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What are the choices for my child at 16?

The main post 16 options for young people are…

  • Full time education at a school or college e.g. A Levels or Vocational Qualifications;
  • An apprenticeship or Traineeship;
  • Part time education or training - this must be in addition to employment, self-employment or volunteering for a minimum of 20 hours per week.

All young people must be in some form of education or recognised training until they are 18.

Why study after 16?

Gaining more qualifications after 16 is a good idea as more qualifications mean more job choices. Young people are, therefore, more likely to find a job they enjoy rather than taking the risk of having to do unskilled work. Better qualifications will give your child a chance to earn more money – and, research shows, have greater job satisfaction.

What are the choices at 16?

A comprehensive range of information about the education choices available to your child at the end of Year 11 is available in the Careerpilot section 'Your Choices at 16' or you can look at specific sections about:

For a summary of the options at 16, read on...

Full Time Education at 16+ 

Lots of young people choose to do A Levels (and AS Levels) and these are excellent general qualifications that are valued by employers and also universities. A Levels offer a great route to degree level study, but there are also routes to higher education from the  vocational qualifications offered in colleges and in some schools.

A Levels give young people a chance to find out about their GCSE subjects in greater depth or do one of the subjects that many schools and colleges only offer at A Level such as Law, Economics or Psychology. It is possible to combine vocational qualifications such as BTEC Level 3 qualifications or OCR qualifications with A Levels. These qualifications attract UCAS points (many universities indicate the number of UCAS points needed for entry to their courses) in the same way as A Levels.

A Levels and AS Levels have changed recently. The main changes are:

  • New AS Levels will now be a separate qualification and no longer count towards the A level grade
  • New AS Levels will earn 40% of the UCAS points of an A Level rather than 50%, as for 'old' AS Levels
  • Both AS and A levels will now be assessed only at the end of the course, not after each module
  • Assessment will be mostly through exams

Careerpilot has a whole section about A Levels, including how to choose them and what to do on results day.

Vocational qualifications

At 16 your child could choose to study towards a vocational qualification.

Vocational qualifications offer practical learning programmes that relate to specific job roles or employment sectors.

There are many different types of vocational qualifications in a wide range of subjects at all levels, from Entry Level right up to Level 8 - you can look at the Careerpilot Qualification Planner to view all qualifications and levels.

Vocational courses are designed to help young people learn in a practical way about a specific job area - helping them to get the skills needed to start a job, progress in a career or go on to higher levels of education.

Vocational qualifications include:

  • Vocational subjects that are related to a broad employment area such as business, engineering, IT, health and social care
  • Vocational courses that lead to specific jobs such as hairdressing, accounting, professional cookery, plumbing
  • Apprenticeships that are 'work-related' where you will be trained for a job role and get paid as you learn.


If your child has a particular job sector or career in mind, then an apprenticeship could be a choice worth considering.

Apprenticeships provide an opportunity to:

  • Gain an insight into the reality of working in a job area;
  • To develop the skills required to work in that type of employment;
  • Get paid. 

Your child would also have an improved chance of getting a job at the end of the apprenticeship - research shows that around 90% of apprentices stay in work on completion of their training and 71% of apprentices stay with the same employer.

There is a wide range of different apprenticeships in almost every type of work - although not all options are available in every job sector - some young people might find that they need to travel or, sometimes, temporarily move location to undertake the apprenticeship they have chosen. Competition for some of the more popular apprenticeship placements is intense.

Further useful information about apprenticeships is available in the Parent’s Guide to apprenticeships 


If your child is aged 16 to 24 and not quite ready to start an apprenticeship, they could consider a Traineeship. Traineeships are designed to help young people who want to get an apprenticeship or job, but don’t yet have the appropriate skills or experience. Traineeships aim to prepare young people for their future careers by helping them to become ‘work ready’.

Things you could do to help your child make their post 16 choices

  • Encourage your child to think carefully about their skills, interests and ambitions and help them to translate these into potential employment possibilities for the future. Careerpilot has lots of information about different job sectors and profiles of different types of jobs
  • Make sure that you and your child attend your school’s Post 16 Options event - usually held in the Autumn Term of Year 11.
  • Suggest that your child looks at the Help with choosing your post 16 options area of Careerpilot.
  • Suggest they complete the Careerpilot Career Tools (top right of student site) which will help them identify skills, experiences and achievement they already have - useful to promote on applications and at interviews.

More information

Careerpilot section 'Your Choices at 16'

Parent’s Guide to apprenticeships

A site for adults wanting to get back into learning

Take a look