How to help your teen choose their school subjects: A checklist for parents

It's time for students to pick their options. Parents, don't panic!

We've got you covered with some key advice.

If your child has been asked to choose the subjects they want to take for their GCSEs or Nationals, you’ll know this can be a tricky time for them, especially if they haven't decided what areas they'd like to specialise in.

There can be a lot of peer-pressure around options, with friendship groups aiming to stay in the same classes, and group chats will be buzzing with different opinions on which subjects are the best and worst.

You can help your son or daughter cut through the noise and make the right choices for them. Start by having a conversation, discuss their options, and recognise any achievements they have made in subjects they enjoy. You can also talk to their teachers directly. If your child's teachers have noticed they have particular flair for a subject, or tell you they are struggling, take note - you need to be on the same page.

English and Maths are compulsory across the UK, and Science is also compulsory in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. There can be some variations on mandatory subjects depending on the school, so do talk to your child's teachers. Take a look at our guides to picking your options in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to make sure your teen is in the know.

Parent checklist

  • Do investigate subjects you don't know about
  • If your son or daughter isn't sure about which subjects to pick, but has an idea of which area they'd like to work in eventually, identify the kinds of subjects that they would need to do this kind of job
  • Speak to their Head of Year for more information on the options process. Some schools also have a Head of Options or Head of Careers specifically to help with student and parent enquiries
  • Caution them against taking a subject just because their friends are doing it or because they like the teacher, because you never know when either is going to change
  • If you don't agree with the options your son or daughter is choosing, try to compromise, but also remember that ultimately this is their call. As one of the first major decisions about their future, having a positive and supportive attitude will help empower your child now, and later in life
  • Know their strengths. It pays to find out how different subjects are assessed: this could be practical work, coursework, extended writing, exams or a combination of these. It is worth considering if one subject will play to your child’s strengths more than another, as assessments become more intense in the final two years
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