Park Lane Academy

Options FAQ



 Frequently Asked Questions

What is Key Stage 4?

Key Stage 4 begins at the start of Year 10 and is one or two years of study (dependent upon the subject) leading to GCSE or equivalent qualifications. Students may go on from Key Stage 4 to study A-Levels at Sixth Form, go to college or begin employment coupled with training. Whatever our students decide to do, the choices they make now are very important.

Why do students have to choose?

There is not enough time in the curriculum to enable students to continue studying all their Year 9 subjects to GCSE level therefore, they must opt and reduce the number of subjects studied.

Why do students only have 4 choices out of the 9 subjects they study in Key Stage 4?

Some subjects are classed as core which means it is a statutory requirement to study them up to GCSE level; this includes English Language, English Literature, Mathematics, and Science. Schools are also encouraged by the government to ensure students take at least one other subject from the English Baccalaureate to ensure a broad and balanced curriculum.

What is the English Baccalaureate?

This is a performance measure for schools that reports on how many students have achieved a good pass in 6 specific subject areas. Those subjects are as follows:

  • English Language
  • English Literature
  • Mathematics
  • 2 Sciences
  • History or Geography
  • A modern foreign language

Does this mean extended option subjects and those not included in the English Baccalaureate are less important?

Absolutely not. We value all subjects as highly as each other and are particularly proud of our high achieving practical subjects. Students are strongly recommended to use their extended options to pursue their passions and the subjects they are most interested in.

Why are GCSEs graded 9-1 now instead of A*-G?

The government has reformed all GCSE and A-Level qualifications over a 3-year period. Reformed qualifications at GCSE are now graded from 9-1 as well as being more challenging and having most of their assessment at the end of the course (see individual subject pages for more information). The new grade 9 is highly aspirational and will only be achieved by a small percentage of students across the country.

Why is there a reserve option on the options form?

BTECs and Technical Awards are alternative qualifications to GCSE that are equally as challenging but offer a different approach to learning. The final qualification (if passed at Level 2) is equivalent to a pass at GCSE.

What if students change their mind?

Despite our best efforts, we cannot offer an infinite combination of subjects. Sometimes, students’ option choices will clash, and we will have to ask them to study their reserve instead. Furthermore, if there are insufficient numbers of students selecting the course, it may not be financially viable to run it. With this thought in mind, we advise students to put as much thought into their reserve choice as they do into their other choices.

Final suggestions for students to consider when making

We would hope this does not happen! Students will all have received high quality guidance and input as part of the options process with the aim of reducing anxiety or questioning choices. Once the course has started, students will have to have a very strong reason for changing and no requests will be considered after the end of September.  Please bear in mind that students can change their year 11 options.

  • What do I enjoy studying? What are my strengths?
  • What way do I learn best, and will the course suit me?
  • If I choose this option now, will it keep more options open for me later for further study, training, or work?

Some things for parents/carers to consider with students:

  • Some students might say they like a subject but really, they believe it is an easier option. This is not true. All subjects will be demanding at GCSE level and students will have to work hard to gain a good qualification.
  • Some students may be inclined to choose a subject because of the teacher but, again, due to the timetabling and potential staff changes, a specific teacher cannot be guaranteed.
  • Remember, GCSEs have changed a lot since your day! Your experience may be totally different to your child’s. Share your knowledge and experience but keep in mind as well that our students are preparing for a totally different world!

Course selection information you need to know:

  • You cannot choose Sports Studies and GCSE PE
  • You cannot choose Photography and Art, Craft and Design
  • If your reserve depends on what other choices you are awarded, please write this clearly on your form.
  • Think carefully about your choices - changing course is rarely possible.