Options at 16
Before you start planning what you want to do, it can help to think about what interests you, what you like and dislike doing.
What are your interests?
What do you enjoy doing at school or in your spare time? For example you might like: art, music, sports, writing stories, looking after pets, playing computer games, socialising with friends.
What are your skills?
What kind of things are you good at, in school or your free time? For example you might be good at: science, maths, talking and writing, using computers, creative work (like painting or music), practical tasks (like making models) and researching information for a project.
What are your personal qualities?
What are you like as a person? For example, you could be good at: managing your time and meeting deadlines; working well with other people, planning ahead, talking to groups of people, joining in discussions, caring for other people, coming up with original ideas, listening to other people’s views.
How do you like to learn?
Different education options offer different ways of learning. For example, some education courses will be mostly classroom-based while others will involve placements with employers or practical work.
If you enjoy classroom-based learning with exams you may want to take a general education course like A Levels at sixth form or college.
If you prefer practical work with hands-on work experience you might be interested in a vocational course like an NVQ or BTEC at sixth form or college.
If you like the sound of learning new skills while you work and gaining qualifications for the job you are doing you may be interested in an apprenticeship or a job with training.
If you would rather learn step-by-step at your own pace, in a small class, while gaining some useful everyday skills, a foundation learning programme could be the right choice for you.
Remember – once you have recognised your strengths and weaknesses, your likes and dislikes you can then find out about the different opportunities available to you.
AS and A Levels
New AS and A levels will be taught in schools in England from September 2015. AS and A levels are level 3 qualifications however they will now be decoupled – this means that AS results will no longer count towards an A level, in the way they used to. AS levels can be designed by exam boards to be taught alongside the first year of A levels. Assessment will be mainly by exam, with other types of assessment used only where they are needed to test essential skills.
You can study AS and A levels at sixth form or college. They are available in a range of different subjects. Most A levels are split into units and take two years to complete.
New AS and A levels will be taught in schools in England from September 2015. The first results for the new AS levels will be in 2016, and for the A levels in 2017. Further subjects will be introduced over the following two years.
You could study Advanced Subsidiary (AS) Level units. If you pass these, you will get an AS qualification after one year. If you applied for A-Levels, you will study units over two years which will make the new A-Level qualification. Exams take place at the end of each course.
For more information about which subjects have changed to the new system click here.
Vocational courses are available at Entry Level, Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3. They are work related and are designed to give you the skills that employers are looking for. They are available in many different subjects.
There are different vocational courses available:
- BTEC qualifications – After Year 11 you may be able to complete BTEC qualifications at level 3, level 2, level 1 or entry level. BTECs are assessed in a variety of ways such as project work, assignments, written tests and coursework. For some of the BTEC qualifications you will have to keep a portfolio of evidence to show your skills and knowledge, which you will hand in at the end of the course.
- National Awards and Certificates – these qualifications are very practical and don’t involve any exams — you will be assessed throughout the course by coursework. National Awards and Certificates focus on work related skills to prepare you for work in the future. After Year 11 you may be able to complete a National Award, or Certificate at level 1, level 2 or level 3.
The International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma is a level 3 qualification and can be studied as an alternative to A levels. The IB Diploma is an internationally recognised qualification. It is made up of core subjects – things you have to study – plus six separate subjects, which you choose from a list. Ask your school or college to see what’s available.
Apprenticeships are available at level 2 and Advanced Apprenticeships are available at level 3. They offer you the opportunity to earn while you learn. They involve both on and off-the-job training. As well as working for an employer, you’ll spend some time at a college or with a training provider. An apprenticeship isn’t a qualification as such but by doing an apprenticeship you will gain qualifications such as an NVQ and Functional Skills.
To find out more about apprenticeships and vacancies in the local area, click here.
National Vocational Qualifications
National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) are level 1, 2 and 3 qualifications. NVQs are recognised qualifications that prepare you for, or prove your ability to do a particular job, such as motor vehicle repairer or customer services assistant.
To get an NVQ qualification you have to show that you have completed every unit. You do this by collecting evidence and putting it in a portfolio. Once you have completed your portfolio, you hand it in to be assessed.
NVQs are graded as a pass only. If you don’t complete the full qualification, it’s sometimes possible to be awarded individual units.
Foundation Learning is a name that is given to level 1 and entry level qualifications. Foundation Learning might be suitable for you if you are working at a lower level and need some help before completing level 2 qualifications.
Through Foundation Learning, you can get awards, certificates and diplomas. You will learn about a work related subject, such as motor vehicle or public services. You will also study personal and social development and brush up on your English, IT and Maths. Not all colleges and training providers offer Foundation Learning – check out individual college websites to see what they offer.
GCSEs are level 1 and level 2 qualifications. GCSEs are usually completed in Years 10 and 11 at school. They are nationally recognised qualifications. Most learning providers and employers ask for a grade C or above in GCSE English and Maths which is equivalent to a level 2. Reformed GCSEs will be introduced gradually over three years from September 2015. They will be graded from 9 to 1, instead of A* to G. Students taking GCSEs over this period will therefore receive a mixture of 9 to 1 and A* to G grades.
Top tips for further education applications
- Do your research
- Visit http://www.ucasprogress.com/ for a list of colleges/schools and courses
- Visit school and college websites
- Go to open days or evenings
- Take time to fill out application forms
- Apply early
- Attend interviews