Local schools are currently working with year 11 students to advise on subject choices for sixth form. The Russell Group recently highlighted that students with ambitions to study at university should focus on subjects which are generally recognised for being academically rigorous, advising students to avoid taking too many ‘soft’ subjects such as Media or Business Studies, Photography or Art and Design. Just how therefore do teenagers decide on the right subjects to suit their individual interests, talents and career ambitions?

Enjoyment of a subject is directly linked to success, so choose subjects in which you have previously attained good grades and in which you find the teacher inspiring.

Listen to advice from your school. Do they feel that you have the ability to take your chosen subjects to the next level?

Review the school’s past results in each subject, as these will usually indicate the quality of teaching in this area.

Consider the assessment format for the subjects you wish to study. Coursework, project work or modular assessment may suit some more than end of course examinations.

Sixth form courses should be a step along the pathway to a job or further education. It is important, to have a general idea of where you are heading and an end goal, with target grades for a course of interest, helps with motivation.

Some university courses require study of specific subjects prior to entry. It is best to research or seek advice to ensure you are not narrowing your course options through making the wrong subject choices now. Studying at least two or three facilitating subjects such as Maths, English (Literature), Sciences, Geography, History or Languages (Classical and Modern) will ensure you are able to cope with a university course, building on knowledge gained in sixth form. Your fourth option might then encompass a subject which you study more for enjoyment or to broaden your horizons.

Parents are undoubtedly worried the 11+ format is changing for 2014 entry to grammar. Looking at this from the children’s perspective, maybe this is a welcome and positive change, where the right children secure places within grammar schools, regardless of background or financial resources?

It is my idealistic belief that this should herald the time for a culture change with the new tests designed to evaluate un-coached potential by assessing aptitude across a broader range of talent indicators including numeracy, literacy, verbal and non-verbal reasoning, meaning parents and children take the testing process more in their stride. Reducing pressure or fear of failure amongst children at such a young age can only be a good thing.

Rather than jumping straight onto the tutoring bandwagon fuelled by school gate hype, parents could instead take a more realistic view of their child’s academic potential, before financing additional practice and support.

Investing time in giving your child the skills and emotional intelligence to cope with nerves on the test day, as well as practising exam skills such as keeping to time, concentrating within an exam room environment, applying knowledge and logic to solve a range of problems, will undoubtedly support them in performing to the best of their ability on the day and set them up with useful skills for the future.

However, coaching a less able child in the hope that they will out-perform their academic potential, to a certain extent cheating the system, is less likely to have a positive long-term educational outcome. Confidence stems from positive experiences in education and inevitably the praise and encouragement that come from success.

Remember taking an interest in supporting their education, working in partnership with the school, should ensure success, whatever school they attend.