Post 16 Options

Post 16 Options

It’s never too early to start thinking about your future.  What you can do after GCSEs depends on a range of factors such as where you live, what grades you are likely to get, what you are interested in, and what environment you are most suited to.

Since 2013, the Raising of the Participation Age law has stated that young people must undertake formal education until they are 18.  This can include:

Full-time Study – this could be a qualification taken at a Sixth Form, College or Training Provider, totalling 540 hours of learning time per year, or around 18 hours per week.

Apprenticeships – this involves working for an employer while studying for a qualification as part of your training.  Usually, work makes up 80% of an apprenticeship and at least 20%  should be dedication to studying.

Traineeships – this is an option for students who would like to do an apprenticeship but may not have the experience, skills or qualifications to do so yet.  Traineeships can last up to six months and involve a work placement, Maths and English qualifications and support with finding an apprenticeship.

Part-time Study with Employment or Volunteering – this could be working in a full-time job (classed as any work that takes place over more than two months and is over 20 hours per week) or volunteering (again, over 20 hours per week) while studying part-time at college or training provider (totalling 280 hours of learning per year).

A good place to start planning your post-16 options is to think of these three questions.

  • Where am I now? (What qualifications, skills, and interests do I have?)
  • Where do I want to get to? (What would I like to be doing in 5 years time – job, living away from home, etc?)
  • How will I get there? (What course, training or future job is likely to get me where I want to go?)

Of course, at 16, young people don’t necessarily know the answers to all these questions, but it is never too early to start exploring information about careers, jobs and courses.

If you really aren’t sure about what you want to do in the future then ‘stay broad’ – do a broad range of subjects so that you can decide later!

It might also help to get advice from people who know you well (like parents & teachers) or visit the Careers Resource Area in N1a.

Sixth Form and Sixth Form Colleges

Sixth Forms are often attached to a school and sometimes sixth forms are completely separate from any other schools, and teach students from lots of different places.  The courses available are main A Level but some do include vocational qualifications like BTEC too.  A Levels offer a great route into Higher Education and Employment.

Further Education Colleges

Further Education Colleges offer a range of courses that can help at every stage of life from Level 1 courses through to degrees and professional qualifications.  Colleges offer a range of full-time and part-time courses related to a broad employment area such as Business, Engineering, IT, Health and Social Care that can lead to a specific job or related further study at Higher Education and some also offer a range of A Levels too.

Training Providers

Training Providers usually offer BTECs or other vocational qualifications that focus on a specific area of study in a practical way such as Hair and Beauty, Construction, Animal Care, Performing Arts, Business/ICT or Engineering.

Local Sixth Forms, FE Colleges and Training providers along with their contact details can be found here:

Colleges and Sixth Form Schedule


Apprenticeships involve working for an employer in a specific role while being trained to do the job by experienced staff, in a combination of on the job and off the job training at a college or training provider (this must be at least 20% of the apprenticeship).

The minimum wage for Apprenticeships from April 2020 starts from £4.55 depending on age (although many companies pay more!).  Apprenticeships can now be undertaken in a variety of industries and can be started as soon as an individual turns 16 and has left full time education (although you can apply beforehand).

Apprenticeships come in four different levels:

Intermediate/Level 2 (equivalent to GCSE) – may require Maths/English at GCSE

Advanced/Level 3 (equivalent to A Level) – usually requires 5 GCSEs at Grade 4 and above

Higher/Level 4-5 (equivalent to Foundation Degree) – usually requires L3 or A Levels

Degree/Level 6-7 (equivalent to University Degree) – usually requires 3 A Levels or similar


Traineeships are an opportunity for students aged 16 to 24, who do not have the relevant qualifications, experience or skills, to start an apprenticeship but are interested in progressing on to one in the future.  Traineeships involve a programme of up to six months of study, including a work placement, qualifications in Maths and English and support with finding a job or apprenticeship once the course is completed.  Students are not paid for taking part but can apply for a 16-19 Bursary Fund to help with costs.

For more information click on the link or image below or watch the short video from Amazing Apprenticeships.

Depending on the Sixth Form/College/Training Provider you choose to study at you may have the choice to study A Levels on their own or alongside an Applied General Qualification.  Some Further Education Colleges will also offer T Levels from September 2021.

A Levels are Academic, T Levels are Technical and Applied General Qualifications are courses that focus on a vocational area and are more practical.

A Levels

  • Students usually take 3 or 4 different A Level subjects or you can do 2 alongside an Applied General Qualification
  • Each A Level is graded A*-E and attract UCAS points for entry to university (
  • A Levels are general and academic and are a good choice if you want to keep your career options open
  • You can choose a subject you enjoyed at GCSE or pick up a new subject such as Law, Economics or Psychology
  • Some degrees and universities will only accept specific subjects and grades for entry to certain degree courses at university so it is important to do your research
  • A Levels do not suit everyone. They are usually assessed at the end of two years by final exams, so you need to be good at independent study, revision and exam technique

T Levels

  • T Levels are a brand new qualification that follow GCSEs and give students a head start towards a specific career
  • T Levels are technical qualifications where you study one subject which is equivalent to 3 A Levels, the top grade is Distinction* which is equivalent to 3 A Levels at A*
  • They combine classroom study and work placements (80% classroom and 20% work placement)
  • These are new qualifications starting locally in September 2021 in the following areas:
  • Construction route
    • Building Services
    • On Site Construction
  • Digital route
    • Digital Production, Design & Development
  • Education and Childcare route
    • Early years education and childcare
  • More subjects will be phased in annually
  • T Levels begin with core theory, concepts and skills relating to an industry area and students will then be able to choose one or more specialism

Applied General Qualifications

  • These are vocational qualifications that tend to be known by the exam board such as BTEC, Cambridge Technicals, OCR
  • There are a wide range of Applied General Qualifications available from animal care to performing arts and business to graphic design at different levels
  • They offer the underpinning knowledge of a subject, practical skills and relevant work experience. So they will suit students who have an interest in a specific job area eg Health and Social Care
  • These can be taken alongside two A Levels or as one course equivalent to two or three A Levels
  • Generally, there are less exams and a range of different assessment methods are likely to be used such as assignments, tests and observations of performance
  • Students can progress on to university to study a degree or go on to an apprenticeship after these qualifications

For more information click on the image or link below and for a summary of the qualifications pathways watch the short animation produced by the Department for Education:

For more information and support please follow the links below to access the Careers and Enterprise Parent and Student Guide.