Independent schools decide their own curriculum but there is much in common with the National Curriculum. At the start of secondary school, pupils are likely to be taught a fairly standard range of subjects: English, maths, history, geography, sciences (either individually, or as an integrated programme), one or more modern languages (increasingly including Mandarin), art, music, ICT, various other technology courses (design, food), PE and games; plus maybe drama, RS, computer studies, crafts, Latin etc.
All these subjects are likely to be offered for GCSE but schools will insist that pupils take eg English (language and literature), maths, science (maybe two or three), a language (some dictate which), one or more subjects from the humanities, arts or technology and maybe also RS. Additional options may include ancient Greek, economics, Japanese, classical civilisation, geology, media studies, drama, ICT (short or long courses), photography, PE or other languages (eg Spanish, German, Italian, Russian). Schools may offer some 20 GCSE courses but your child is unlikely to be able to take more than half of them. Most impose a maximum of between 8 and 11 subjects.
At 16 in the sixth form, pupils usually cut down to 4–6 subjects, depending on the programme offered. Frequently more subjects are offered at this level, even though sixth formers take fewer. These may include eg philosophy, history of art and architecture, business studies, psychology, sociology, various maths options, classics, politics and government. Some pupils can be forced into an exclusively arts or science bias in the sixth form, though increasingly they take a mixture – particularly in the lower sixth where many schools encourage a broad range of subjects or require one AS-level to be in a contrasting subject. A broad range of subjects is a requirement of the IB Diploma programme.