Secondary school education in Britain – Years 9, 10 & 11

July 28, 2020

Year 9 (age 13/14) is a very important year, for 2 reasons. Firstly, most of the students make the transition from Junior School to Senior School, if they are in an independent school. Secondly, this is the year that students choose their options.

It is also a very good foundation for the GCSE programme (usually referred to as GCSEs) and it is an entry point to all schools. GCSE is an abbreviation for the General Certificate of Secondary Education.

Students study English, Maths, Sciences, Humanity and Languages as core subjects. In addition, students choose a select number of subjects of their from the optional subject list offered by each school, usually referred to as ‘choosing their options’. At this point, it is wise to choose optional subjects that will assist students with their intended subjects of study at A level and any future university course, if their intention is to go to university. The choices made in this year can prove critical for this reason.

In the last two years of secondary education, which are called Year 10 (age 14/15) and Year 11 (age 15/16), students prepare intensively for GCSE exams that are taken after two years. 

During the GCSE programme, students study between 9 and 12 subjects. Some of them are compulsory (usually English, Mathematics, 2 or 3 Sciences, History and/or Geography and a Modern Language), some are chosen by each student according to their abilities and preferences. At the end of the 2 year GCSE programme, following the examinations on each studied subject, students receive their results and grades in the summer holidays, as well as their GCSE Certificates.

The chosen subjects and the GCSE results are very important for their Further Studies (A-Level or in the case of some students, International Baccalaureate) and for their University admission.

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