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Bolton St Catherine's Academy

Bolton St Catherine's Academy

Key Stage 4 Options

            About the Options Process and KS4

For further information please download the full options booklet here. 

All students in Key Stage 4 will study six compulsory subjects which are set by the government.

They are:


English Language

English Literature

Science Double Award

(2 GCSEs)

Philosophy, Religion & Ethics

No qualification

Core PE

No qualification


Students will study four other subjects which they choose.

The options process will require students to make one compulsory choice from either History, Geography or French.

They then chose five further subjects of which they will be allocated three. Those five subjects are put in preference order, and we endeavour to meet their requests as far as possible. The choice is an ‘open’ choice – any five subjects can be picked in any order.

The actual choices are made online, in discussion with parents. Each student then has a one-to-one meeting, to which parents are invited, to discuss their choices. If the student changes their mind after this meeting, their choices can be changed, and parents will be informed.

Types of Subjects

There are three main groups of subjects.


EBacc (short for English Baccalaureate) is a set of GCSE subjects that the Government would like all students to take. At BSCA, we do not insist, however would encourage, students to take them. This group of subjects gives an academic foundation for future study, especially if students are interested in Higher Level Apprenticeships or University study. The EBacc is made up of: English Language, English Literature, Maths, Science (including Computer Science), one of History or Geography, then French. As such in order to study the full EBacc, students must pick at least History or Geography, and then French.


GCSE’s are the more traditional KS4 qualifications, usually assessed heavily with exams at the end (although not always). They will likely make up all, or the majority, of the subjects students’ study at KS4. They are graded from 1 to 9, with a 4 considered a ‘Pass’ and a 5 considered a ‘Good Pass’. A grade 7 is equivalent to an old A*.

Vocational Courses

There are a range of vocational course’s available, including BTEC’s, Cambridge Nationals and L1/2 courses from WJEC, City & Guilds or NCFE. Vocational courses still have a terminal exam or component (usually at least 40%), but will have parts of the course that are assessed through Controlled Assessment for some units. They often cover subjects that are aligned with specific practical activities or career paths. Vocational courses can be excellent if students know the career path they wish to follow, but are usually not required for future study in those areas. 

Future Plans 

The choices students make at this stage are important in setting the direction of travel towards future studies and career aspirations. Below is a brief summary of the paths that students may be considering, there will be more information in Careers sessions during Personal Development, and Miss Bradburn (BSCA Career’s Advisor) will be available every day in school, as well at all of the Options Events, to ask questions and gain advice.

Types of Further Study


An A-Level (advanced level qualification) is a subject-based qualification that can lead to university, further study, training, or work. Students would study three or more A-levels over two years. They are usually assessed by a series of examinations.

  • Entry requirements: 5 or 6 GCSE’s grade 9-5, including Mathematics & English Language.

A-Levels are the broadest option that will help to keep options open if students are unsure on what they would like to do in the future. They are the standard route to university.


A T-Level (technical level qualification) is a subject-based qualification equivalent to 3 A-Levels.

 Students spend 80% of their time in the classroom and 20% on a minimum nine-week placement with an employer. This means students learn what a real career is like while continuing their studies.

  • Entry requirements: 5 or 6 GCSE’s grade 9-4, including Mathematics & English Language.

T-Levels are ideal for students to develop practical skills, knowledge and behaviours to show they are ready to work in that industry or pursue a high-quality technical route into skilled employment, further study or higher or degree apprenticeship.

Vocational Courses

A vocational programme is designed to help students gain the skills needed to start a career, or go on to higher levels of education or directly into employment.

Students will study one subject and look at all of the aspects of that specific subject. There are different entry requirements depending on which level students choose to take. Assessments are practical and coursework based.

  • Entry requirements: Level 1; 3 or 4 GCSE’s grades 9-1. Level 2; 4 GCSE’s grades 9-3. Level 3; 5 GCSE’s grades 9-4.

All of the above must include Mathematics & English Language. These will differ, depending on courses and colleges.


An apprenticeship is working in a job whilst studying the qualification. Student will most likely have one day a week theory, at a college. It is 80% practical and 20% theory work; students will also be paid and receive holiday leave.

  • Entry requirements: Level 1 & 2; students will be invited for a recruitment event and assessed in Mathematics and English. Level 3; GCSE’s grades 9-4 in either Mathematics or English.

Advice and Guidance 

For Students

So, this is a big decision, and it is important to give it lots of thought. When you are making your choices, it is important to consider two things:

  • Will I be successful?
  • Will I enjoy the subjects I have chosen?

You must discuss which subjects are suitable for you before you decide. Be sure to listen to the advice you are given by your teachers and other staff.

There are a few reasons to avoid picking a subject too. Don’t pick a subject just because you like the teacher, as you might not have them next year. Also, don’t pick a subject just because your friends are, they might not end up doing it, or they might be in a different class from you. Finally, don’t pick a subject just because your parents say you should, it might be excellent advice, and you probably should listen, but don’t do it without thinking for yourself too! 

For Parents and Carers

You can help your children by:

  • Finding out about the courses and qualifications your child wants study. Take time to read this options booklet, and contact curriculum leaders if you have questions. Encourage them to look ahead and research different careers they may pursue. It does not matter if they are uncertain, it matters that they think about it and are aware of the qualifications they may need so that they have goals and are motivated.
  • Sit with them and ask them questions:
    • What type of career do you want? For example, do you want to:
    • Work with people, in an office, in a team, in business, outside?
    • Help people, work practically with your hands, provide a service or be involved in a business?
    • What jobs could fit these criteria?
    • To pursue that career, what do you need to achieve?
    • Personal skills
    • Subject
    • Qualifications

Then you can support your child’s decision:

  • Encourage your child to become involved in extra-curricular activities inside and outside of school to help build their confidence
  • Encourage them to work hard, believe in themselves and achieve.


If you have any questions, please contact us: , with the email title ‘Options’. A member of the Teaching and Learning Team will then make contact.


Parental engagement is the number one predictor of student’s academic success.

                             Your support and encouragement really matter.