Young people in England are required by law to stay in education or training until age 18. Depending on what is on offer locally and what their future aspirations are, 16 to 18 year-olds have several options to choose from, including A-levels and T-levels. They could also choose to take up an apprenticeship, a traineeship or to follow part-time learning whilst working or volunteering.

Whatever option your child takes now, it is possible to move from one path to another, as their career aspirations and interests develop.

What to consider

There are many different providers of post-16 education. Those that you are likely to be most familiar with include, schools with sixth forms, sixth form colleges, and Further Education (FE) colleges. Independent providers that specialise in training for different sectors and employers that are set up to provide training in house also provide post-16 education.

Each provider offers different options. Some courses and subjects have entry requirements. If your child doesn’t already have a grade 4 or above (previously Grade C or above) in English or Maths GCSE, they must continue studying these subjects in some form. The exact qualification they study and grade they need to reach is dependent on their prior achievement and the level of the course or programme they are undertaking.

Post-16 qualifications have changed recently. For example, T-levels (which have been developed in consultation with employers) are now available in some areas of the country, with more to follow soon. Good technical education like T-levels enable young people to develop the knowledge and skills required to enter skilled employment or to continue in education if they wish to.

Exploring the options

There is a lot of support available to help you and your child find the option that’s right for them. It’s worth being open to options that you might not have originally considered.

To help you and your child have informed discussions, you can start by talking to your child’s school or college about what support they offer and attending their careers events and activities.

You can also carry out your own research or your child can speak to a specialist careers advisor through their school or college or via the National Careers Service website. If your child has special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), their current school or college can help you find out what support is available in your area.

You can find other sources of information about the options on the Talking Futures Resources page.

Expect a lot of detail and for different sources to explain things differently. Whilst it can feel confusing, exploring with your child and learning about the options together is just as valuable as having the answers yourself.

To help get you started there is information below on three of the post-16 options that might be available in your area and a link to more detail about each one. These are known as Level 3 options and are likely to be suitable if your child has/is predicted to get around three good GCSEs (GCSEs are Level 2 options).

Apprenticeships

  • Apprenticeships combine practical training in a paid job with study.
  • Apprentices spend most of their time at work, with at least 20% of their time studying at a training provider.
  • Apprenticeships are offered at all levels, from Level 2 right through to Level 6 or 7 (which is bachelor’s or master’s degree equivalent). ‘Advanced’ apprenticeships are set at Level 3. Some will include a qualification.
  • Apprenticeships are offered by employers and they will advertise when they have vacancies. Vacancies are also advertised locally, for example through colleges, or on national websites.
  • After their apprenticeship is finished, most young people carry on working in the industry their apprenticeship was in.

https://www.apprenticeships.gov.uk/apprentices/becoming-apprentice

https://www.findapprenticeship.service.gov.uk/apprenticeshipsearch

T-levels

  • A two-year course that focuses on technical skills. One T-level is equivalent to three A-levels.
  • T-level students spend 80% of their time at college, learning the skills that employers need, and 20% of their time on an industry placement.
  • T-levels are new, so only a few schools and colleges in certain areas are currently offering them. But more are becoming available every year.

After T-levels, young people can either choose to continue into higher education, such as a higher technical course, or to go into employment.

https://www.tlevels.gov.uk/students/about

A-levels

  • A two-year course of study.
  • Most students study three A-levels, but you can also combine them with other qualifications.
  • After A-levels, many young people go onto higher education at college and/or university to do degrees and higher technical qualifications, while others begin working at age 18.

https://nationalcareers.service.gov.uk/careers-advice/career-choices-at-16#a-levels

https://www.ucas.com/further-education/post-16-qualifications/qualifications-you-can-take/levels

Other options

Depending on circumstances, there are some other post-16 options available that may be worth exploring. These include Intermediate apprenticeships (Level 2), traineeships which help prepare young people for work or to develop the right skills to begin an apprenticeship, and some qualifications which have been designed to prepare young people for a very specific role – such as a Sports Coach for example.