Letters to Parents
Year 9 Choice Guidance 2024 - 2026
We hold a parents information evening for students and parents to come into school to receive information and a presentation about the options process, limitations to some choices and to meet with our Heads of Option Subjects.
Please see the information below to help guide you and your child through the options process. We advise you read through all of this information before opting, so you are fully informed about how your choices will affect opportunities during your child’s time at FUS and beyond:
Making a Choice
Sometimes the choice is easy; sometimes it comes after a lot of careful thought and discussion. It should never be made without a consideration of all the facts.
|GOOD REASONS FOR CHOICE||BAD REASONS FOR CHOICE|
|The work in the subject is interesting and enjoyable now||A friend has decided to study that subject.|
|Success has been achieved in the subject.||You like your current subject teacher.|
|Further study in the subject promises to be interesting.||The students in the subject go on lots of trips.|
|A qualification in the subject may be necessary or helpful in a particular career.||There is nothing else that you know anything about.|
FUS Core Curriculum
The subjects shown below are subjects which all students must take. These form the Core Curriculum.
English, Mathematics, Single Science GCSEs, Core PE, PSHE (Personal, Social and Health Education which includes Citizenship and Religious Education) and Careers.
Some years ago the government introduced the English Baccalaureate as a measure of student progress. To achieve this, students need to achieve a good grade or better in the following subjects:
- English GCSEs
- Maths GCSE
- Science GCSEs (Including Biology, Chemistry, Physics and/or Computer Science GCSE)
- History or Geography GCSE
- A Modern Foreign Language GCSE (French or Spanish)
The English Baccalaureate is a standard of achievement. We believe that most students should achieve this standard, although we do not insist that every student study a Modern Foreign Language, History or Geography. It is also important for all students to maintain a broad mix of subjects at GCSE Level to ensure a wide range of options when they get to the Sixth Form or College. This standard has become increasingly important as a benchmark of success for universities, colleges and employers.
Boost Your Opportunities With a STEM Option
Over the past few years, we have established ourselves as a successful nationally acclaimed STEM school. This includes our innovative science GCSE curriculum being given as a national example of best practice by an all-UK Parliamentary committee in March 2019. We have a range of STEM subjects to take at GCSE and beyond into our Sixth Form.
Our Statistics GCSE is the latest addition to our GCSE options, and with the best Maths Department in Dorset* you couldn’t be in safer hands. Our Digital Technology Department only grows stronger with four recently built specialist labs and brand new resources totalling over £200,000, see Computer Science GCSE or Digital IT BTEC for more details.
Why a STEM option?
- JOBS OF THE FUTURE: There will be 142,000 new jobs in science, research, engineering and technology from now to 2024
- RAPID RISE: Jobs in science, research, engineering and technology fields will grow twice as fast as other careers (6% vs 3%), driven by factors including the pace of infrastructure investment and digital innovation
- SKILLS SHORTAGE:Current figures show there will be a shortfall in the number of graduates and apprentices available to fill these roles. For example, there will be a 40% shortfall in engineering2
- GENDER GAP NEEDS TO NARROW: Getting more girls to consider these careers is essential to the success of UK industrial strategy – currently women are less than a quarter of the workforce in four of the five most in-demand industries
- FUTURE JOBS INCLUDE: Computer coders; Geotechnical Design Engineers; Intelligence Consultants; Robotics Engineers; Data Scientists
* Based on the latest national league tables comparing student progress in maths GCSE.
Pursue your goals and ambitions with the other options subjects on offer
At Ferndown Upper we pride ourselves about the breadth and diversity of the curriculum we offer in Year 9 and this only expands at GCSE level.
We have an options process that enables students to create a suite of subjects that is tailored to their individual goals and ambitions. This is very apparent in the range and combinations of creative and social science options that students can choose, if that is the focus they want to explore.
UK creative industries generate more than £100bn a year to the UK economy and employ more than 2m people. We have students who often select multiple creative options, such as the Art & Design subjects and then continue this pathway through A Levels and onto our highly successful Level 4 BTEC Diploma in Foundation Studies- Art, Design and Media Practice and onto a range of vocational degree courses.
