Options at 16 and beyond

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Your future. It's your choice.

You need to stay in education or training after you're 16, but how you do this is up to you. There are lots of options and you need to pick the one that will help you get the future you want.

Lots of school have sixth forms. You can stay at your current school or move to a new one. Sixth forms tend to be smaller, and offer more teaching structure and student support than colleges.

Colleges are often larger and more informal than sixth forms, and they offer a wider variety of courses, but they will expect you to be able to manage your own work and time effectively.

If you're not sure which is right for you, some schools run joint courses with colleges so you can experience both.

You need to find a school or college that offers the courses or subjects you are interested in studying, or the best route to the level of qualifications you want. If you have special educational needs, you'll also want to think about whether your chosen provider is suitable for your situation.

Search and apply for courses through UCAS Progress

Open days

Schools and colleges have open days that you can go along to and find out more about what's offered and get a feel for the place.

Find open days in your local area

If you have a career sector or path in mind and want to start earning money as you learn, an apprenticeship could be for you. You'll do real jobs for real employers; training on the job, working towards an industry-standard qualification.

Find out more about what's available and how to apply at Apprentice Kent.

Some providers who offer apprenticeships also offer Study Learning Programmes for people aged 16 to 19. These include areas like catering, construction and hairdressing. To find out more visit the Kent Association of Training Organisations (KATO) website or talk to your careers teacher.

Working for yourself

If you like the idea of setting your own hours, working when and where you want, and you have an idea that might make money, you could speak to the Kent Foundation about getting your business idea off the ground. The Kent Foundation offer free business support to young people who want to start or grow a business, and they could help you bring your business ideas to life.

Remember that until you're 18, you'll need to be in learning or training as well as developing your business.

Having work or volunteering experience during your summer holidays or year out makes your CV stronger and makes you more attractive to a potential employer. It demonstrates that you're keen to get ahead and take the initiative, and gives you the chance to practice the skills you'll need in a real organisation.

Find work experience with us or with other businesses in Kent.

Find opportunities to volunteer and get experience in all kinds of different roles across Kent and the whole country.

The National Citizen Service (NCS) is a UCAS-recognised opportunity for students in Years 11 and 12 to take part in outdoor activities, learn skills for life and work, and give back to the local community. It costs only £50 (help with paying for this may be available), all meals and activities are covered, and it looks great on your CV. For more information or to sign up, visit National Citizen Service.

It's normal to be unsure or not know what to do for the best in this situation, but you don't have to make this decision by yourself. There are lots of places where you can get help and advice, or just have a chat about what you think is the best option for you.

  • Ask your school. They have to give you impartial advice and will have free access to a careers advisor for you.
  • Talk to your friends and family. They know you and can give you their honest opinion.
  • Go to a school or college open day, or come to one of our briefing events. You'll get to meet staff and providers who can answer any questions you might have about the learning, working or training opportunities on offer.
  • Think about the job or course you want to do, and then go online for careers advice or to a careers library to find out what qualifications you need to get it.
  • Try some work experience or volunteering to get a feel for different types or areas of work.
  • Visit the National Careers Service to try their online tools around finding out what your skills are and what kind of way forward might suit you.
  • If you want to know more about the things you could do that don't involve staying on at school or college, try Ready To Work Kent.

It's also important for you to have faith in your instincts. It's useful to get other people's opinions, but you're the only one who has the final answer. Trust yourself.

If you would really like to try an apprenticeship or carry on with your learning, but you're worried because you don't have the necessary skills or qualifications to do this, Ready To Work Kent can help you. Our programme concentrates on improving the skills you will need to prepare for going into work or learning, such as:

  • life skills
  • timekeeping
  • work ethic
  • key qualifications that can be stepping stones to the path you want

You can start thinking about your options at any time, but the real effort needs to happen between November 2016 and July 2017.

See our timetable for what you should be doing now and next.