Post 16: Information for Students

Planning your educational pathway is an ongoing process, not just something that you do when circumstances make it a necessity.

Raising of the participation age means that you need to remain in education or training until you are 18, although this does not mean that you have to stay in school. Aside from a legal requirement, gaining more qualifications post-16 is a good idea anyway as more qualifications mean more job choices. You are, therefore, more likely to find a job that you enjoy. Better qualifications will also give you a chance to earn more money.

Post-16 Options

It can feel quite duanting thinking about your future and trying to make decisons, so a good place to start 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?)

We are not expecting you to know the answers to all these questions, and your answers are likely to change over time anyway, but now is when you need to start exploring information about careers, jobs and courses.

It might also help to get advice from a Careers Adviser. If you email Dr. E. Dando then she will be able to organise an appointment for you.


You can take A-Levels in schools, sixth form centres, or at some Further Education Colleges. They are very well regarded by universities and employers.

A-Levels will give you a chance to find out about your GCSE subjects in greater depth, or you can choose to study one of the subjects that many schools and colleges only offer at A-Level such as Law, Economics, or Psychology. They are good preparation if you are thinking of going onto Higher Education, or if you are not sure of your career plans, as they can keep your options open.

To study A-Levels you will need to have done well in your GCSEs. Most schools and colleges will expect you to have gained grades 9-4 in your GCSEs with a minimum of grade 4 in English Language and Maths. Specific requirements can vary from four passes to six passes, so you should check with each institution. Often you will need a GCSE at grade 6 or above in a subject if you want to go on to study it at A-Level. 

A full A-Level qualification is achieved after 2 years of study. How many you take depends on how well you have done in your GCSEs, and what the school or college suggests would be best for you. Some students with very high GCSE grades take 4 A-levels, but most students take 3 subjects.

Different schools and colleges will offer a different range of subjects and a different combination of options, so it is best to research what is on offer, and what will suit you. It might also be possible to combine vocational qualifications such as BTEC Level 3 qualifications with A-Levels. These qualifications attract UCAS points in the same way as A-Levels do.

A-Levels are graded A*-E and gain UCAS points towards entrance to Higher Education. Different universities, colleges, and different courses require different amounts of UCAS points. When you apply to university, your offer may be based on points, or on grades. Some employers now specify a required number of UCAS points for some of their jobs, or apprenticeships.

Choosing your A-levels

Choosing your A Levels needs careful research to think through your possibilities. Take advice from family, friends, teachers, and request an interview with a Careers Adviser, so that you can make an informed decision, based on accurate up-to-date information - but remember, the final choice is yours as you are the one that will have to put the hard work in!

If you have a specific career in mind, check to see if you will need specific A-Level subjects.

If you have a specific degree course in mind, you need to check the entry requirements. Some university courses are very specific about the A-Level subjects required – other degree subjects are very flexible. Check entry requirements on the UCAS website, or on individual university websites. 

If you have no idea about your choice of career, or choice of degree subject at this stage, then make sure you choose a combination of subjects that will keep your preferred options open.

Some A-Level subjects are regarded by virtually all universities as being acceptable. These are sometimes known as ‘facilitating‘ subjects such as Maths, English, Physics, Biology, Chemistry, History, Geography or a foreign language. Some universities are stricter than others on this issue - the Informed Choices site is a good source of information to help you choose.

Do not be afraid to email the universities during Year 11 to ask for their advice about the subjects required for a course you are interested in – either email the Admissions Tutor or the Course Tutor (you will find their email details on the university's website). 

If you are unsure of your career choice or degree choice, then think carefully about your combination of subjects. It is hard to pick up 3 or 4 new subjects that you have never studied before.

Careerpilot : Get information : A Levels : Why choose A Levels, what's involved?
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A BTEC, or 'Business and Technology Education Council' (the name of the body which originally oversaw it) is a practical-based, vocational qualification. As well as the offer from colleges and schools local to us, St Mary's also offers a number of BTECs that can be taken alongside A-levels, or other BTECs.

BTECs provide the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in a field or subject, and are a viable alternative to a more theory-focused, classroom-based way of learning.

A wide range of subjects can be studied at BTEC level – 2,000 qualifications across 16 sectors, to be exact. Some of these lend themselves to the BTEC way of learning due to their practical nature. Subjects which are firmly rooted in theory and concepts, such as English or Maths, will only be available as A-levels.

Assessments: whereas A-levels are assessed mainly through exams at the end of Year 13, BTECs are assessed via regular coursework and projects throughout the course, as well as some externally marked tests. If you know you do not excel in exam conditions, BTECs can relieve this pressure, spreading out the work that dictates your final grade.

Practical experience: when applying to university or for a job, you will need to demonstrate your passion for the field you wish to study or work in. The benefit of BTECs is that you automatically gain the practical experience to show this, as part of your course.

