areas of expertise and responsibility, so speak to her for advice or to be pointed in the right direction in terms of research and resources in the library. All Year 9 pupils have been introduced to the Fast Tomato website (www.fasttomato.com) and have their own profiles on the website which they can access from school or home. If you do not have a Fast Tomato log-in, please see Mrs Robinson. A number of visitors will also be coming to Bolingbroke in the weeks and months ahead to provide small-group and individual support.
Why do we use the term ‘Preferences’ instead of ‘Options’ at Bolingbroke?
It is appropriate that pupils have an element of choice in the composition of their Key Stage 4 curriculum. The expectation is that pupils research widely, consult their teachers, discuss their decisions in depth with their parents, subject teachers, Civitas tutors and other sources of advice and support. It is hoped that all pupils will reach informed choices and find themselves allocated to their first choice subjects. There may be some cases where pupils are directed towards different courses to those that they have chosen if the academy believes it is in their best interest. There are some courses which certain pupils will not be able to study (eg Spanish if pupils have not studied it in Year 8 and 9). For this reason we use the term ‘preference’ rather than ‘option’ to emphasise that pupils do not have absolutely free choice to opt for what they want.
Once I have submitted my preferences, am I guaranteed to study those subjects?
No. Sometimes subjects will be undersubscribed and it will not be viable to run as many teaching groups as planned. If this is the case the number of teaching groups will be reduced and this may mean that some pupils have to re-choose. Alternatively a subject may be oversubscribed and some pupils will have to re-choose. We obviously try to limit the impact of such changes.
What is the English Baccalaureate?
The English Baccalaureate (or EBacc) was introduced as a performance measure for schools several years ago. Pupils who get A*-C grades in English, Maths, Science, a Modern Foreign Language and either History or Geography qualify for the English Baccalaureate. This has given Humanities and Languages GCSEs somewhat enhanced status in relation to other optional subjects. They are subjects that have traditionally been recognised as rigorous facilitating subjects that universities and employers value highly. A selection of a Humanities subject, a language and a creative/practical subject is a good balanced curriculum that would suit the majority of pupils. However, these subjects are not for everyone and pupils will not be forced to take EBacc qualifying subjects and combinations if there are subjects that they are passionate about (eg RE, Music and Art, or Food Tech, PE and Drama) and that may help them secure better outcomes.
Can pupils study more than one language?
While with only three preferences to choose from, it is not anticipated that large numbers of pupils will take this route, pupils are able to continue with both of their languages from Year 9 if they choose. Pupils and parents should speak with current language teachers for advice. Native, bilingual or advanced speakers of other languages will have the opportunity to be entered for them and attain an additional GCSE qualification, potentially in Year 10 or even in Year 9.
Some schools have options blocks or three lists of subjects from which pupils select one from each. Why do we not have these at Bolingbroke?
We are determined to maximise the match between preferences pupils express and course allocations. Option blocks are simple and straightforward but they rule out certain combinations of courses. We will build our blocks (ie the lessons that are taught at the same time, one of which all Year 10 pupils will be in at a given time) around the preferences expressed so that as many pupils as possible are allocated to their top three preferences. It is inevitable that not every preference combination will ‘work’ but this approach greatly increases the likelihood that pupils will end up with their top three.
Do you need to select PE to do it?
All pupils will have a double period of core (non-GCSE) PE/games. PE is also a preference subject. GCSE PE and Core PE/games are very different. Core PE will be similar to the PE pupils have followed in Years 7-9 with a focus on exercise, sport and healthy lifestyles. GCSE PE is a rigorous academic course. Most pupils who select PE as a preference they will have 5 periods of PE a week, in addition to enrichment commitments. It is possible that some pupils may be able to be entered for GCSE PE in addition to their three preferences if they have excellent theoretical knowledge and understanding, advanced sporting skills and are fully engaged in sports enrichment. Please see Mr Kerby if interested in this pathway.
Where does RE / Philosophy and Ethics fit in?
This is a statutory subject that pupils have so far studied for a term in Years 7 and 8 History and a period a week of Philosophy and Ethics in Year 9. In Year 10, pupils will continue to follow it through the Civitas programme. They also have the option of selecting Religious Education as a preference subject in addition to this.
How will it be decided whether pupils do Triple or Double Science?
We have consistently stressed with pupils and parents that we want as many pupils as possible to study Physics, Chemistry and Biology as separate subjects at Key Stage Four as these are highly valued qualifications and good preparation for A-level and university study. However, there will be pupils for whom what is called Core and Additional Science (worth 2 GCSEs instead of 3) will be a more appropriate pathway to secure the best grades their can. This is the route taken by the majority of Key Stage Four pupils around the country, with Triple Science normally reserved only for the highest achievers. Pupils have been completing assessments throughout their GCSE Foundation Year to assess their suitability for Triple Science. The majority of pupils will start with Triple Science in Year 10 although one class is likely to be focusing on Core and Additional only. At the end of Year 10, depending on the outcomes of end of year exams, final decisions will be taken. Parents will be informed at every stage of the process.
Are these ‘new’ or ‘old’ GCSEs?
There has been a great deal of change nationally in terms of curriculum and qualifications that has been widely covered in the media. New GCSEs have been designed and launched in English and Maths. These are very rigorous qualifications with significantly increased content requirements, all assessed by exams at the end of the course. They are graded on an entirely new 9-1 scale. All other subjects will see new GCSEs introduced next September (2018) so the courses the Class of 2019 will be following for courses other than English and Maths will be the existing ‘old’ GCSEs. This combination of old and new GCSEs at the same time is a strange situation but it is one in which current Year 9s in every school in the country will face during Key Stage 4. This year group will greatly benefit from being Bolingbroke’s first GCSE cohort, with staff able to focus on them and their courses rather than Year 11 pupils studying different courses at the same time!
What are some bad reasons to choose preferences subjects?
- Because you like your current teacher for the subject (you may not have them next year!)
- Because you think it is easy (there are no easy GCSEs!)
- Because your friends are doing it and you want to be in their class (it is very unlikely that you will be!)
- Because you think it will guarantee you a career in that area (there is a long way to go!)
- Because it’s the subject you have your best level in it, but you don’t really enjoy studying it.
- Because you are worried that if you don’t do it for GCSE, you will not be able to keep learning about and remain interested in, for example, history, French, music, cooking or art. A well-rounded pupil will maintain an interest and continue developing their knowledge and skills in all areas. Not choosing a subject for GCSE is not the end of the road!