Careers and Development

Making an Early Start for Years 7 - 9

Welcome to the Positive Futures Careers Development Toolkit.
The Making an Early Start toolkit is aimed at pupils in years 7 to 9.

This toolkit is designed to:

Instil careers and employability values into young people

Enable young people to make positive choices

Help young people as they explore subject, training, education or employment choices.

Help parents and carers looking for guidance on how to help their children and young people at home.

Support Positive Futures Mentors as they advise and guide children and young people through subject, careers and employability choices

In addition to the Making an Early Start Toolkit there are four others in this series:

Positive Choices
(Years 10 and 11)

A Leap into the Future
(Years 12 to 13)

Guidance for Parents and Carers

Guidance for Coaches and Mentors

Each section of the toolkits contains useful tips and strategies, resources, contacts and information to help raise educational and career aspirations. For further information about this toolkit or to ask about other support opportunities please contact

An introduction video to our toolkit

Making an Early Start Is A Smart Choice

The Making an Early Start Toolkit is designed to support young people looking to make informed subject and career choices.

It includes tips, tools, questions they can ask their school, teachers, careers teams, employers, family and friends and their peers. We also provide links to useful websites.

The jump from primary to secondary school can be daunting for many young people. It can also be an exciting start to your future.

Hopefully by now you have made new friends and starting to enjoy your time in secondary school.

You are also studying subjects you never covered nor explored in detail in primary school, subjects such as ICT, Biology, English Literature and others.

You may be developing a strong liking for some subjects and doing well in them, and not so well in others.

You may also be forming opinions about subjects to take through to GCSE and those you want to get rid of very quickly.

There are some subjects you may be doing now which are compulsory from Years 7 to 11, ie Maths and English. If they are subjects you struggle with or do not like, it is important for you to get the support you need now.

In this toolkit, we encourage you to start thinking early about your subject and career choices so you can make informed choices when you come to choose your elective subjects (ie subjects you want to take through to GCSEs) in Year 9.


In Year 9 you are expected to choose subjects for more detailed studies through to Year 11.

When you start secondary school making subject choices or career goals may be the last thing on your mind. However, exploring subject or career choices can start anytime. You do not need to wait.

Before you do, check out, these 3 key pieces of information:

1.  The Youth Employment UK website, from where you can learn more about choices and next steps for young people:

2. Learn about the GCSE Grading Scheme here, courtesy of the BBC:

The numerical grading was phased over four years, starting with the core compulsory subjects – maths and English GCSEs – in 2017. Most of the main subjects switched over in 2018, including the humanities, sciences and most modern languages.

All remaining subjects such as Biblical Hebrew, Persian, Portuguese and Turkish switched to the new grading system in 2020.

Explaining the new grades
The 9-1 grading scheme was brought in alongside a new GCSE curriculum in England.
The highest grade is 9, while 1 is the lowest, not including a U (ungraded).
Three number grades – 9, 8 and 7 – correspond to the old-style top grades of A* and A – this is designed to give more differentiation at the top end.


3. Understanding the different entry requirements,

see below. This will help you understand the journey or pathway to a successful career choice or goal..


Understanding the different entry requirements.

You can also visit for more information:

Level 1

GCSEs, NVQs/VQs, awards/certificates/diplomas. Vocational and work-related qualifications may be studied full or part-time in schools and colleges from the age of 14. They are offered at levels 1 to 4 and are usually ‘BTECs’, ‘Cambridge Technical’ or ‘City and Guilds’ qualifications. Broad range of subjects on offer eg engineering, art and design, construction, health and social care, business, IT and leisure. Often course work based however changes mean that some courses now include exams or practical assessments.

Level 2

GCSEs, NVQs/VQs, awards/certificates/diplomas

Level 3

A levels, T levels, NVQs/VQs, awards/certificates/diplomas and other qualifications

4 to 6

Higher education – certificates/diplomas, NVQs/VQs, foundation degrees, degrees

7 to 8

Postgraduate and professional – Masters, PhD

Foundation Degree

A foundation degree is a combined academic and vocational qualification in higher education, equivalent to two thirds of an honours bachelor’s degree. It is often pursued when you do not know what you want to do immediately after A levels.

Practical things you can do to help you make an informed subject/career choice..

Research into

Where can you do your research?

For example, if you want to be a Vet you might need a degree (BSc) in Veterinary Medicine. You can start by looking at UCAS pages – for this degree, to see what A-Levels, Highers or equivalent are needed for a place on the course. This gives you a good indication of the subjects you can choose early on to help you. Doing your research means you can also decide if practical based subjects suit you better than exams or theory-based subjects.

Talk to other young people in Years 7-9 who are studying the subjects you like or are considering.

Some of the questions you can ask your peers: 

Can you think of other questions you would like to ask your peers? Write them down here….


  1. …              

Find out who the teachers are for the subjects you are interested including the mandatory ones.


Can you think of other questions to ask your teachers? Write them down here….


  1. …             

Speak to family and friends. There may be people amongst them who have studied those subjects in school or whose
careers have been informed by the subjects they studied in school.

What type of questions will you ask? Check out the bank of questions above, you may be able to use some of them when
speaking to family and friends.

Some of the questions you can ask family and friends

Can you think of other questions you would like to ask your peers? Write them down here….

  1. …              

Benefits of starting early

I don’t like Maths but it is Mandatory and important to my future career

If you are not enjoying some subjects, you may not give them the attention needed. For example, you may prefer ICT to Maths or Art to English. Maths and English are compulsory subjects at GCSE, so even though you do not enjoy them they are subjects you will need in future.

Most employers, apprenticeship, sixth form, training, further and higher education providers expect minimum grades of grade 4 in both subjects.

Paying attention to Maths and English early on is very important.

If you find yourself struggling in Maths and English, or in any subject  you can do the following:

What can I do if……

My friends think I should study a particular subject in detail, or at GCSE.

Remember your friends have different interests, motivations and abilities from you.

My teacher said I should study Geography or, I do not like my Geography Teacher so I will not choose it.

Do not choose nor discard a subject because of you like or do not like a particular teacher. A teacher may not be in your teacher or be in your school forever, most importantly they will not be your employer in future.

I believe this is an easy option subject

There are no easy option subjects. If someone tells you there are, the chances are that they will not do well in them.

My peers/people in the Upper Years say it is not a good subject for me to pursue

Your peers sometimes make comments about a subject that are not true. Always check out rumours with teachers. They are the experts, not your peers.

My parents want me to an Accountant, or a Lawyer or Doctor

Some of may already be receiving extra tuition or support to make this possible or have been introduced to family and friends who work in these professional areas, so they can advise or guide you.

It is absolutely great to have those aspirations, and if you do, it is important you do some of the things set out in Early Start so you can achieve your goal.

However not everyone has those plans or aspirations to be a doctor, accountant or lawyer. Similarly, we cannot always be certain what the future holds for us.

We encourage you to explore as many different opportunities as possible early on, so you can make an informed choice/decision when the time comes.

If you feel under pressure at home to choose specific subjects to study in detail after Year 9,

If you find yourself struggling in Maths and English, or in any subject you can do the following:

You may be able to do a re-sit in Maths and English if you do not do well. But you want to avoid this as much as possible.

Following some of the tips provided here can help you experience success first time round.

If you find yourself struggling in Maths and English, or in any subject you can do the following:

Useful Links

Pearson Career choices:

Prospects Career Planner:

SACU Career Quiz:

CITB – Go Construct:

Cogent Career Choices:

NHS Find your career:

WISE Campaign (Women into Science & Engineering) My skills my life – play the quiz: