Health and Social Care is a relatively new GCSE, introduced in September 2002 as one of eight new vocational GCSE subjects. Because this GCSE hasn’t been around for very long, some students – and many parents – are not aware of what it entails.

Your Superprof wants to talk with you about the vital skills you may learn as you prepare for this exam, why it would be a good idea to include it in your topics lineup and how it came to be.

Why This Course was Created

Right around the start of the new millennia, academics and statisticians picked up on a worrying trend: students, worn out from their years in school, were turning away from higher education. Not in alarming numbers... yet. Still, the data showed that UK universities' student enrolments/graduations did not change from one year to the next. That, despite a growing student population in our country's secondary schools.

Why were students growing uninterested in higher education?

University enrolment slack had more to do with study fatigue
University enrolment didn't dwindle off simply because students grew tired of studying Photo on Visualhunt

It wasn't just that students were tired of studying; other factors contributed to the static uni populations. Cost, for one.

University studies can be quite expensive; even with possible financial assistance, many families lacked the means to fund four to six years of higher learning. Time also weighed in on people's decisions to not pursue an undergraduate degree. Why spend time in school when those three or four years could be better spent learning valuable, marketable skills and earning a wage in the process?

Even today, when university learning has been made more affordable and accessible to even (especially!) segments of the population who would never otherwise have contemplated higher education, a substantial proportion of students would prefer an apprenticeship and a faster start to their working life.

It was really quick thinking on our government's part to design a course that would arm students choosing to end their academic career with a host of skills that generally do not feature in traditional curriculum subjects... even though they should.

Once you know what they are, you too will be amazed at that degree of foresight. You may also wonder why these skills are not a part of our mainstream curriculum study...

The Skills Learned in Health and Social Care Courses

Ask any employer which skills job candidates are most lacking in and there's a good chance they will return with 'critical thinking skills', 'problem-solving skills' and 'communication skills'. The last one on their triumvirate of greatest lacks, communication, is precisely the skill emphasised throughout this course.

With all of our electronic devices and the multitude of platforms - text, chat, video and video chat that pave the way for easy communication, you would think that expressing oneself would be a snap. After all, we've been communicating, one way or another, all of our lives, right?

All of that may be true but there is a difference between relating an exploit, a desire or an emotion to someone who knows you and can draw conclusions from context and effective communication with any person, whether you know them or not.

The second component of communication, listening - receiving information would be more apt, is likewise something most people simply accept as a fact of life.

When most people engage in conversation, they are less focused on the substance of what is being said than on what their reply will be. It's an ingrained habit pretty much all who have the ability to hear do: they pick up on keywords, oft-repeated words and the speaker's tone.

Again, this type of casual listening is vastly different - and yield substantially divergent results than effective listening does. Such listeners take in a speaker's tone but they also consider body language and facial expressions, as well as every word being said before formulating their reply.

Effective communicators can impart a range of information, from instructions on how to do something to sharing ideas. Soliciting feedback - asking for the opinions of others involved in the discussion is another hallmark of an effective communicator. So is asking the right questions.

Have you ever typed a search string into your favourite search engine, assured that all of those ones and aughts will return exactly the information  you seek, only to be frustrated with hits that don't quite address what you wanted to know?

Just as when you query Google - or whichever search method you prefer, you have to ask people the right questions to get the information you need. Effective questions are meant to elicit the information you need - but there's so much more to asking effective questions.

Take a look at these two: "How long have you been experiencing those symptoms?" and "How long have you felt that way?". Both of these questions could be used to ask a patient about the health complaint that drove them to their doctor's surgery.

The first question wants a clinical answer - something few people would be able to give. It also communicates that you're less interested in them as a person than as a diagnosis. The second draws the other person in; it doesn't suggest that s/he is merely a case study, rather, it suggests that s/he is a person with feelings who has a situation that needs to be resolved.

Effective communication is one of the greatest skills to master. It opens virtually every door, personal and professional... and it is a core component of the GCSE Health and Social Care Curriculum.

Learn about personal development in Health and Social Care
Far more than any academic course, Health and Social Care fosters personal development Photo credit: Coventry City Council on / CC BY-NC-ND

What Else Can This Course Teach Me?

In simple terms, Health and Social Care introduces people to a broad range of topics concerning health and social care, increasing their awareness of the issues involved in patient care and preparing those who are engaged for a career within the profession.

Even if you're not sure that you would want a career in social care or the health field, this course has a lot to offer. We already mentioned that it trains participants in the three skills employers say are most lacking in today's workforce but there is another, more vital reason to take in what it has to offer.

