GCSE options tips for parents

Now that Flea is in her third year of senior school, she’s been asked to think about choosing her GCSE options.

As a parent, the first tip I can offer you is give yourself time. Because you need to fully experience that, “Oh my God, how is my baby choosing GCSEs already?” 

It’s a lot.

Aside from that, my approach to Flea choosing her GCSE options has been similar to my approach to most parenting issues. That’s to say, I’m trying to respect while making life as happy as possible.

They’re Just GCSEs

I know GCSEs are important. It’s important that our children end up with good qualifications and lots of choices in life.

But they’re not the be-all and end-all.

In a recent conversation with my brother, I couldn’t remember how many GCSEs I have. Eleven? Twelve? Did I do German or French? Maybe I did both? It’s a mystery. 

I tell Flea this story because I want her to understand that, one day, she won’t remember how many GCSEs she has.

Like many things in life, close up, GCSE options feel big and important and scary.

But in the overall scheme of things, it’s just another choice.

If you make a mistake, you’ll catch up later.

I did two GCSEs alongside my A-Levels (I didn’t have a boyfriend, and clearly had way too much spare time). My flatmates at uni both went to crammer schools over the summer to take GCSEs they’d missed at school.

Basically?  Nothing is final. GCSE options are important, but they’re not THAT important.

These are not YOUR GCSE Options

As a Mum, I can advise Flea. I tell her grown-up, responsible things like

  • If you know what you want to do/study later, make sure you choose those things now
  • If you don’t know what you want to do later, try and cover the main bases (maths, english, science, language)
  • Don’t make choices based on what your friends (or your parents) think

But it’s NOT my choice. I’m not the one going to be sitting in that classroom for the next two years. I won’t be taking those exams.

School Has Got Your Child’s Back

Most schools insist that children sit a core group of subjects – english, maths and science.

At Flea’s school it’s a bit broader. All children study three sciences, plus english literature. Children in the top sets (which includes Flea) also study Latin.

Meanwhile, everyone does PHSE, games and CCF (Combined Cadet Force).

The ‘options’ bit of the GCSE options only refers to four subjects. Regardless of Flea’s choices, I’m happy the basics are going to be covered.

GCSE Options Should Make Your Child Happy

Alongside getting a decent education, my #1 priority is Flea’s happiness.

If you’re going to sit a stupid number of exams and be under all sorts of pressure, at least do stuff you enjoy. So with Flea choosing her GCSE options, I say choose things you enjoy, and are interested in.

The only other advice I give Flea is to think about her natural abilities. Balance subjects that are interesting but a bit difficult with things you’re going to find you’re good at, without working TOO hard.

Exams are hard, and exam stress is a real risk for many of our youngsters. The last thing I want is for Flea to spend two years miserable, studying things she finds boring and difficult.

gcse options

Flea’s GCSE Options

With very little guidance beyond, “Choose things you like and you’re good at,” Flea’s actually made some solid choices.

Flea’s first two GCSE options are history and french. These academic subjects will be balanced by photography. And finally, Flea would like to take RPE (Religion, Philosophical and Ethical Studies) which she loves studying now.

At the moment we’re not 100% sure what’s going to be possible within the timetable, so Flea has a back-up subject – business studies.

Both RPE and business studies seem great GCSE options to me. After all, you’ll never go far wrong learning about other faiths and philosophies, OR getting a basic grounding in money.


Overall, I hope that Flea isn’t too stressed by choosing her GCSE options. I don’t want her to feel like this is some enormous choice with life-long ramifications.

My nephew is the same age as Flea, and he has very set aptitudes and career goals. But Flea is, as yet, undecided. So I’m happy for her to follow her interests for now, and see where it takes her.

I’m not sure whether this is the best advice on helping kids choose GSCE options. But hopefully it will result in Flea being happy at school, and wanting to succeed.

I’d love to hear about your experiences of helping kids choose their GCSE options. Did you insist on specific subjects or offer advice? What GCSE options are your young people choosing, and how?