The River Thames outside DLD College London

GCSEs versus BTECs: Should you choose the traditional or progressive option?

9th March 22

When it comes to choosing which GCSE subjects to study at the end of Year 9, there’s a lot to consider.

And with GCSEs currently under scrutiny, big changes are afoot to make sure young people leaving school are fully prepared for the world of work in today’s digital age.

At DLD College London, we are proud of our flexible, progressive curriculum which enables our Middle School students in Years 10 and 11 to choose from several well-established traditional GCSE subjects alongside exciting new BTEC qualifications such as Esports.

In this blog post, we aim to outline some of the advantages and disadvantages of the different options available and give you all the information you need to make the right choices.

Are GCSEs still ‘fit for purpose?’

There has been much debate in the education media in recent months around GCSEs being ‘fit for purpose’ – especially given the recent disruption to learning caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The traditional approach to learning by rote with a test at the end is still viewed by many as the fairest way to assess students before leaving school.

But some argue that the GCSE system needs an overhaul and want to see a more flexible, inclusive and skills-based curriculum, as can be seen in this recent article questioning the future of exams by Independent Education Today.

As a leading independent school offering both GCSEs and BTECs in London, DLD is pioneering a new approach by giving our students the choice and flexibility they need to help them thrive and meet the demands of the modern world.

This distinctive new offering provides a core set of GCSEs and then a choice of other subjects – both traditional academic GCSEs and cutting-edge BTEC courses – enabling each student to create their own unique learning opportunities built around their future career goals and interests.

Student and Teacher In GCSE Class At DLD College London

GCSEs versus BTECs: what’s the difference?

The General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) is an academic qualification in a particular subject. They focus on studying the theory of subjects with written and some practical work.

Studies for GCSE examinations usually take place over a period of two academic years starting in Year 10 for most students, with exams being sat at the end of Year 11.

BTECs, on the other hand, are more practical, specialist courses that are focused on a specific industry or job area. BTECs tend to revolve around coursework and are assessed via a mix of project-based assessments, as well as written tests, online assessments and exams.

Both GCSEs and BTECs have equivalent academic value and are widely recognised by employers, colleges and universities, so they can help students to progress onto several different A Level, BTEC or apprenticeship pathways at 16.

GCSEs: What are the alternatives?

At DLD College London, our study programmes are designed to develop our students to be the leaders of tomorrow. For this reason, we are one of the first private schools in London to launch our own distinctive GCSE offering combining both traditional GCSE subjects with career focused BTEC awards.

Our 2-year GCSE programmes combine core GCSE subjects with optional GCSEs, as well as the choice of several innovative BTEC awards.

Every student takes a core set of four compulsory GCSEs in English (or IELTS for international students), Maths and Science. For Science, students study all three Sciences (Biology, Chemistry and Physics) and are awarded two GCSE grades based on their overall performance across all three Science subjects in the Double Award Science GCSE.

They then get the choice of several optional GCSEs to support further A Level or BTEC study, or a range of innovative BTEC Award options offering a modern alternative to traditional GCSE learning. Students who progress well in Year 10 are also given the option to deepen their learning with an additional GCSE in English Literature and to advance to Triple Award Science, which is the equivalent to three GCSEs rather than two in the compulsory Double Science.

The 2-year programme leads to the equivalent of 8-10 GCSEs, giving our students a strong core grounding that will enable them to move onto many different post-16 pathways, from A Levels to apprenticeships.

Two Year Programme GCSEs BTEC Awards
4 x Core GCSEs English / IELTS


Double Science

4  x  Optional GCSEs or BTEC Awards


Art or Sport
Film or Business Enterprise
Geography or Performing Arts
History or Esports
2 x Additional GCSEs English Literature

Triple Science upgrade

A 1-year programme is also available with a slightly more limited range of options for students who may have specific requirements.

Teacher And Student In GCSE Art Class At DLD College London

What are the main benefits of BTECs?

BTECs are a great choice for ambitious students who already have a specific career in mind – such as Art and Design, Sport or Business. They offer specialist, skills-based learning – equivalent to the value of GCSEs – and are usually assessed by coursework rather than exams.

BTECs are designed in consultation with universities and industry experts so they meet the skills needs of employers and are accepted for future university entry. Each BTEC is equivalent to one GCSE and is recognised by higher education institutions.

They tend to offer the chance to get more practical, ‘hands-on’ learning opportunities, including work experience, to prepare students with transferable skills for future employment.

What BTECs can I do alongside GCSEs at DLD College London?

At DLD College London, students can choose from a range of exciting BTEC awards alongside their core GCSE subjects, including Sport, Business Enterprise, Performing Arts and the new Esports BTEC, launched in 2020 to help students develop careers in this fast-growing industry.

Our Esports BTEC is the first qualification of its kind in the world and has been developed in partnership with the British Esports Association.

The world of Esports offers huge employment potential both in the UK and across the world and the new BTEC qualification will give students the knowledge and skills they need to build a career in this exciting sector.

ESports BTEC at DLD College London

How else can DLD support my progression?

In becoming a member of DLD College London, students join a community of exciting, forward-thinking and passionate staff and young people from across the world, with award-winning pastoral care as a core part of a DLD education.

Additional to academic qualifications, every student at DLD receives high-quality training and guidance on career development, learning and organisational skills, research opportunities, and engagement with leaders of the industry, business and pioneers in a variety of fields.

London is very much our classroom, and students get to uniquely benefit from our position in this world-leading city!

Want to learn more?

We are delighted that you are interested in DLD College London.

The best way to learn more about our special and unique college is to contact us to arrange a visit.

We look forward to welcoming you.

Get in touch today