Year 9 Options Letter to Parents

Dear Parent/Carer

I am writing to explain why it is going to be necessary to look at Year 9 options into Year 10 GCSE study again. Over the next 15 days, this will involve a further running of the option process. This will mean there will need to be a number of changes to the expectations and choice of options available to our students, for a number of reasons. For most students this will mean a single change in their choice of option.

Having considered the initial option process and choices made, it has become clear that to meet national Department for Education expectation around the ambition and challenge of the curriculum particularly,  regarding the focus on the EBAC subjects of English, Maths, Science, History/Geography and a Modern Foreign Language there would need to be some adjustments made. This I believe has been compounded by issues of the pandemic and the reduced opportunity for a full learning experience, that has in part led me to make this decision.

The national desire of the Department for Education is that by September 2025 75% of all students will study an EBAC suite of subjects for reasons of academic challenge, cultural awareness and balance. OFSTED are also taking a far more standardised approach to what they believe is a good curriculum offer for young people in 202,1 based on increasing levels of academic research. 

Having considered our curriculum over a number of years, I feel now is the time to make an adjustment that will support our ambitions for our young people to have the best learning experience possible. As Principal I am not prepared to disadvantage our young people’s academic opportunity as they need to be on a level playing field with other students across the country in an increasingly competitive world. This means our curriculum needs to be moving closer to the national ambition regarding the study of EBAC subjects and in particular a modern foreign language.

As a school we have a Modern Foreign Language team that stands comparison with any team anywhere in the country, who have delivered outstanding results for students in GCSE and A level exams for several years.  This has led to students entering some of the best regarded universities in UK and the world and taking up challenges beyond our shores. We are fortunate to have them as part of our school team and for this reason it seems contradictory not to ensure that more students benefit from the outstanding experience and support they offer to our young people.

Clearly the study of a foreign language is challenging, but the value of having that experience and achieving success and cultural awareness is of greater value to the individual in the longer term of life, as well as in  the short-term academic success of achieving a GCSE grade.

As we exit the pandemic in a post Brexit world, the importance of having studied a foreign language and developing an appreciation of another culture is maybe more important than ever before. Across the world 75% of people don’t speak English and the ability to attempt to speak and understand another culture and language enriches and broadens our horizon as well as develops our resilience in meeting a challenge in many realms of life.

Although this is reason enough to adjust the curriculum, there are also a number of staffing challenges in some of our less mainstream offers that mean either a course will not run or numbers this year will need to be capped in certain subject areas.

Due to this I am adjusting the option choice so that all students in Pathway A will need to study English, Maths, Science, a Modern Foreign Language either Spanish or French and either History and Geography and then have two totally free subject choices.

For students whose prior attainment profile places them in pathway B they will need to study English, Maths, Science and either History or Geography and then have three free subject choices.

For students whose prior attainment profile places them in pathway C they will need to study English, Maths, Science and then be offered a guided choice to support them in making the best curriculum options possible.

The decision has considered the national picture and the need for the school to maintain a strong curriculum provision that shows ambition and breadth for all. There has also had to be consideration of the schools’ resources to provide the highest quality offer for all children.  This means several subjects will be set caps for class sizes both maximum and minimum to ensure the quality of offer can be delivered.

As with any decision that is made it will not be universally popular or unpopular. I am aware that some will see this as unfair however, throughout life presents challenges and events beyond our individual control that impact upon us. The decision has been made with consideration for the students, the school community and my commitment to offer the best curriculum experience possible.

I would expect a number of parents and students to offer comment and wish to have the opportunity for further clarification of the rationale for this decision, but it has not been made lightly and I am certain it will benefit our young people and our community in the long term.

Thank you for your support and understanding with this necessary curriculum decision.

Yours sincerely

Ian Young