Year 9 Options Information 2021

Mr. J Collins

Head of Year 9

“Hello and welcome to one of the most important & exciting decisions you will have here at Ferndown Upper school. Please use this opportunity to watch and investigate as many different subjects that interest you. Take the opportunity in lockdown to email the Heads of Subject (their email addresses are on their option pages) or talk to your teachers in lessons. If you have any questions or queries please do not hesitate to email me to discuss them, I’m here to help you make the best choices. Please use your teachers’ knowledge to find out as much as possible. These opportunities are your route to success and reaching your potential.”

Jason Collins.

Options Introduction by Mr Evans (Deputy Head)

View video transcript

The option blocks shown in the video are an example from a previous year, to see your option blocks go to the bottom of this page.

Year 9 Choice Guidance 2021-2023

We would normally have scheduled an Options 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.  Due to the COVID pandemic, this will not be possible in 2021.

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.

The work in the subject is interesting and enjoyable nowA 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.

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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.

English Baccalaureate

Five 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.  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.

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Boost Your Opportunities With a STEM Option

Over the past five 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.

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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.

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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 Business Studies GCSE or Business Studies Vocational – not both
  • Study Either Media GCSE or Digital & Creative Media BTEC – 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.

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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.

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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:

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Careers Advice

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 of 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 either:

Our Teachers

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.

Study Centre

Careers resources are also available in the Study Centre to all students before and after school and during break and lunchtimes. Year 9 and 10 students will take part in various careers events and in Year 11, more targeted careers learning, and advice will be available for students to help them research and plan for their future and make the choices that are right for them.

Other Courses and Careers External Advice.

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T Levels (coming to FUS 2022)

As a regional leader in digital education, FUS will be 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.

To see the government website on T Levels please see:

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:

Packed for of advice, course requirements and information from creative and humanities degrees, to digital and science related fields. We advise you give this a look as in some cases GCSE choice may be important for particular routes.

Play Video


UCAS also provides information on certain apprenticeship routes. Apprenticeships come at many levels and in a variety of career routes. See for more info.

For further information about how to get careers advice and our outstanding careers programme go to:

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Final Comment

Possible Changes to the Option Columns

The option columns and range of subjects are organised to:

  • Give the students as wide and balanced choice of subjects as possible.
  • Enable students to achieve the English Baccalaureate standard.
  • Make the best use of staff, facilities and resources available.

The school reserves the right to alter the option columns, reduce the number of groups or discontinue subjects that do not recruit viable numbers or cannot be appropriately staffed. We will endeavour to ensure that students get their first choice of subjects wherever possible, however, careful thought should be given to second and third choices on the options form as it is inevitable that some students will be allocated these choices.

The subjects on offer have been chosen to provide students with a broad range which meets the needs of different learning styles and to provide a well-balanced choice of qualifications that lead on to further studies in the Sixth Form or employment.

Whilst the majority of students will get their first choices, this cannot be guaranteed. Where very few students opt for a particular subject, we may have to withdraw that option in order to put teachers in subjects where there is greater demand.

Please ensure that the Online Options Form is submitted by 12 noon on 26th February, 2021.

Online Options Form System

This section explains how to use the online form.

To make the process easier, particular during the pandemic we have now switched to 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 SIMS parents platform is also below.

Click the icons to open the helpguide or Online Form

Parent help guide to the Online Options Form

KS4 Courses

Options For 2021

Click each subject title below for further information

  1. You must choose one FIRST PREFERENCE from each block/column (on the online options form as explained above)
  2. You then pick up two reserve choices (these must be in different blocks)
  3. DO NOT choose the same option in two columns, even as a reserve choice as it reduces our ability to accommodate your first choices.


Parents’ Questions Answered

  1. Do we pick a second choice in every block or just a total of 2?

The SIMS Online Form allows you to officially enter two reserves (click the reserve button), however if you want to submit a reserve for two other blocks please enter these (with the block) into the Parent comment section at the bottom of the form.

  1. What if your child is not interested in any other subject for a second choice in that block?

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 your first choice and should consider two options.

  1. What if in block D there is not a preferred option, are they able to select an option from another group although you have specified one preferred selection from each block.

You must select a first choice from each block. The blocks are not interchangeable due to staffing these subjects with specialist teachers.

  1. 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.

  1. Subject choices, particularly at GCSE level are restricted, due to the lack of options in ‘Block D’. Is there any scope for expanding this block to offer additional subjects?

Block D contains only 4 subjects which are split into 8-10 classes. These options are offered in a block that delivers them in 3hr per fortnight compared to 5hr per fortnight for Block A-C options. Due to how timetabling works this block cannot include any other subjects.

  1. What is your 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 table 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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?

  1. 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.