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To many thirteen and fourteen year olds, the thought of a career and starting work may seem like a lifetime away, but as GCSE options are made this month, Connexions Personal Adviser Sue Cross explains how parents can help their children make the right decisions for their future.

Deciding which GCSEs to take is one of the most important choices in a young person’s life. Choosing the right GCSEs now could open up all sorts of opportunities in the future. If young people have a good idea of their long term goals, it is important they choose subjects that allow them to achieve their ambitions, but, just as importantly, they don’t choose subjects that will prevent them pursuing their chosen career.

For some young people, the wrong choices now can lead to dissatisfaction at school and could increase the risk of ‘dropping out’ later on. It is essential that consideration is given to how the different courses are taught, the skills that will be developed, methods of assessment and the opportunities that each subject could open up.

At present, all young people must study English, Maths, Science, design and technology, information technology and in some cases, a modern foreign language. In addition, they can elect to study up to five other subjects that they enjoy or feel will be useful for a future career. New vocational GCSEs were introduced in September 2002. They have a vocational focus, but carry the same weight as more traditional GCSEs, are just as demanding, and are assessed just as robustly.

Research by Connexions has found that for every young person who knows what they want to study at Options-time, there will be five who do not and will need some guidance and advice from parents, teachers and personal advisers. Salma, a 16 year-old from High Wycombe, recalls the choices she made two years ago: “My teacher suggested I choose one subject I was good at, one which would be useful for a career and one free choice. This was really helpful and although I have changed my mind about what career I want, thinking like this helped me make choices from all of the available options.”

Ruth, a 16 year-old, from Aylesbury, recalls the choices she made two years ago: “I was planning on being a physiotherapist so I chose related subjects and also ones that I am good at. Since then I have changed my mind, but my Personal Adviser has reassured me that all my subjects are still quite relevant to lots of other potential careers. This means that I don’t have to specialise too early and I can keep my options open for a bit longer yet.”

Not every GCSE needs to be directly vocational, some subjects are worth studying just because they are interesting. Whilst some young people may feel that certain subjects are easy – such as PE or drama – they are definitely no soft option and will require just as much work as any other course.

In addition, the government has introduced other options for young people. Entry Level Qualifications and GNVQs are available in a range of academic and vocational subjects and some may be available as Short Courses, which only take a year and are equivalent to half a GCSE.

In some circumstances the options offered through the “Extended Curriculum” can provide an interest in continued learning, even if they don’t get on well in the standard school environment. It offers an alternative for young people completely outside of mainstream education, or those who have been withdrawn from certain subjects and therefore have extra spare time during the school day. Young people taking part are offered structured courses away from the school environment where they can gain practical skills in a range of activities.

Activities include Skills for Life, IT, home maintenance, art, drama, literacy and numeracy and activities such as painting, decorating and woodwork. Young people will also have the opportunity to work on their motivation, communication, self-esteem and citizenship and will undertake Open College Network qualifications whilst gaining these skills.

With so many available options, it can be daunting for young people when considering what to do next, but with guidance and advice from their parents, teachers and the Connexions Service, they will have the network required to make the right choice.

For more information
Connexions can be contacted on 080 800 13 2 19 or by logging onto There is a useful guide for Year 9 students to help and support them in making the right choices. Read more on the Which Way Now? site at


Further Information from:
Kassia Gardner, Advertising, PR and Communications Manager,
Tel: 01296 392424,

Notes to Editors:
1. Connexions provides free and confidential advice, guidance and personal development services to all 13-19 year olds in England. Connexions Personal Advisers, based in Access Points which can be found in schools, colleges, youth centres and high street locations, give professional and confidential advice on a range of subjects from careers and education to drug abuse, homelessness and teenage pregnancy. More information on Connexions is available from

2. Connexions is available across all 47 regions of England (based on the Learning and Skills Council areas). Connexions Milton Keynes, Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire (MKOB) covers the three local authorities of Milton Keynes, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire. More information on Connexions MKOB is available from

3. The Connexions MKOB Partnership provides the full time equivalent of 142 Connexions Personal Advisers in the region. There are 120,000 13-19 year olds in the region.

4. Connexions Direct is open between 8am and 2am 7 days a week to provide instant advice and guidance. Young people can contact it via:
· Freephone number: 080 800 13 2 19
· Webchat or email:
· Text message: 07766 4 13 2 19
Connexions Direct Advisers have been recruited and extensively trained for the role. These Advisers bring a range of expertise on areas including careers, housing, health, drug misuse, welfare and teenage pregnancy.

5. The Connexions Card is a secure smartcard offering rewards and incentives to young people aged 16 to 19 for engaging in learning, work-based training or voluntary activities. The Card allows young people to collect reward points which can be exchanged for discounted and free goods and services and exclusive ‘money can’t buy’ experiences. More information can be found at

This press release was distributed by ResponseSource Press Release Wire on behalf of Connexions MOB in the following categories: Children & Teenagers, Education & Human Resources, Public Sector, Third Sector & Legal, for more information visit