Online, there are 2 general careers websites where you can find information on choosing options and careers:
The important principle is to keep as many career routes open as possible, so choose a balanced range of subjects. If capable of coping with it, I would advise choosing triple science, as separate subjects. This means that if a decision to study a science subject at A level is made, the step up from GCSE won't be quite as difficult.
There is still some snob value about certain subjects being valued more than others, which becomes more prevalent at A level. The A level subjects which the elite Russell Group of universities value as being "facilitating" subjects are:
- Mathematics and Further Mathematics
- English Literature
- Languages (Classical and Modern)
As a Careers Adviser, I strongly advise allowing students to choose subjects that they enjoy, which fortunately are often the ones that they're best at. This would include allowing really academic students to choose subjects for pure pleasure - like Art, Graphics, Design and Technology (e.g. Resistant Materials, Graphic Design, Textiles, and Food Technology), Media Studies etc. Yes, the Russell Group may not value these subjects at A level, but at GCSE, it really isn't a big deal so long as they also have a strong range of traditional subjects alongside.
Sometimes the discussion is concerned about the amount of homework that would be involved in choosing more practical subjects, and whether this would be to the detriment of their other subjects. Personally, I think that education is about developing the whole person and if a student is interested in something, then it should be pursued. It may even develop a talent that they want to use later on.
I'm conscious that a lot of MumsNet discussions focus on the very academic and high aspiring pupils. For those who aren't, the same principle applies - they should go with the subjects that they enjoy and that they're best at. The subjects which are essential are English & Maths, with Science coming a close third. As for the rest, they could all lead on to Level 3 qualifications, either at school, college or in the workplace, and even on to Higher Education at university. Lots of graduates from red-brick or ex-poly universities go on to graduate jobs - not least because many of the degrees offered there are vocational and highly valued by many employers.
As an alternative to GCSEs, BTEC First Certificates have been offered in some schools. These are often very attractive to pupils with a wide range of abilities. They have interesting titles like, "Animal Care", "Child Care", "Engineering" and so on. They are all practical subjects, primarily assessed via coursework (although I believe that the new courses have an exam too), with hopefully some work experience as a part of the course. Although the recommendation is that these courses are for all pupils, not just those deemed "non academic", there is a health warning that I would give them. In my experience, the courses are often timetabled in school such that they may not fit with academic streams. In general, I think that the same comments apply as those I give (above) regarding choosing subjects for pleasure. A balance should be kept regarding the proportion of a timetable allotted to BTEC courses. If it is only equivalent to the time allotted to 1 GCSE in a students timetable, then even the most academic student could choose it as an option without it narrowing their options. If it is equivalent to 4 GCSEs in the student's timetable then there is less room for academic subjects.
If students or their parents would like advice on which would be good subjects for them, ask to see your school's Careers Adviser.
In Wales, Careers Wales will have a presence in most schools, although face-to-face guidance is only offered to those in most need.
In England, responsibility for providing impartial careers guidance has fallen to the schools where, hopefully they will have employed a qualified professional.
If you're not satisfied with the service provided by the school, it is possible to see a Careers Adviser privately. Look at the professional register of the Career Development Institute (CDI) to find a qualified professional in your area. Even better, if you're in the South Wales/ South West, contact us!