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As students start thinking about options post GCSE,  many schools and colleges are hosting their open evenings (albeit virtually). All students must stay in some type of education or training until turning 18 and there are many options available when you turn 16 so look at which option best suits you and your situation, strengths, skills and interests.

However, there are 2 main routes:

  1. Continue your studies e.g. A Levels, T Levels, Btecs or equivalent Technical and Vocational qualifications.
  2. Combine work and study e.g. Traineeships/Apprenticeship

Continue your studies

A levels

Description: Study a subject you took at GCSE in greater depth or choose a new one such as economics, law or psychology. You could take 3 broad subjects you are interested in to keep your career options open or choose ones you need for a specific career.

Duration: 2 years

Assessment: Mostly exams at the end of the course

Level of study: 3

Entry requirements: Course dependent, typically 5 GCSEs Grade 9-4 (A-C Wales) usually including English and maths and sometimes you need a GCSE in the subject you wish to study further.

Work experience: Usually 1 week (optional depending upon school/college) during year 12

Leads to: University/college, higher and degree apprenticeships, work

Find out more:  UCAS Information about A levels

T Levels

Description: Designed in partnership with employers to give you the skills and knowledge to get on in the workplace. Combines classroom learning with industry placements to prepare you for skilled work or higher-level study. 1 T Level is the equivalent of 3 A levels.  Areas of interest include Digital, Construction, Finance and more.

Duration: 2 years

Assessment: Exams, projects and practical assignments

Level of study: 3

Entry requirements: Course dependent

Work experience: At least 45 days on industry placement

Leads to: University/college, higher and degree apprenticeships, work

Find out more: info on T Levels

UoC blog: An introduction to T levels

Technical and vocational qualifications (Including BTECs)

Description: Qualifications which teach you how to do tasks specifically related to the industry and role you want to be involved in, e.g. Health & Social care, Animal Management

Duration: Course dependent

Assessment: Can include coursework, skills tests and some exams

Level of study: 1+

Entry requirements: Course dependent

Work experience: Course dependent

Leads to: Apprenticeship, work, college or university

Find out more: Speak to your local provider or talk to an adviser

Combine work and study


Description: A course that includes a work placement that will get you ready for an apprenticeship or a job. You’ll get work experience and some help to apply for your next steps. You can also improve your maths and English skills. You’ll get work experience and some help to apply for whatever you do next.

Location: You’ll spend a minimum of 70 hours in a work placement with the rest of your time in college or a training centre

Duration: 6 weeks to 1 year

Entry requirements:  You need to be aged between 16 to 24 or up to 25 with an Education Health and Care Plan with no higher than a level 3 qualification

Qualifications: English, maths, digital and work-related qualifications

Leads to: Apprenticeship, further education, work

Find out more: ask your local college or training provider, speak to your school careers adviser, find a traineeship in your area.


Description: Intermediate, advanced higher and degree apprenticeships combine practical on-the-job skills training with off-the-job learning. You'll get training that is relevant to your job and be paid a salary. Start at a level to suit you, with support if you have special needs or a disability.

Location: You’ll spend 80% of your time in the workplace and 20% off-the-job with some study in a college, training centre or Institute of Technology (IoT)

Duration: A minimum of 1 year

Entry requirements:  Will be dependent on the industry, job role and apprenticeship level (Maths & English GCSEs are usually essential)

Qualifications: apprenticeship certificate, diploma, degree and masters depending on level

Leads to: Work, next level of apprenticeship, further education, higher education

Find out more: information about Apprenticeships

Think about...

If you wish to continue your studies then choose subjects because:

  • You’re good at them
  • You enjoy them
  • They are useful/needed for a certain career/course
  • To gain useful skills

If you wish to combine work and study then:

  • Do your research
  • Find a provider/pathway that is right for you

And finally, some other things you may wish to consider:

  • Are you happy to stay on at school where things are familiar and the teachers/tutors know you?
  • Or are you keen have to have a fresh start somewhere new?
  • Do your research.  Try UCAS Career ideas after GCSE
  • Read and visit as many options evenings/events as you can and maybe make a list of pros/cons to help with your decision making.

And above all…Good luck!



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