Information about post-16 options

All information below is provided by National Career Service

You can leave school on the last Friday in June if you’ll be 16 by the end of the summer holidays. You must then choose whether to:

  • stay in full-time education – for example at school, sixth form college, further education college or University Technical College (UTC)
  • start an apprenticeship or traineeship
  • spend 20 hours or more a week working or volunteering while also doing part-time education or training

Your local authority has a duty to make sure you are offered a suitable place by the end of September. This is known as the September Guarantee (for 16-and 17-year-olds). Contact your local authority for information on who can help find you a suitable offer. Youth Connect South West and Future Bright are two local services focused on helping young people with employment.

You may be eligible for the 16 to 19 Bursary Fund, which can help with things like books, travel or equipment if you will struggle with education or training costs.

If you have an Education Health and Care (EHC) plan, you can get support to choose your next steps and extra help when you are in education, training or work.

Stay in full-time education

You could take a range of subjects that lead to qualifications that keep your options open, like GCSE or A levels. Courses like T Levels or BTEC allow you to focus on a chosen career area like construction, healthcare science or digital careers. Some careers may ask for specific qualifications, so always do some research into where the course you are interested in might lead.

Combine work and study

Gain practical skills, get work experience and a qualification that employers need.

Stay in full-time education

A levels

Description: Carry on studying subjects you took for GCSE to a higher level, or pick new ones you may not have done before like economics, law or psychology. You could take 3 very different subjects you are interested in to keep your career options open or choose more closely related subjects if you you need them for a specific career.

Duration: 2 years

Assessment: Mostly exams at the end of the course

Level of study: 3

Entry requirements: Typically 5 GCSEs Grade 9-4 (usually including English and maths)

Work experience: Your school or college may offer short periods of work experience, usually during year 12

Leads to: University or college courses, 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. You’ll combine classroom learning with real work placements. 1 T Level is the equivalent of 3 A levels.

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: Work, higher and degree apprenticeships, college and university courses

Find out more: information about T Levels

Vocational and technical qualifications

Description: These courses teach you the practical skills and knowledge for a particular area of employment. They can prepare you for a broad employment sector, like engineering or travel and tourism, or for a specific job like a chef or a hairdresser. Qualifications which teach you how to do tasks specifically related to the industry and role you want to be involved in.

Duration: 1 or more years

Assessment: Can include coursework, skills tests and exams

Level of study: 1+

Entry requirements: Course dependent

Work experience: You’ll learn in real situations in college, for example in a college restaurant or a salon that is open to the public. You may also have the chance to go out on a work placement with an employer.

Leads to: Apprenticeship, work, college or university

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

Applied qualifications

Description: Qualifications that give you a broad overview of working in a specific sector, like business, media, engineering, leisure or science and technology. A mix of classroom-based learning with the chance to get some practical skills.

Duration: Course dependent

Assessment: Course dependent (coursework and exams)

Level of study: 3

Entry requirements: Course dependent

Work experience: Course dependent

Leads to: University/college, apprenticeship, work

Find out more: information about applied qualifications

Description: If you didn’t get the results you wanted, you can resit some of your courses or sign up for some new qualifications.

Location: School sixth form, sixth form college or further education college

Duration: 1 year

Entry requirements: 16+

Qualifications: Level 2 and 3 qualifications like GCSE, A level and BTEC

Leads to: Higher level or degree apprenticeship, further education, higher education, work

Find out more: Speak to your school or college careers leader or careers adviser or our careers advisers

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
    • speak to your Jobcentre Plus adviser if you receive benefits
    • find a traineeship in your area

Supported internships

Description: Supported internships are for young people with learning difficulties or learning disabilities, who need extra support to get a job.

Location: You’ll spend most of your time on placements with an employer, learning skills for work. You’ll also get help from a tutor and a job coach in college or with a specialist provider.

Duration: A minimum of 6 months

Entry requirements: Aged 16-24 with an Education Health and Care Plan

Qualifications: GCSE English and maths

Leads to: Work, traineeship, apprenticeship

Find out more:

    • from your school or local college
    • speak to your social worker or a transition worker
    • speak to your Jobcentre Plus adviser


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

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

School leaver schemes

Description: A chance to learn and train with a large company while earning a wage. Offered in sectors like accountancy, engineering, finance, IT, law, leisure and retail. Similar to graduate employment schemes run over a longer period of time.

Location: You’ll often rotate between different locations with the same company to get experience and it can include distance learning or time in college or university

Duration: 3 to 7 years

Entry requirements: Usually high grade A levels or equivalent and a keen interest in the sector you want to work in

Qualifications: A university degree and/or professional qualification

Leads to: Professional employment

Find out more: Directly from company websites

Other opportunities