As if skin breakouts and rollercoaster hormones are not enough to deal with, your teenager is also expected to make some pretty serious subject choices, which could have a major effect on their future careers and lives. Sian Goodspeed, founder of Flying Start Tuition, answers your questions about GCSEs and how you can help your child.

GCSEexamhallWhy are GCSE exams and results important?
The GCSEs, which your child will normally sit at the age of 15 or 16 when they are in Year 10 or 11, are important for a few reasons:
• Firstly, they determine next steps such as which subjects he or she can choose for A-levels and which sixth form college your child will be able to go to.
• The results are a predictor of how your child will do at A-levels and can also determine which qualifications he or she can take after that. Some colleges only allow pupils to take a subject to A-level if he or she has achieved a certain grade in it. If the overall grades are mostly Cs, your child may not be able to sit A-levels at all.
• Good results may help your child to pip other applicants to the post when applying for university. Many universities (and employers) look for at least Cs in maths and English GCSEs.

How do I find out more about GCSE subjects?
Everyone HAS to take maths, English and science and your child will also have to re-sit maths and English until he or she gets a C.
After that, different schools have different approaches. Some schools make another language compulsory, whereas the choice of optional courses vary widely, but your child has to be offered at least one course in each of the following four areas:
Arts, design and technology, humanities and modern foreign language.

What should my role be in helping my child choose GCSE subjects?
• Encourage and support your child, help him or her to stay motivated and to be confident about their abilities.
• Even if your teenager may not see it that way, he or she will still need guidance from you and their teachers – schools usually offer a GSCE information event for parents and pupils during Year 9 – so be sure to attend this with your child.
• Whatever you do, don’t pressurise your child to take German just because you always wanted to speak German or choose science because you want them to become a doctor like you.
• The best way is to discuss the various pros and cons and long-term outcomes of taking different subjects.
• By all means check that your child is not choosing a subject to be with a friend or avoid a teacher, but remember that at the end of the day, choosing the subjects should be your child’s own choice, supported by you and the school.
• What’s more if your child enjoys studying a subject, he or she is likely to do much better.

Which factors are important when choosing GCSE subjects?
• Does he or she love the subject – but at the same time don’t let them get away with ‘the easy option.’
• Does he or she have a natural ability in this subject?
• Although following more GCSEs can look good, choosing too many subjects can result in lower grades
• Try to pick a few ‘hard’ subjects, preferred by employers and universities, to keep your child’s options open later. If you’re not sure, ask your child’s teachers for guidance. If your child wants to apply to very academic universities, it’s generally not advised to take more than one creative or practical subject.
• How balanced is the choice of subjects? Aim for a range of knowledge, including core ‘hard’ subjects plus a few subjects they’ll enjoy doing and want to learn.

Good luck with your choices and if your child needs a bit of extra help revising for GCSEs, find out about our targeted GCSE courses designed to help your child get the result they need.
If you enjoyed reading this article, please share it with other parents and look out for more GCSE blogs – including tips for GCSE revision and understanding the recent GCSE changes.