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Choices at 16

Do I have to continue my education after Year 11?

The law has changed and the Participation Age for young people is now aged 18. This refers to the age until which young people must remain in some sort of education or recognised training. Raising the Participation Age is not the same as raising the school leaving age - that is still aged 16. This means that you will be able to choose the post-16 option that is best for you, whether it's education or training.

You will be able to choose from the following options:

  • full-time education - such as school, college or home-education
  • work-based learning, such as an apprenticeship
  • part-time education or training - you can do this if you are employed, self-employed or volunteering for more than 20 hours a week

So should I study at school or at college?

This is entirely up to you. If you are finding it difficult to decide, attend open days at 6th forms and colleges to see which suits you better. There are significant differences between the two: 6th forms are much closer to the school life you are already used to, while colleges are usually much bigger and offer more independence. There are pros and cons for either option, so the best thing to do is look around different places and see which one you feel more comfortable in.

What alternatives do I have to A-Levels?

There are many alternatives to A-Levels, including the International Baccalaureate, NVQs, access courses, BTECs, and apprenticeships. There are a vast number of options open to you as well as A-Levels, so if you don't think A-Levels are for you then make sure you explore the alternatives - visit Mersey Interactive and U-Explore for support.

What subjects should I choose?

Think about what you would like to do after you have completed further education. Would you go straight into employment? Would you like to progress to further study or university? This will help you choose the right subjects for you and give a progression route to follow. You also need to think about the subjects that you enjoy and are good at. You will achieve better grades in subjects that you enjoy.

A really useful resource when thinking about what types of qualifications or subjects to choose is the U-Explore website that Wirral schools subscribe to. You should be able to ask your school for log in details if they haven't already provided them. Go to 'My Options', choose 'Further Education' on the departure board and then select 'What Could I Learn?'

How can I afford to study after Year 11?

You may have to participate in further education now, but that doesn't mean you have to stay in school. You can start full-time work, volunteer, or even start up your own business. Just so long as you accompany it with part-time, accredited training - find out more information on U-Explore.

You could consider an apprenticeship - apprentices work in real jobs and are employed by real employers, so they get paid a real wage. You will start earning from day one of your apprenticeship, but as you progress and develop your skills, your pay may increase accordingly.

Students who think they may struggle with the costs of other education and training could be awarded a bursary at the discretion of their school, college or training provider. Schools, colleges and training providers can choose to award discretionary bursaries to students that they feel are facing genuine financial difficulties, and they decide on the amount. They will also decide when bursaries are paid, and can set conditions that students have to meet to receive a bursary, like staying out of trouble or achieving high attendance.

There is also some help available for disabled young people, young people claiming income support, care leavers, and young people in care.

If you are struggling with the costs of learning, speak to your school, college, academy or training provider about how to apply for a bursary. They will all have their own specific applications process. You may be asked to provide evidence of your household income.

For advice about applying for help with childcare costs, grants and residential support while you’re learning, contact the Learner Support helpline on 0800 121 8989, or find out more at GOV.UK.

What else do I need to think about?

If you have a particular idea about a higher education course or a job you want to do, you need to find out what the entry requirements are going to be.

If you have a general idea about the type of work you want to do, you should find out which courses or training will help you on your way, but won't stop you doing something else if you change your mind. If you want to continue in full time education, find out what subjects you can do and what they might lead to.

If you have no clear ideas about what you want to do in the future, think about the courses and programmes you are doing. Which ones do you enjoy? Which ones do you get the best marks in? Can you think of any jobs these link to?

Where do I find out more?

Mersey Interactive - check out the Mersey Interactive website which brings together all of the careers information, advice and guidance available in Wirral and other areas of the Mersey region. The website is really easy to use – there's a simple registration process and then young people from the age of 11 upwards can use the site to help plan their futures and look at the possible career paths available. The Wirral Interactive area can help you find out what sort of person you are with things like the Future Morph 'who are you' quiz. The site provides localised content with sections to help you discover what your options are and to identify qualifications and skills you might need, or which jobs might be suitable for you. It can also point you in the right direction to find out more about things like apprenticeships and university.

U-Explore - you can also visit the U-Explore website which all Wirral schools subscribe to, for loads of information about different choices available to make in Year 11, and future options. The site provides information about various types of qualifications & training, job roles and careers pathways.

UCAS Progress - you can visit the UCAS Progress website to find details of courses on offer, and to make and manage your course applications.

Apprenticeship Matching Service - this website provides help with searching and applying for Apprenticeship vacancies.

National Careers Service - if you’re looking for help and advice to plan your future, the National Careers Service can help you. They have friendly advisers who can provide information on learning, work, apprenticeships and choosing the right university.

Before you make any decisions about your future it is a good idea to talk them over with your friends, family and teachers, and it may also be useful to speak to a careers advisor in school or Career Connect. Advisors will be impartial about the various options available and will be able to keep you up-to-date with new courses and opportunities that may interest you, as they become available.