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Choices at 16: what next?

Have you just finished Year 11?

The Government has changed the law so that from September 2015, you need to stay in education or training until the age of 18. This is called Raising the Participation Age, or RPA.

This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to stay on at school, but you can choose one of the following options:

  • Full time study with a college, training provider, or at school.
  • Full time work or volunteering alongside part-time education or training
  • An apprenticeship

Your school should be your first point of contact for any questions or queries you might have about what the best option is for you.

You can also find out more about RPA on the Department for Education website (external link), including this handy RPA factsheet(PDF, 117KB), and an RPA myth buster (PDF, 102KB).

Here on Youth Space, you can find out about apprenticeships.

Or contact our RPA advisor Paul Kirsarkye:

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Where to start

If you’re in year 11 at school, you’re now required to remain in education or training until the end of the school year when you turn 17 (this will rise to 18 from 2015). This means you could study full-time - such as for A-levels or another college course - do an apprenticeship, or combine work with part-time study.

It’s worth looking ahead, as decisions you make now may narrow your choices later. University courses have specific entry requirements and trades and professions have recognised routes to qualifying, so it may help to work backwards when deciding what to do next.

Remember, there are always opportunities to change direction and alternative routes to get to where you want to be, but thinking about your future now could make life easier in years to come.

Getting advice

Speak to your teachers at school. They may have links with local colleges and training providers or have examples of what past students have done. Parents, carers, friends and relatives may also be able to provide ideas and guidance.

If you want to speak to a Careers Advisor for help –  ask your school, visit the National Careers Service (external link) or contact Paul Kirsarkye on 020 8489 5041 /

Staying in education

The questions of where and what to study are linked, but it may help to think about each area separately when deciding what to do next.

Where to study

The main options are going to your current school’s sixth form – if it has one – or moving to a dedicated sixth form or Further Education College. You might also consider specialist colleges which focus on a particular subjects such as Dance, Drama, or Agriculture. Each school or college is likely to offer a range of different subjects, courses, and approaches to learning, so it’s worth finding out more to discover which will suit you best.

Look out for open days or evenings where you can visit the college, find out about the courses on offer and speak to staff and students. Check out the application process for any colleges that interest you. Applications usually take place in the spring of year 11, but can be as early as the autumn.

What to study

A and AS-levels tend to focus on more academic subjects and are one of the main routes to university education. A-levels have two parts: the AS-level and the A2. Each part is worth 50 per cent of your overall A-level grade. You can study the AS level either as a free standing qualification, or as the first half of a full A level.

Vocational qualifications are directly related to a particular job or area of work. From September 2014, you can study for Tech Levels which give you specialist knowledge for specific careers such as engineering, computing and hospitality and Applied General qualifications which focus on a broader area, such as applied science, business or sport.

How to study

Don’t forget to consider options for flexible learning. Some colleges offer part-time courses, or run evening or weekend classes.

Financial support

Details of help with childcare, support with learning costs such as transport, bursaries for students in financial hardship, and Dance and Drama Awards are available on GOV.UK (external link).

Details of financial support available from the Tottenham Grammar School Foundation can be found here (external link).

Getting back on track

Don’t worry if you got disappointing results for your GCSEs. Colleges often offer the opportunity to sit retakes and study for new GCSEs or other qualifications. You may find that life at college, rather than in school, is the change you need to bring a focus to your studies.

Apprenticeships, traineeships and work-based learning

If you’ve had enough of the classroom full-time, and want to learn a new profession, trade or skill, then this could be the route for you.

An apprenticeship is a real job with training so you can earn while you learn and pick up recognised qualifications as you go. There are nearly 200 different apprenticeship roles on offer, in sectors ranging from animal care to engineering. Apprenticeships take between one and four years to complete and have different entry levels depending on the qualifications you already hold.

Traineeships help prepare you for work and last up to six months. They offer maths and English training together with work experience to boost your skills and put you in a better position to get an apprenticeship or job. Find out more from The National Apprenticeship Service (external link).

You could also look out for trainee positions or trainee schemes where you learn through work and develop practical on-the-job skills.

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Find out more

Not Going to Uni (external link) offers a range of advice as well as information on apprenticeships and training courses. They also list job vacancies, including trainee positions and have a range of partners including national employers who actively recruit school leavers.

Jobcentre Plus (external link) provides details of vacancies and a wide range of information and services, including help with benefits, loans, grants and finding a job.

Source: icould (external link).

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