Thanks for the replies. Yes, DS is in Y9 and we are choosing his options. The fast-tracking for French enables students to pursue additional language studies - AS French, Italian or Mandarin in Year 11 (taken from the school's website). It's a grammar school with language specialism and a number of children are fast-tracked so that they can take early GCSE. I guess I will need to check whether it is a requirement that students would need to continue with AS or another language in year 11. The impression I got was that taking it early would free up time for other studies. Kind of important to find this out
If it means studying AS French in year 11 then I think my son would rather take the full 2 years and secure a good grade.
Also, it sounds like the 2 year course might enable him to enjoy French a little more rather than being rushed (thanks for your post, Solimum).
His French teacher also mentioned that the GCSE is changing and that it might be easier next year (not sure whether she meant 'next' year or 'next next' year if you know what I mean). I will get my son to clarify.
With regards to course work for other subjects, apparently with changes to some GCSE courses, much of the course work will now be done in the classroom to stop parents (and the internet) contributing to much of what the children used to submit! Sounds like a much better idea to me.