Currently, the world is buckling under a most deadly health crisis, the likes of which we've not seen for more than 100 years.

Politicians are making snap decisions regarding our health, welfare and economy. Scientists are rushing to perfect a vaccine that will stop this infernal virus in its tracks and lab technicians are working day and night to process test swabs of potentially infected people. Medical personnel, swaddled in layers of protective gear, treat the stricken... but who mans the patient intake desk?

If nothing else, this pandemic has demonstrated the urgency for competent, qualified individuals with the necessary skills to pitch in wherever they're needed. Be it to conduct home visits on our elderly or calm a frightened, feverish child - or that child's parents, this course will give you all of the tools necessary to get the job done.

And after the crisis passes?  

This GCSE covers topics relevant to the health, social care and early years sectors. It encourages students to examine issues such as quality of life, the importance of support when improving health, personal development and relationships.

So, no matter whether you've been toying with the idea of becoming a personal trainer, a top neurosurgeon or a social worker, this course has a lot to offer you.

What Will You Get from a GCSE in This Subject?

When students choose the subjects they wish to test in, it's generally with a purpose in mind. Perhaps they will go on to study that subject further at university or they balance well with some of the other subjects the student chose.

Of course, when it comes down to it, pretty much everyone chooses anything with a specific purpose in mind; a lot of times, it's because they hold certain expectations of what their selections might yield.

Learn to communicate better in Health and Social Care
Communication is a big part of social care. Photo credit: jojomotion on Visualhunt / CC BY-NC-ND

However, this course being rather obscure, you probably need some information about it before contemplating what it can do for you. In that spirit, here we go.

  • A lot of flexibility. Not only can you choose whether to do the single award or double award but you may also decide which studies you want to focus on for your examples: this means you have the opportunity to get involved with your local community if you wish.
  • It will open up many doors to you. If you enjoy learning about health and you thrive on caring for other people – but you are unsure which career you want to go in to – this GCSE will give you a solid grounding in a wide range of topics within the health and social industry. In all cases, it will arm you with vital job skills that can transfer to any industry.
    • Hopefully, by taking this course, you will develop ideas of which aspects of the sector most interest you.
  • You will get the opportunity to work independently on exciting, practical projects which will give you a taste of the real world, outside education. If you don’t enjoy learning from textbooks, or even school as a whole, this GCSE will give you a welcome change from the ‘same old’.
  • A great deal of variety. From trips to health and community organisations to group work and role play, you are unlikely to find the teaching style repetitive. These practical activities will also teach you technical, problem-solving and organisational skills that will allow you to develop your independence.
  • Your assessment will consist of a mixture of exams and controlled internal assessments (coursework you complete within a time frame in lessons). So be prepared to develop effective revision strategies that work for you and make sure you attend all your lessons: you will be working on coursework, so make the most of your allotted time.
  • The personal gains are worth it. Even if, by the end of this GCSE, you decide a job within the health and social care industries isn’t for you, you will still have learned a lot of valuable information about how to stay fit and healthy. You will have the opportunity to develop an interest in BMI (body mass index), heart pressure and first aid. These topics are widely useful and will help you to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
  • Learn personal competencies that will help you in the jobs market, no matter which field you ultimately choose to work in. Everyone could stand to be better at listening and most of us need to improve our speaking skills, anyway. Besides those two, you will learn how to choose your words with greater care and learn how to speak for maximum effect.
    • You can also count on becoming more confident.

If all of this sounds like an exciting opportunity at personal and professional development, that’s perfect! GCSE Health and Social Care is a useful, practical, stimulating qualification, particularly valuable for students interested in health or those who have an interest in caring for people.

Finally, there's one more reason learners should sign up for this personal development course.

Common wisdom states that the best chance of getting good marks on your exams is to choose a mix of difficult and easy courses. If you're keen to sit a double science exam and take Further Maths, you may balance those intensive subjects with, say, PE and Health and Social Care - two that require less academic study and more practical experience.

Remember that no matter how your marks come out, at the very least, you're learning valuable interpersonal skills in Health and Social Care.

Are you sold yet?

If you are an avid Bitesize user, you can find study materials for this subject cleverly tucked away under the Functional Skills: English tab of that site's homepage. If you need other online resources, you may refer to WJEC's resources page for more information, past papers and marking schemes.

Need a School support teacher?

Did you like this article?

5.00/5 - 1 vote(s)


As an Englishman in Paris, I enjoy growing my knowledge of other languages and cultures. I'm interested in History, Economics, and Sociology and believe in the importance of continuous learning.