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What next after GCSEs?

What happens after you take your GCSEs? Do you stay on at school, get a job or go to your local college? This is a vital decision and there are lots of different options. 

Recently the government introduced a new policy called ‘Raising the Participation Age’. This means that you have to stay in education or training until you are aged 18, unlike your older brother or sister who may have left education at 16, after their GCSE’s.  

This is great news as it means you can gain qualifications and training to support your career options for free up to the age of 18, rather than finishing at 16 and returning to study later on as an adult and having to pay for your education.

Studying and learning until you’re aged 18 does not mean you just have to stay on at school as there are many choices available. It’s about choosing the one you think you’ll be happiest with that will help you kick start your career. 

Full-time education

There are several different choices here. First, you can stay at school in your sixth form and study academic subjects to A level.

This is a great route to take if you’re planning to go to university. You’ll usually study 3 to 4 A levels which take 2 years, at the end of which you’ll take an exam in each of the subjects. If you’re not sure which subjects to choose take a peek at Studential’s guide to choosing your A levels

Alternatively you can study both academic and vocational courses at your local sixth form college as your school may not have a sixth form or you may prefer a more college, less classroom environment with a wider range of subjects to choose from. 

If you’re more practically minded and want to study to be a chef, an engineer, a hair and beauty therapist or a builder (to name just a few trades) then a vocational course at a further education college may be just the thing.

Many level 3 courses which you can study at a further education college are equivalent to 2 to 3 A levels and you’re gaining in-depth vocational training. Visit our Choosing Sixth form or College Guide for more info. 

Part-time education

If you’re working, in self-employment or volunteering for more than 20 hours a week you can also study part-time as well to support you in further improving your work skills. For example day release at a local college to study motor vehicles if you’re working in a garage. 

If you’re volunteering, many organisations e.g. Home Start will offer you an opportunity to gain a formal qualification while you volunteer. Visit do-it.org to search a national database of volunteering opportunities across the whole country and check which ones offer training as part of the package. 

Don’t forget the newly launched National Citizen Service for all 16 to 17 year olds as well. 

Apprenticeships

These are now a very popular option, with the government offering employers incentives to take on young apprentices. 

With an apprenticeship, if you’re aged 16 to 18 you work for an employer for no more than 40 hours a week, receive a wage and on-the-job training, plus you’ll study at college for a nationally recognised qualification.

This college study has to be within your 40 hours working week and your employer will pay you a wage to cover your working hours, including the time you’re at college studying. It’s a win-win.

Search apprenticeship vacancies at the government website, which lists all apprenticeship jobs across the UK. 

Will my GCSE grades affect my choices?

Many A levels and other level 3 courses in sixth forms and at college require you to have at least 5 GCSE’s or more at grades A* to C.

If you have grades at D-G, or less than 5 GCSE passes, there are still many options for you to choose from. 

You could study level 2 courses at college for a year to gain the necessary equivalent qualifications to GCSEs to allow you to progress to level 3 courses, you could re-sit your GCSEs or you could begin an Apprenticeship at level 2.

A final option (not for everyone) could be the armed forces as they offer different levels of skills training to suit your needs.

Careers advice and guidance  

Whether you know exactly what you want to do for your career or you don’t know where to start or what subjects you want to study, it is absolutely crucial that you seek out careers advice and guidance.

It’s a great idea to chat with your school teachers, a dedicated careers advisor in school (if you have one) , or other adults you trust (family, community leaders etc.).

You need to research colleges, sixth forms and all course options by not only crawling over their websites in minute detail but also visiting their open days (they all offer them) and asking for prospectuses and course guides. 

If you’re thinking about an Apprenticeship see if you can visit local employers who already employ apprentices to talk with the apprentices and see what it’s really like in the workplace. 

Whichever option you choose, we’re sure it will be the key to opening up your future.