Guide to Your Child’s Qualifications

Treviglas Community College offers a wide range of qualifications to meet the needs of learners of all ages and abilities. The following is a guide to today’s education system and the different types of qualifications and subjects on offer.

For example:

  • How qualifications compare, and what employers, colleges and universities will be looking for
  • Some of the new practical, vocational equivalents to GCSEs and A Levels

What types of qualifications are there?

There’s now a much wider choice of qualifications and many of the definitions of year groups, exams and coursework have changed over the years. For instance, what you may have known as the ‘first year’ when you went into ‘secondary education’ is now known as Year 7. And options in the ‘third year’ – now known as Year 9 – are far more varied. For example, in some subjects your son or daughter will start their GCSE courses in Year 9, when they are 13-14 years old.

Here you can see how qualifications and the different stages of education have changed, and how they relate to what you already know.

Curriculum planning

Key Stages were introduced to the UK education system in 1988, to ensure that all children cover specific content during these particular stages of their college career.  For each subject, teachers guide their students through the requirements of the National Curriculum, in preparation for Teacher assessments (TAs) at the end of Key Stage 3. GCSEs and equivalent qualifications are traditionally taken at the end of Key Stage 4, although in some cases they are sat sooner or later than Year 11. The Core subjects are English, Mathematics and Science, which are taken throughout Key Stages 3 and 4. In addition, the following National Curriculum subjects are available to study at KS3:

  • Information and Communication Technology (ICT)
  • Citizenship studies (Religious Studies, Citizenship, PHSE, Geography and History)
  • Art and Design Technology (Catering, Graphics, Resistant Materials and Art)
  • Music and Drama
  • Physical Education (PE)
  • Modern Foreign Languages

The student entitlement at KS4 is:

  • English
  • Mathematics
  • Science
  • ICT
  • Physical Education and Sport
  • Religious Studies-Including Citizenship and PHSE

To complete the KS4 curriculum your child makes their own subject choices. The different types of qualifications that a student in Years 10 and 11 (and in some cases Year 9) can choose are explained below:

General qualifications in KS4

GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education).

The GCSE is an exam-based course, and covers a wide range of subjects.

New GCSE Maths and English courses started in September 2015, and other subjects (including GCSE Science) followed suit. The new courses are more challenging than ever, with all the exams set at the end of Year 11. There’s even a new ‘9-1′ grading system, where Grade 9 will be reserved for the very top tier of students.


  • The results from the first new exams for GCSE Maths and English will be in summer 2017. The new GCSE Science exams will start in summer 2018.
  • There’s no Foundation Level in the new English GCSEs — students of all abilities will take the same exams.
  • Coursework and practical assessments play a much smaller part in the new GCSE courses — which means most of the marks are won or lost in the exams at the end of Year 11. No pressure…
  • For other GCSE subjects, the new Grade 9-1 courses will be introduced over the next few years. (Many of these new courses will start in September 2016, but we’ll have to wait until September 2017 for the final batch.)

Your child will take the ‘Core’ subjects, such as English and maths, and their own choice of optional subjects, for example- art, drama, DT-Catering, DT-resistant materials, geography, history, foreign language, music etc. Most students will either take the new Combined Science course (worth two GCSEs) or three separate GCSEs in biology, chemistry and physics

Vocational and work-related qualifications

These include BTEC First Awards. Learners following these qualifications are predominantly assessed on the work they produce throughout the course but there is an examined element. These qualifications offer a practical, hands-on approach to learning and are available at different levels and can be taken in ICT, sport, health and social care and business

Moving up from GCSEs to A Levels

A Levels adopt a subject approach, with exams at the end of the course. They take two years in full-time education through Years 12 and 13. Your son or daughter can choose from a wide range of academic and vocational subjects. Your son or daughter will need to have specific subjects or grades at GCSE to study A-levels, including good grades in English and Maths. For example, we require anyone taking sciences at A Level to have achieved a good Maths GCSE in addition to good GCSE Science grades.

A Level subjects available at Treviglas include:

  • art and design
  • biology
  • chemistry
  • English literature/langauge
  • French
  • geography
  • history
  • mathematics
  • further mathematics
  • music
  • music technology
  • performing arts (applied)
  • photography
  • physics
  • product design
  • science (applied)

At Level 3, OCR Nationals can also gain your child QCA points for getting into Higher Education and can be compared with A levels. Grades are awarded at Distinction, Merit and Pass levels for the OCR National Certificate, National Diploma and National Extended Diploma.These Level 3 qualifications are ideal if your 16–19-year-old son or daughter is staying in education, and has identified a specific job or career path. These are offered in ICT. BTEC Nationals also gain QCA points and have equivalence to A levels and are available in Sport, Business, Health and Social care and Enterprise at the college.

We do hope that this guide has given you a better understanding of today’s qualifications to help you support your child through their education. Please do not hesitate to contact us at Treviglas Community College for further explanations of the qualifications available to your son or daughter throughout their education with us.