My teenager is finishing school soon, what do they do next?

Following the increase in age in which young people must stay in education and training until (Raising the Participation Age or RPA), many parents are now finding they need to offer Information, Advice and Guidance to their own teenagers about what options are available to them on finishing their GCSEs. With so much information available, it can be hard to decipher which education and training pathway may be right for your own teenager.


This article will give you a guide to some options that are available, how they will benefit your teenager, what qualifications they may achieve and how they can progress from there.

AS and A-Levels

AS and A-Levels are available at School, College and Sixth Forms and are recognised and well regarded by universities and employers. Generally young people will pick around 4 subjects they studied at GCSE and want to study in more detail and at a higher level, or a subject they want to start anew. There are some subjects that are only available at AS and A-Level such as Law, Psychology and Economics. Entry requirement for AS and A-Levels can vary from one educational facility to another, with the majority asking for at least an A*-C at GCSE level, you should check with each institution for their requirements.

A-Levels are achieved after 2 years of study, traditionally, a young person would study 4 or 5 AS-Levels in year 1, followed by a second year studying towards 3 or 4 A-Levels. Many AS and A-Levels change from September 2015, new AS and A-Levels are being un-coupled and will be assessed mainly by exams at the end of the study year, which other types of assessment such as course work, presentations, and observations used to test essential. The new AS Level will be a separate qualification and no longer count towards the A-Level Grade, meaning young people no longer have to study AS Level prior to A-Level.

The A*-E grading system will still apply, all regarded as a pass and can be used to gain UCAS points for university entrance or sometimes jobs. After AS and A-Levels, young people can continue their education or training with Apprenticeships, Vocational Qualifications, choose Higher Education (Degree), Gap Years or Work. Apprenticeships are open to anyone aged 16 or above and are a work-based programmes, allowing young people to build their knowledge and skills in almost ANY industry or sector, gain relevant qualification and earn money at the same time. Young people will spend the majority of time in the workplace with their employer with support and training from a specialist training provider allowing them to achieve the relevant qualification.


Entry requirements for apprenticeships can vary and applications are very similar to applying for a job. Depending on the qualification, the employer, location and the type of role, competition for apprenticeships can be high. However, your training provider will help in finding the young person the right role for them. An Apprenticeship can take anywhere between one and four years to complete depending on the qualification level, industry and what qualifications/skills a young person already has. Being more practical types of qualifications, apprentices are generally assessed in the workplace with a mixture of observations, testimonials and evidencing achievement. All apprentices will be paid a minimum of £3.30 per hour and work a minimum of 30 hours in their first year, with many employers choosing to pay more than this and offer traditional full time hours of 37.5 hours.

After Apprenticeships, young people can progress on to the next level of apprenticeship of the same subject or choose another apprenticeship subject to work towards. Alternatively, the role may naturally lead to a full time position with the same employer at a higher salary. Some apprentices may choose Higher Education (Degree) or Gap Years.

Vocational Qualifications

Vocational Qualifications are job and employment specific qualifications which offer a more practical learning experience and qualification.

These qualifications are designed to help young people develop the skills needed to get a job and start a career in a specific job area. Generally studied in College or Sixth Form, with some schools now offering these also, young people can study a vocational subject such as Business, Childcare, or Health and Social Care. Vocational courses are also available in Motor Vehicle, Professional Cookery or Hairdressing, alternatively, a vocational qualification can be studied as part of an apprenticeship in the workplace.

Entry requirements for vocational qualifications can be dependent on the subject, education facility and previous qualifications held. Many education facilities ask for a minimum level of GCSE, however many are happy to support with resits in some subjects such as maths and English. Vocational Qualifications usually result in the achievement of a BTEC, NVQ (National Vocational Certificate), QCF (Qualifications and Credit Framework) or similar. Schools, Colleges and Sixth Forms delivering these qualifications will expect young people to attend daily for classroom based activities and undertake work experience.

Students will be assessed by a mixture of course work, written and practical assessments. After studying towards a Vocational Qualification, young people can progress on to the next level of qualification with their education facility, alternatively, the role may lead to employment in full time position or apprenticeship where many young people continue their training at a higher level. Some may choose Higher Education (Degree) or Gap Years.

Still not sure? With such different options available, it is often beneficial for young people to speak with someone impartial to discuss their options and decide how to progress, the majority of education facilities and training providers offer independent, unbiased Information, Advice and Guidance at no cost to help young people make the right decision for them.

For more information on making the right choice you can contact the Runway team on 01732 402 402 or send an e-mail to [email protected]

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Runway Apprenticeships Limited trading as Runway Training wishes its learners and commissioners to be confident in the knowledge that we operate a zero tolerance approach to modern slavery and human trafficking, and we are working hard to ensure that these bad practises do not exist anywhere within our organisation or within in our supply chain.
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