With the raising of the participation age (RPA) you will need to stay in some form of learning until you are 18 here are 3 main pathways to choose from:
- Full-time education in a school, sixth form college or college doing academic qualifications (e.g. A Levels) or vocational qualifications (e.g. BTEC, OCR Cambridge Awards)
- Start an apprenticeship or traineeship
- Work or volunteer (for 20 hours or more a week) while in part-time education or training
There is a range of both academic and vocational courses available at further education level. At AS and A Level, some subjects will be the same as GCSE and some will be new. As with GCSEs, AS and A Levels have undergone significant reform. The 'new' AS Levels are a separate qualification and no longer count towards the A Level grade. A Levels are largely linear, which means exams take place at the end of the 2 year course rather than after each module. Some subjects will still have coursework if it has been decided that certain skills in the course cannot be assessed in an exam. For more information on AS and A Level reform visit www.gov.uk/government/publications/get-the-facts-gcse-and-a-level-reform.
Some A Level subjects are essential for entry to certain degree courses whereas some degree courses do not require study of a specific subject. If you have a specific degree in mind visit www.ucas.com for entry requirements. Universities may also have GCSE requirements for certain courses, e.g. a grade B in Maths and sometimes Science is often required for a degree in Psychology.
There are some A Level subjects that are required more often than not, these are called ‘facilitating‘ subjects and are: Maths, Further Maths, English, Physics, Biology, Chemistry, History, Geography and a Modern or Classical Language.
The International Baccalaureate (IB) is an alternative to A Levels. Six subjects are chosen, 3 at higher level and 3 at standard level, in addition to 3 compulsory core subjects which are: theory of knowledge, creativity, activity, service and an extended essay.
As well as academic courses such as A Levels and the International Baccalaureate (IB) there are vocational programmes such as BTEC, City & Guilds and OCR. Vocational programmes develop practical skills and knowledge and relate directly to specific job roles or employment sectors. The qualifications offer a mix of theory and practice and can also include an element of work experience. Assessment methods vary but are usually continuous and by written and practical exam. Generally, assessment is less exam based than with academic programmes. These qualifications are available in a wide range of subjects at different levels.
If applying for sixth form, sixth form college or college you should aim to apply before the end of December when you are in Year 11.
Search and apply for further education courses on www.ucas.progress.com.
To see how qualification levels compare visit www.gov.uk/what-different-qualification-levels-mean/compare-different-qualification-levels.
Apprenticeship or Traineeship
Apprenticeships combine on-the-job training, theory, practical skills and paid work. Apprentices spend most of their time in the workplace but also attend a specialist learning provider or college (usually 1 day per week). It usually takes between 1 and 4 years to complete an apprenticeship depending on the level and job role. The minimum wage for apprentices is currently £3.30 per hour. Pay can be more than this and depends on the industry, location and type of apprenticeship. There are 250+ types of apprenticeship covering over 1400 job roles.
Most apprenticeships and jobs will be advertised from January onwards. However, some employers recruit early, e.g. Jaguar Land Rover usually have a deadline of 31st December for their apprenticeships. Entry to apprenticeships is competitive so it would be wise to also apply for another option as a back up.
If you do not feel ready for an apprenticeship but like the idea of it you could consider doing a traineeship. A traineeship is a course with work experience that gets you ready for work or an apprenticeship. It can last up to 6 months and involves a work experience placement and help with English and Maths if you need it. You won’t be paid but you may be given expenses for things like travel and meals. Visit www.getingofar.co.uk to find out more about, and apply for, apprenticeships and traineeships.
Employment with Part-Time Education or Training
If you choose the employment route you will also need to work towards a nationally-recognised qualification. You can be employed, self-employed or volunteer for 20 hours or more a week while in part-time education or training. If this route interests you you should check what opportunities it would give you for employment and further training in the future. If you are looking for a job, check:
- Internet recruitment sites
- Jobcentre Plus
- Universal jobmatch - www.gov.uk/jobsearch
- Local and national newspapers, e.g. the Birmingham Mail has jobs on a Thursday
- Professional or specialist journals – often available for free in libraries
- Recruitment agencies - some employers carry out their main recruiting through agencies so signing up can give you access to jobs that are not advertised elsewhere
- Personal contacts - around 60% jobs are never advertised; talk to family, friends, Teachers, Facebook friends and anybody else who knows you about possible opportunities
- Social Media - follow companies you would like to work for on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook and watch out for job vacancies (Remember to be professional online – potential employers can see what you post on social media)
- Local and city centre businesses – check shop and restaurant windows
- Careers Service Offices - these may be training vacancies, such as apprenticeships
- Approach employers – contact employers direct on a speculative basis by email, letter or CV to enquire about opportunities
Remember that if you are in employment you also need to be working towards a recognised qualification for at least 280 hours of learning over a year (roughly equivalent to 1 day a week), visit www.ucas.progress.com for courses.
To find out more about your post-16 choices visit www.nationalcareersservice.direct.gov.uk.
Independent careers advice: there is a Careers Adviser (Fiona Wright) in school every Monday and Tuesday. Call into the Careers Room at break or lunchtime if you want to discuss your choices.