In previous years, BTECs have attracted criticism for being an easier option, because of their more vocational nature. However, this criticism is quickly disappearing as more students take this path to university and beyond. As a result, universities have adapted their entry requirements and will widely communicate BTEC requirements alongside those for A-levels. It is vital, however, that if you have a particular university or course in mind, that you check that the BTEC route, or a mixed BTEC and A-level route is accepted.

What are Btecs? A quick guide to Btec qualifications - The Uni Guide

The Uni Guide logo


T-Levels are new two year qualifications equivalent to 3 A-levels. They lead to a specific occupation and are available in a whole range of different areas, from Cyber Security to Wildlife Management. They have been designed by professional bodies, employers, and universities so that they are relevant and up-to-date. 

T-Levels are for 16 - 19 year olds who want to focus on developing the skills and knowledge required for a specific occupation or job sector. They include at least 3 months work experience and opportunities to build transferable skills and knowledge related to the job area. Students can progress from a T-Level on to apprenticeships, jobs, and university.  

The T-Levels that are currently available are: 

  • Accounting
  • Agriculture, Land Management, and Production
  • Building Services: Engineering for Construction
  • Design and Development for Engineering and Manufacturing
  • Design, Surveying, and Planning for Constuction
  • Digital Business Services
  • Digital Production
  • Digital Support Services 
  • Education and Early Years
  • Engineering, Manufacturing, Processing, and Control
  • Finance
  • Health Care
  • Health Science
  • Legal services
  • Maintenance, Installation and Repair for Engineering and Manufacturing
  • Management and Administration 
  • Onsite Construction
  • Science

The following T-Levels will be starting from September 2024:

  • Animal Care and Management
  • Catering
  • Craft and Design
  • Hairdressing, Barbering, and Beauty Therapy
  • Media, Broadcast, and Production

For more information: Technical Level Qualifications  or  Find a T Level near you

Careerpilot : Get information : Vocational qualifications : T Levels

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Further Education Providers

Each year, approximately 30% of Year 11 decide to go to a college of Further Education, usually to study a vocational course.  

If this is something that you are considering, it is recommended that you go to a college open evening to find out what they have on offer. Some colleges may also offer taster sessions, which usually occur during the school holidays. You will be able to find further details about such college events on their websites, which are linked to below.

Further Education applications are normally made on line, and it is best to apply early, so by January.

Bilborough College

Buxton and Leek College

Chesterfield College


Derby College

North Notts College

Rotherham College

Sheffield College   

Vision West Nottinghamshire College     


If you have a particular job sector or career in mind, then an apprenticeship could be a choice worth considering, although you can do an apprenticeship at any age so you might want to do this after sixth form or college.

Over 77,500 under 19 year olds started apprenticeships last year, and on average there are up to 10,000 vacancies online at any one time. There are over 1,500 different jobs roles you can do an apprenticeship in across 170 different industries, from law to graphic design, advertising to electric vehicle engineering. You would also have an improved chance of getting a job at the end of the apprenticeship - research shows that around 90% of apprentices stay in work on completion of their training and 71% of apprentices stay with the same employer. Competition for some of the more popular apprenticeship placements is intense.

An apprenticeship is more than doing work experience, you will be in a real job, where you will be employed by a company, get paid a salary and be entitled to paid holidays and sick pay. And, you will be working towards qualifications that are relevant to your job.

The minimum you can earn if you are under 19 years old is £4.81 per hour which works out as £177.97 for a 37 hour week of work and training.  When you are over 19 and have completed the first year of your apprenticeship the minimum rates of pay are higher. However, because some employers 'top up' the salary of an apprentice the average apprentice salary in the United Kingdom is £25,809 per year or £13.24 per hour, this does vary across different apprenticeships. If the apprentice is 16 to 24 and a care leaver, they will receive a £1,000 bursary payment to support them in their first year of the apprenticeship. 

The length of an apprenticeship depends on the qualification being obtained and the type of job role. For example, a Level 3 business administration apprenticeship can take 18 months, whilst an engineering degree apprenticeship could take 4 years to finish. 

As well as learning 'on the job' at work, you will also be given time to train 'off the job'. There will be at least 20% of time for structured learning with a college or training provider.

On the Job Training - is in the work place with your employer. You will develop your skills by working with colleagues who will show you how to carry out certain tasks. 

Off the Job Training - is when you learn away from work, often at a local college supported by your training provider.

Your training provider provides an important role in delivering your 'off the job' training, by attending regular reviews with your employer, and assessing your progress towards your qualifications. It might be that you use a computer to access online learning, or you might go to college or a training centre one day a week,  or on a block for a few weeks at at a time. You will need to make sure you are managing your work and studies. This means you will be developing your organisational and time management skills alongside your work skills.

Careerpilot : Get information : Apprenticeships : What is an Apprenticeship, how much will you earn?

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