Published On: February 23, 2022|693 words|3.5 min read|
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As the end of year 11 approaches, many young people across the country will be faced with some important decisions about their futures. After leaving school at 16, there are a wealth of options available to students. They include:

  • Stay in full-time education, for example at school, sixth form college, further education college or University Technical College.
  • Start an apprenticeship or traineeship.
  • Spend 20 hours or more a week working or volunteering while also doing part-time education or training.

Stay in full-time education

Students who opt to remain in full-time education can work towards the below qualifications:

  • A levels
  • T levels
  • Technical and vocational qualifications
  • Applied qualifications

A levels 

Students can choose A levels that continue their studies from GCSEs or pick new subjects depending on their career goals and ambitions. A levels can be completed at school or college. Students can choose three A level subjects. A levels can lead to university or college courses, higher and degree apprenticeships or a job.

Duration: 2 years

Assessment: Mostly exam based

Entry requirements: Typically, 5 GCSEs grade 9-4 (including English and Maths) Students are encouraged to check the entry requirements for each subject they hope to study. For example, to study A level Maths, they may need to achieve a 6 or 7 in Maths at GCSE.

T levels

T levels are designed in partnerships with employers and give students the skills and knowledge to get into the workplace. T levels combine classroom learning with work placements. One T level qualification is the equivalent of three A levels.

Duration: 2 years

Assessment: Exams, projects, and practical assessments

Entry requirements: Dependent on the chosen course and often in line with A level entry requirement

Vocational and technical qualifications

This type of qualification teaches young people practical skills and knowledge for a particular area of employment. They can be generalised to a broad sector such as Health and Social Care or can be specific to a job.

Duration: 1 or more years

Assessment: Exams, skills tests, and coursework

Entry requirements: Dependent on the chosen course and the appropriate level. FE Colleges offer courses from Entry level to Level 3 for students aged 16. The GCSE grades that students achieve will inform which level of the course they will start on. Please note though, that for some vocational courses, regardless of GCSE grades, students will need to start on a level 1 or 2, due to the specialist skills required on the course.

Applied qualifications 

Applied qualifications give young people a broad overview of working in a specific sector and combine classroom-based learning with practical skills development.

Duration: Dependent on the course chosen

Assessment: Dependent on the chosen course

Entry requirements: Dependent on the chosen course

Combine work and study 

Combining work and study has many benefits; students can gain practical skills, get work experience and a qualification that employers need. Work and study pathways include:

  • Apprenticeships
  • Traineeships
  • Supported internships
  • School leaver schemes


An apprenticeship is a real job where young people gain experience, learn skills, and get paid. They will be paid employees and receive a wage and holiday pay. At the end of their apprenticeship, they will have the skills and knowledge to embark on their chosen career path. Students will spend 80% of their time in the workplace and 20% of their time completing practical study in either a college or training centre. At the end of an apprenticeship, learners will receive a nationally recognised qualification in the industry of study.

Duration: Minimum of 1 year

Entry requirements: Dependent on the industry, job role and apprenticeship level. Students must also be; 16 or over, not in full-time education, and living in England.


A Traineeship prepares young people for an apprenticeship or job. They will gain work experience that will support them in their next steps.

Duration: 6 weeks to 1 year

Entry requirements: Age 16 to 24 or up to 25 with an Educational Health and Care Plan with no higher than a Level 3 qualification

Before considering which pathway is the best for them, students should consider their chosen career choice and do some research to identify if that career path requires specific qualifications. Young people must be presented with all options available to them so they can make informed decisions about their futures.

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