Choices at 16 and beyond

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 choices and you need to pick the one that will help you get the future you want.

Lots of schools 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 (mostly technical), but they will expect you to be able to manage your own work and time effectively.

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 specialist educational needs or other support needs, you will need to talk to your chosen provider to ensure they can support your needs.

Search and apply for courses through Kent Choices

Open days

Schools and colleges hold open days. These are the best way of finding out what it is like to study there, and if it will suit you.

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 a real job for a real employer; training on the job and working towards an industry-standard qualification.

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

Applying for an apprenticeship is different to applying for a college course, as you will either need to find an advertised vacancy, or search for an employer and training provider yourself.

Working for yourself

If you have a business idea you think might make money, like the idea of setting your own hours, and working when and where you want, 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 potential employers. 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 beyond.

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.

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 your best option.

  • 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, and see if they suit you. 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 and see 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.
  • You can contact the Kent Choices team, at The Education People, on 03000 41 40 05.

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. These programmes concentrate on improving the skills you will need to go into work or training, such as:

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

Start thinking about your choice as early as possible, as sixth forms and college courses can fill up. It is important to check when sixth forms accept applications, as they vary from school to school.

It is ideal to have a place secured before exams begin, but if you haven't secured a place, don't panic - you can get free support from the Kent Choices team on 03000 41 40 05.

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