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GCSE Options Process

Discussion in 'Senior Leadership Team' started by EmmieLouBee, Jan 8, 2017.

  1. EmmieLouBee

    EmmieLouBee New commenter

    Good evening,

    I started my first SLT role in September as part of the role is to run the GCSE Options process. I have had a look over the documents from Option 2016 and there seems to be some room for improvement.
    Would anyone be willing to share an outline of their process (essentially a bit of a timeline) so I can get a good handle on whether the one I have inherited needs some tinkering or not. Do other schools release the 'booklet' alongside an opportunity for parents and students to meet with teachers? Are there opportunities for option subjects to 'sell' themselves? Do you pre-decide the option blocks or are you guided by the choices of students?

    Any advice gratefully received. I am keen to make the process as efficient as possible, but obviously I don't want to start rocking the boat unnecessarily!

    Thank you
  2. pi r squared

    pi r squared Occasional commenter

    We have launched the options process to our Year 9s, and are having our 'Options Evening' this week. This is a combination of an information evening for parents and then a chance for them to explore, with their children, the subjects on offer - or the opportunity for non-compulsory subjects to 'sell' themselves, if you prefer.

    Option blocks are guided by students' choices, using the excellent Options module in SIMS.net. Once choices are submitted, they are reviewed individually by SLT and any choices that seem not quite right are discussed with students on an individual basis. These are advisory discussions and, to the best of my knowledge, we've never overruled a student on their option choices. We do, however, make all students pick one of French, Spanish, History, Geography or Computer Science.

    What in particular is concerning you about the previous process?
  3. ScienceGuy

    ScienceGuy Established commenter

    We get the majority of the option process finished prior to the Christmas holidays. All students have a citizenship lesson where HoDs / Subject leaders of subjects not taken in KS3 have a chance to explain what is involved in their subject with students completing a preliminary option form. We then have Options evening where Students and Parents come around to visit each subject to get further information about the subject and it gives subjects a chance to sell themselves. Two weeks later, and the day before the option form is due to be handed in, we have Yr 9 Parent's evening so students can get advice from their subject teachers.

    All students have to pick either History or Geography and a MFL with two further choices, though we have flexibility for students with low attainment to drop either humanities or languages if necessary based on the advice of the HoY / form tutor.

    The option blocks are created after we have had all the forms in and we are currently in the process of checking group sizes and speaking to students if there are issue with any of their choices e.g. only 3 people want to take Latin
  4. Skeoch

    Skeoch Star commenter

    Start the process early with units in Y9 PHSE on decision making, not linked to options.
    Use Fast Tomato in tutor time in Y9.
    Launch options booklet; special meetings for subjects not offered in Y9 to make their pitch
    Options booklet to pupils and parents
    Y9 parents' evening trying hard to do both conventional progress discussions and also options briefing including presentation by HoY
    Options constrained to demand at least one MFL, at least one Humanity, encourage a creative subject as well; offer Triple Science as an option to those in top sets. Options forms completed by pupils in one-to-one meetings with tutors.
    Where the choices still seem unlikely or unsuitable, pupils also meet HoY to discuss.
    Timetable blocks constructed from the options - in fact we could usually predict and create the blocks in advance. Very rarely would we have to persuade pupils to accept different choices because the blocks could not be made to work.
    This blocking is critical to the timetable so needs to be done by February.
    Change of mind permitted after this - with good advice and guidance in advance there are usually very few - and now constrained by timetable blocks and set sizes.
  5. dookiedaveuk

    dookiedaveuk New commenter

    Where are you based? I am happy to have a conversation over the phone if it is easier?

    • Fast Tomato in ICT lessons to help look at careers in that year
    • Every dept has a 'Career Wall'
    • Every subject completes a Careers based HWK in Autumn Term for that yeargroup
    • Tutor time powerpoint about the whole process and subjects
    • Year group assembly (extended) covering process
    • Extra assembly to discuss any new subjects on offer not previously studied (eg Business)
    • Parents Evening and Options evening - with presentations by subjects
    • Options evening schedule published ahead of time, so students can plan what to watch
    • Pack goes out - containing letter, form, booklet and guidance
    • Every student has 1-2-1 meeting to discuss their future
    • Mild streaming of approach, making sure students select EBACC, Progress8, reduced Curriculum where needed for their chosen futures
    Last year Options were in blocks, this year we are going for completely free choice and building blocks afterwards (Keith Johnson's Options software is crucial to make this work for us).
    • Four choices and one reserve
    • When it was Option blocks - a reserve for each block

    It is a hell of a thing to go through the first time. As I say, happy to discuss.
    dhillong likes this.
  6. EmmieLouBee

    EmmieLouBee New commenter

    Hi all,

    Thank you for your responses.... the processes you all outline (seemingly very similar, with a few variations on specific timings) tie in with my original thinking of how I would have designed it, given the free choice to do so....And how I will propose it runs next year when we are looking at allocation of Parents' Evenings/directed HOD time etc.

    The difficultly I have with the inherited system is that there is no evening identified for parents and students to 'circulate' around the options subjects and chat informally about the courses on offer. There is a traditional parents' evening scheduled but it is the week before Easter and so too late to commandeer for this purpose.

    I have put on the calendar an evening for parents to come in and hear the 'process' and context elements of options but have been told that I cant ask HODS to be there. Instead there will be a series of assemblies for HODs to 'sell' their subject - there will of course be a booklet of information too with all the info in.

    I am in the process of writing the booklet, parent letter and student (and parent version) assembly which are going ok (so far)

    In terms of logistics I intend to
    - Have lessons about decision making slotted into the PHSE calendar before half term
    - create blocks based around the student choices
    - Once blocks have been established issue options booklet
    - Ensure students realise that their reserve option may be called upon and so ensure it is a well thought through option
    -'fix' one of their options as a bucket 2 subject
    - put in place student by student checking by HOH and then conduct conversations with students who they feel have not made 'sensible' choices (at either end of the ability spectrum) - with or without parents as necessary.

    Again, thank you all for your advice - and dookiedave I may well take up your offer once I get into the construction of the blocks etc
  7. Skeoch

    Skeoch Star commenter

    As a follow-up, I think my experience is that the more staff time is invested in on-to-one discussions with the pupils, the better the choices are. And if the choices are messy during the Options process, you end up spending more time sorting them out in a hurry in September, or worse when the impact is felt on options/entry to KS5.
    dookiedaveuk likes this.

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