We have students who have gone onto quality Architecture, Product Design, Games Art Design, Animation, Fine Art, Photography Fashion and Textiles degrees and many more leading courses across the country.
GCSE And Vocational Subject Choices
Optional courses are either GCSE or vocational/BTEC courses in option columns. The latter are GCSE equivalents but often with less formal examination and more practical learning.
Students who are interested in studying the following subjects should note:
- Study Either Computer Science GCSE or Digital IT BTEC – not both
- Study Either Media GCSE or Interactive Media – not both
- Study Either PE GCSE or Health & Fitness (Vocational) – not both
Please note that the choosing of vocational or BTEC options may restrict higher education course options (though in most cases they will not). Please see the careers guidance section below about where to find further advice on this if required.
Examinations and Assessments in Options
Different qualifications have difference assessments requirements for Key Stage 4 (GCSE and GCSE equivalent courses). Many qualifications have coursework elements that contribute towards the final grade whereas some courses are 100% examined via external examinations in Year 11.
We advise that you look at your options carefully and consider your child’s personal strengths and the workload requirements with various coursework/ examinations combinations. Please feel free to ask our staff via email or at the Year 9 consultation evening about this.
Beyond GCSE, The FUS Sixth Form (16-19)
The majority of students will join the Sixth Form for two or three years to study at Advanced Level or (from 2022) Technical Levels (T Levels). Many continue in Higher Education after leaving school at eighteen; others proceed directly into employment/apprenticeships.
Parents should be aware that students are now required to be in education/training until age 18. Some of the courses offered continue into the Sixth Form, others may be taken up in the Sixth Form. We also run an Art Foundation Course after A Levels. We are proud of our Sixth Form offer as we offer over 20 subject routes and in the most recent published league tables have the highest Value Added Sixth Form achievement in the County.
The Sixth Form Prospectus can be accessed on our Sixth Form website: https://sixthform.fernup.dorset.sch.uk/
It is vital that students are aware of all the options available to them post-16 and their choices in Year 9 play an important part in this. Our Careers staff offer advice and guidance to students on a range of issues including their plans for the future.
There are a number of ways to access high-quality careers guidance:
FUS Careers Advisors
Careers advice would normally have been available at the Options Evening, however, with the current COVID situation, careers questions can be emailed to:
- FUS Careers Advisor: Miss Lucy Giles, LucyGiles@fernup.dorset.sch.uk
Our school is also fortunate to have over 60 graduate teaching staff who are experts in their fields, who come with a range of invaluable experience and careers knowledge. Please contact our Heads of Subject using their emails on their associated option pages where they are more than happy to advise and support you and your child.
As a regional leader in digital education, FUS is the first centre in Dorset to offer T-Level Qualifications. We begin by launching two Digital T-Level routes where students will study in new facilities in our Computing and Robotics Centre. Students will leave at 18 as qualified and experience software developers or IT support technicians ready for the world of work. For more details please see the Computer Science or Digital IT options. From September 2023 we will be also offering T-Levels in Childcare.
To see the government website on T-Levels please see: https://www.tlevels.gov.uk/
Universities and Higher Education
If your child is interested in higher education routes then there is no better place to look than the UCAS website: https://www.ucas.com/
Packed full of advice, course requirements, and information from creative and humanities degrees, to digital and science-related fields. We advise you to give this a look as in some cases GCSE choice may be important for particular routes.
UCAS also provides information on certain apprenticeship routes. Apprenticeships come at many levels and in a variety of career routes. See https://www.apprenticeships.gov.uk/ for more info.
For further information about how to get careers advice and our outstanding careers programme go to:
In previous year students have been limited to choices made within four sets of blocks. To increase the amount of choice open to students this year we will be building the timetabling around the current year 9 students’ preferences for subjects.
Upon receiving the option choices by the deadline, we will construct a timetable based on the optimum combination of subjects that give the most students their first option choice, only using their reserve choices where needed.
We are confident that this will provide students with a more bespoke curriculum that suits the students’ aspirations rather than be limited by our timetabling choices.
