At the age of 16, young people need to make serious decisions about the direction of their future, if they want to pursue further studies or start to work. There are many different routes and pathways that they can take, and choices need to be carefully made.
Therefore, it is important that they have clear options to choose from. The Government is focusing on post-16 options because they want to increase the quality of education available and ensure that all young people have the tools and opportunities they need to fulfil their potential, so they are prepared for further education and work regardless of their background or life circumstances. The aim is to reduce the NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training) situation of many young people (16- to 24-year-old). Young people who have their own child are more likely to become neets than those who don’t. Young people who have a learning/physical disability are more likely to become neets than those who are not. Instead, young people who achieved five or more GCSEs A to C grade are less likely to become neets than those who have not.
The “September Guarantee” means that after finishing tenth grade, students can take part in full or part-time education, an apprenticeship programme, entry to employment (E2E) or Level 2 employment training from the next September. The opportunities for pupils aged 16 and over have traditionally been either to leave school and start employment or to stay and continue with their education. Although many pupils do still choose one of these options, there are now more opportunities available as there has been an increased Government’s focus on education for post 16-year-old young people, with particular focus on reducing the number of young adults not in education, employment or training.
Since 2013 all young people have been required to continue in education or training until they turn 17 years of age. From September 2015, the participation age was increased until the young person’s 18th birthday. However, this does not mean that students must stay on at school; they can go to college; start an apprenticeship or traineeship or go into employment with training. By raising the participation age, the Government hoped that young people would gain all the skills they need to be able to gain qualifications that will lead to sustainable jobs. The post-16 options set out by the Government are:
• Continue full-time education;
• Start a course of work-based learning (Apprenticeship);
• Get a job;
• Do voluntary work;
• Be supported by Social Services/Social Care and Health/Children’s Service (for SEN pupils).
The choices available post-16 will be subject to local authority funding.
Education and training can be provided by a number of different ways for example:
Youth and community organisations;
Private training providers
The learners can approach a range of both academic and vocational qualifications as well as take GCSEs and functional skills such as English and Maths. They can work towards getting A levels, access courses, foundation degrees and post graduate qualifications. In addition to these qualifications, there are professional and specialist qualifications available to learners.
When students decide to stay in full-time education, they can choose different routes, depending upon their GCSE results and their ideas about future careers. A young person’s GCSE grades will determine the level of course that they can study at post-16. GCSEs are currently being changed and a new grading structure of 9-1 is gradually being introduced as the reformed subjects are examined. These grades are being be used for the first time in 2017 for English and Maths results. Students can progress to university from different Level 3 courses: AS and A levels, BTECs and the International Baccalaureate (IB). It is now compulsory for students to achieve at least grade 4 GCSE grades 9 – 4 (A-C) or equivalent in Maths and English Language. If this is not achieved at the end of year 11, students must study these subjects again in Sixth Form or a college. The term “sixth form” describes the school years numbered 12 and 13, which are called the Lower Sixth (L6) and Upper Sixth (U6) by many schools.
AS and A levels are the best known of the post-16 qualifications and have a long history. They are the traditional route to a university education. Some students may focus on a particular area, for example sciences, and do all their subjects in this area. Other students do a mixture of subjects and keep their options open for the post-18 routes. Most students who successfully study A levels go on to Higher Education. All A levels have recently been reformed. There have been changes to the content as specifications are updated and all subjects have one set of exams at the end of the two-year course.
The International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme is made up of a compulsory core, plus six separate subjects. The compulsory core contains three elements:
1. Theory of knowledge: the basis of knowledge, and the understanding of analysing evidence and expressing a rational argument;
2. Creativity, action and service: this part of the programme encourages involvement in theatre or music activities, sports and/or community service;
3. 4000-word extended essay: investigation into a specific topic of interest.
As well as the three core elements, students can select one subject from each one of these six main areas: first language; second language; sciences (biology, environmental systems and societies, physics, design technology); mathematics and mathematical studies; arts and electives (psychology, economics, visual arts, music and film); individuals and society (geography, history, business and management, social and cultural anthropology, information technology in a global society).
In schools and colleges, students can get the skills and training that they need for vocational areas towards getting Vocational Qualifications, which go from Entry Level to Level 3. Some schools offer a range of vocational subjects while colleges often have a more extensive programme.
Vocational qualifications are courses that are related to an area of work and are divided into either Applied General or Technical Level qualifications.
An Apprenticeship is a mixture of on-the-job training and classroom learning. This provides the skills needed for a specific career path and helps towards nationally recognised qualifications. Apprenticeships can take between 1 to 4 years to complete. They are paid and there are different levels: intermediate, advanced, higher and degree apprenticeships. Young people are placed on a level determined by the employer and the student’s prior qualifications and experience. An intermediate level apprenticeship is equivalent to GCSEs, advanced is equivalent to 2 A levels, higher is equivalent to a foundation degree and a degree apprenticeship is equivalent to a full degree level qualification. There are different ways of finding an apprenticeship: going directly to the employers’ websites to see what they are offering or via FE colleges or other providers. Colleges often have vacancies for apprenticeships where the college and the employer work together. Students who are not ready for a full apprenticeship can do a Traineeship: these can last up to 6 months.
Young people leaving school at the end of year 11 can also opt for employment. However, they should also be attending training as part of their employment. Full time work means a job lasting for at least 8 weeks and for 20 hours or more per week. The rest of the time should be taken up by training which, over a year, should amount to 280 hours. For both apprenticeships and employment with training, young people often study further qualifications. These can be in a wide range of areas, for example: nursing animals and plants, extracting and providing natural resources, construction, manufacturing, transportation, providing goods and services, health, social and protective services, etc.
Young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) usually start discussing about their transitions at the age of 14 and this can involve teachers, education and social care staff, health professionals and voluntary workers. A referral is made for an adult social care transition worker when they turn 16. The transition workers help them move from children to adult social care support. They work with children’s social care and education services to write their Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan and attend the EHC plan reviews. Specialist careers advisers at school will be able to discuss their post-16 options, including mainstream and special schools, study programmes, apprenticeships and colleges of further education. The transition workers carry out the young people’s assessment to see what help they need when they turn 18. They ultimately make sure that help is in place. This plan identifies their needs and what can realistically be provided to meet them. The emphasis of the plan is on personalised learning pathways taking into consideration the learner’s aspirations, focusing on progression and eventual employment and independent living, where appropriate.
Supported internships are a structured study programme based primarily at an employer. They enable young people with special educational needs aged 16-24 with an Education, Health and Care (EHC), plan to achieve sustainable paid employment by equipping them with the skills they need for work, through learning in the workplace.
Supported internships are unpaid, and last for a minimum of six months. However, if possible, they support the SEN young person to move into paid employment at the end of the programme. Alongside their time at the employer, young people complete a personalised study programme which includes the chance to study for relevant substantial qualifications, if appropriate, and English and Maths.
The Government also provides Further Education colleges and training organisations with Additional Learning Support funding (ALS) to cover the additional costs associated with young people with learning difficulties and disabilities. ALS funding can be used by colleges to provide a wide variety of different types of support for students with learning difficulties such as additional study support, study materials in different formats or specialised computer software. The special educational needs and disability review: A statement is not enough (2010), Ofsted highlighted the benefit of ALS stating that in the colleges visited, the young people who received additional learning support achieved as well as other students on the same courses.
For employment options including positions on a voluntary basis, students can look online or at adverts in newspapers.