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Downside School provides a one-year GCSE course for pupils aged 15+ in Year 11 who wish to qualify in some GCSE examinations at the end of the academic year. The course additionally serves to prepare pupils to enter the Sixth Form, having not been in the British education system previously.  Pupils who are enrolled at Downside School for at least one year will take a minimum of five GCSEs in the following subjects:

  • Mathematics
  • One separate Science (Biology, Chemistry or Physics)
  • Economics (which meets the Humanities criteria)
  • Two languages from a choice of: First or Second Language English, Spanish, French, German or Latin.


This course is academically demanding and therefore suited to academically able pupils as they will have missed half the GCSE course taught in Year 10. Candidates may wish to undertake preparatory work in the months before their start so that they are able to maximise their learning and therefore do well in their final GCSE examinations in the Summer Term.  Our Academic Clinics run throughout the week are an excellent opportunity for pupils to attend sessions to increase their understanding of the subject and be supported in topics missed in order to help prepare them for the end of year exams.

GCSE Curriculum 

At Downside, we aim for all pupils to fulfil their learning potential. We will ensure that each pupil receives the support and guidance they need in order to make an informed decision about which combination of subjects they will study.

The Director of Studies will recommend that pupils sit GCSE examinations in subjects in which they can succeed in and which will also benefit their long-term educational.  It must be clear to the School that the pupil is likely to achieve a minimum of Level 6 in each subject for which they are entered.

We anticipate most pupils starting in Year 11 will study at least 7 subjects made up of subjects from the Core Curriculum and Other Subjects and may include Additional Options as well.

Examined Core Curriculum (5 subjects)

  • Mathematics
  • One Science (Biology, Chemistry or Physics)
  • Economics (uniquely designed to be completed in one year)
  • English Language
  • One Modern Foreign Language e.g. French, Spanish or German or Latin

Other Subjects

Pupils will also study up to four additional subjects, and the decision regarding entry to the GCSE examination will be made after the mock GCSE examinations which take place in the January: 

  • Second and third separate sciences (Biology, Chemistry or Physics)
  • Second Modern Foreign Language (French, Spanish, German)
  • Classical Language (Latin, Classical Greek)

Additional Options

Pupils may wish to select the following subjects as part of their additional subject choice. It is not anticipated that a GCSE examination will be taken in these subjects, other than in exceptional circumstances:

  • Art
  • Computer Science
  • Music

Religious Studies 

Please be aware that all pupils must attend Religious Studies lessons until the end of the Lent Term (Second Term), although we do not anticipate that pupils who enter the School in Year 11 will sit the final GCSE examinations other than in exceptional circumstances.

Design Technology, Geography, History and Physical Education (PE)

The structure of these courses means that it is not possible for a new entrant to start Geography, History or PE at the beginning of Year 11 except in exceptional circumstances.

The decision regarding the entrance of the GCSE examinations that a pupil will sit will be made after the mock examinations in the January.  Downside will recommend that pupils sit GCSE examinations in subjects in which they will succeed in and which will also benefit their long-term education prospects.  In order to be entered for a GCSE in a particular subject, it must be clear to the School that the pupil is likely to achieve a minimum of Level 6 (Grade B).

German pupils will not be required to attend normal timetabled lessons in German. Additional lessons will be provided to assist pupils to prepare for the German GCSE. For pupils planning to return to Germany to continue their education after Downside, the decision regarding which GCSE examinations will take into account the education requirements of the pupil’s German state


Once the subject blocks are finalised for September 2023 entry, they will be shared with you for your final decision around Easter time. Some subjects have set size limitations, so we would recommend that you return your child’s choices as soon as you receive the subject request form sent by the Admissions Department.

Physical Education (PE) is an academic subject and not the Sports lessons that take place three times per week.

Economics GCSE 

Economics is a one-year GCSE course for Year 11 pupils only. This course is run so that pupils may study a Humanities subject, because History and Geography are not suitable for those who wish to undertake a Humanities subject at GCSE and gain a qualification.

English as an Additional Language 

Pupils who do not study a subject in one of the option blocks may have an English as an Additional Language (EAL) lessons during these times. The cost of EAL lessons may be in addition to the School Fees and the fees information can be provided by the Admissions Department.

Subject Choices

Block A  Block B Block C  Block D
Computer Science French Classical Greek Geography
History German Design History
Latin PE (Sports Theory) Geography Music
Art Spanish Spanish Drama
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