Like all years though, some students will not get all their first choices (though this is normally around 90-95%) and where we cannot timetable them due to choice clashes or classes become full it may be required to use the reserves. This will always be done in discussion with the Head of Year, Options Team and the student, before final decisions are made if first choices cannot be offered.
Please ensure that the Online Options Form is submitted by 12 noon on 30th January 2023.
Online Options Form System
This section explains how to use the online form.
To make the process easier, we use an online options system. A parent user guide is found using the link below (and will have been sent in your Parentmail on launch day). The link to the platform is below.
Options For 2022
Click each subject title below for further information
3 RULES FOR CHOOSING OPTIONS
- You must choose one choice from List A (Choice 1)
- You must choose three FIRST PREFERENCES from List B (on the online options form 2,3,4 as explained above)
- You then pick one reserve choice from List B (Choice R)
- Choose Either Computer Science GCSE or Digital IT BTEC – not both
- Choose Either Media GCSE or Interactive Media (Vocational) – not both
- Choose Either PE GCSE or Health & Fitness (Vocational) – not both
- Students choosing Health & Fitness in A, cannot choose PE in B
Parents’ Questions Answered
- What if my child is not interested in any other subject for a reserve choice in that list?
We advise that you write in the comment box at the bottom to explain why, but it is important you consider this as you may not get all your first choices
- What is the reasoning behind not having a language as a compulsory option?
At FUS we believe in offering a full range of choices to our students. We offer two different languages in our options allowing our students to pick up to two if they are passionate about this. If your child is a keen linguist and is interested in taking this forward, we highly recommend learning an additional language as this opens many futures options.
- What is the school’s view on the EBACC? (eg. impact on university entry)
EBACC or English Baccalaureate was introduced a number of years ago with an initial aim to achieve certification if a pass was achieved in certain combination of subjects. This never came to fruition and is now used as a performance measure of schools. Our option choice list allows students to pick EBACC combinations, which include a language, history OR geography, computer science or statistics. However, we believe students should have choice over their options and never force students to take these.
- If you are considering University, is it better to do GCSE in a subject rather than BTEC/vocational?
If considering a certain career choice or university entry we highly advise you seek further information from our careers advisor, teachers or UCAS all these details are in the careers guidance section of the option webpage.
- How will we be notified of what options have been given /granted and when will this be also will there be time from notification to GCSE course starting?
We will give final confirmation of options in Early Summer 1 half term just after Easter. However, before this point, many conversations lead by our Curriculum Manager, Mrs. Milsom will happen with students to ensure their choices, course demand and student aspirations are considered before final decisions are made. If reserve choices are required all parents and students will be communicated with before course confirmation.
- What is the difference between a vocational qualification and a GCSE qualification?
Vocational qualifications AND GCSEs are ‘Level 2’ Qualifications. Vocational qualifications generally have a higher coursework component compared to their GCSE equivalent. These courses are less academically demanding in terms of terminal or final exams. In some cases, higher university entries may not consider vocational options at GCSE, though this view is restricted to the most competitive universities like Cambridge and Oxford. Most universities accept vocational qualifications at GCSE and Sixth Form level.
- PE is a core subject; do they have to pick one of the PE options too?
No, students do not have to pick PE as an additional subject. However all students will get one hour a week Core PE to ensure they complete physical activity/ exercise as required by the national curriculum in our fantastic sports facilities.
- How will I know if I enjoy a subject which I’ve not experienced yet (e.g. Business Studies or Media) Are we able to change subjects if we change our minds?
Students will have up to 4 academic weeks to decide whether a course is for them. If within this time they decide they may want to change, conversations will be had between them, parents and our options team. It may not be possible during this period to swap to another course which is already full so decisions need to be taken carefully in the first instance.
Before taking on the subject, why not talk to students who may already take it in other year groups? Or talk to the teachers who deliver it to informed as much as possible?
- Where do we find out where the content of each course is?
All course information can be found by clicking on the course titles at the bottom of the Options webpage. Each contains a video from our subject leaders as well as course-specific information.