Studying at Priestley

How many A Levels will I be expected to take in the first year?

Your course will depend on your GCSE results. Most students on AS/A2 programmes take four AS courses in their first year, whilst some of the most able students may study five. In the second year most students will go on to take three A-Levels with the option of taking an additional one year course if they wish. At your enrolment interview you will discuss the full programme you can take depending on your qualifications and career aim. We think it is important that you enrol on a programme which you will suceed on, but which will challenge you to do well.

How many GCSEs are required to do an Advanced level course?

To start an advanced level course you will normally be expected to have at least five A* – C grades at GCSE. There are however a number of restrictions on the type/range of programmes you can take at Priestley which will reflect your overall GCSE grade profile.

If you have an average GCSE points score of 6 or more you will be able to take a 5 AS/A Level programme.

A number of individual AS/A2 subjects require an average GCSE points score of 5, 5.5 or higher, these are outlined in the current prospectus.

If you obtain 5 GCSEs at C or above not including GCSE English and GCSE Maths you will be required to work to improve your English and Maths whilst taking a limited Level 3 programme. This will normally result in a three year study programme.

If you obtain 5 GCSEs at C or above not including GCSE English or Maths you will be required to work to improve your English or Maths and be limited to 3 ASs, a 90 Unit Diploma or a Subsidiary Diploma and one AS in your first year at Priestley. If you have passed a vocational Level 2 programme pre-16 you will normally need to have also passed at least 3 GCSEs at grade A* to C.

How to calculate your average GSCE points score

To calculate your average GCSE points score points are allocated to each GCSE pass as follows:

A* 8
A 7
B 6
C 5
D 4
E 3
F 2
G 1

The total points score achieved is divided by the number of GCSEs you have taken to calculate your average.

Other qualifications are taken into account when assessing your suitability for a course. They do not however contribute to your average GCSE points score.

Will my BTEC Level 2 count towards my GCSE score?

If you have passed a vocational Level 2 programme pre-16 you will normally need to have also passed at least 3 GCSEs at grade A* to C.

I have five GCSEs at C+ but did not achieve a C in Mathematics and/or English. Can I still take an A Level course?

You can still take an Advanced Level course but you will need to think carefully about your course. This reduces the number of options you can take.

If you obtain 5 GCSEs at C or above but not including GCSE English or Maths, you will be required to work to improve your English or Maths, and your Level 3 programme will be limited to 3 ASs or an Extended Diploma or a Diploma and one AS in your first year at Priestley.

If you do not achieve GCSE English and GCSE Maths at C or above, you will be required to work to improve both your English and Maths whilst taking a reduced Level 3 programme. This will normally result in a three year study programme.

Working to improve English and or Maths does not mean you will automatically follow a GCSE programme. Other more suitable programmes may be available. The right programme for you will be determined at Registration, where once you have received your GCSE results tutors at the College will help you to pick an appropriate course for your qualifications.

Can I do an AS course alongside an advanced vocational course?

We strongly encourage students taking advanced vocational courses to take an AS alongside their course (this will not be possible with some Health and Education courses).

I didn’t do very well at GCSEs, can I still come to college?

Some students do not achieve what they expect at GCSE and so cannot progress to an Advanced Level course. However, Priestley offers a range of one-year Level 2 courses as well as our Level 1 Aspire course which, on completion, can act as stepping stones to Level 3 or Level 2 programmes. In most cases your programme will include a mix of Vocational and GCSE courses. Staff will help you choose the programme that best meets your needs. Remember many students complete an Intermediate-Level course and then successfully progress to Advanced Level the following year.

I would like to do some part-time work alongside my study at college. Is that acceptable?

You should be able to cope with a limited amount of part-time work whilst at College. However, you will be a full-time student, so your priority must be your college work. You must expect to be in college between 8.45am – 4.00pm every day. Part-time work commitments cannot intrude into the college day, since apart from anything else, timetables may change throughout the year. We recommend that you do no more than 15 hours per week during term time. Your personal tutor will provide guidance on this issue and you should consult them if you have any major financial concerns as there may be some help available through the Access Fund.

Will my course cost anything?

Courses are free for students aged between 16-19. However, certain conditions may apply such as if you are a student from overseas. Text books will be provided by your course departments on a loan basis, however you are responsible for the purchase of your own consumables such as pens and paper etc.

Are bursaries available?

The16-18 Busaries

If you will be 16-18 on 1 September 2017 you may be entitled to apply for support from either the National Bursary Scheme or from the Priestley Education and TrainingTrust (PETT) Bursary Fund.

Bursaries are intended to remove specific barriers to participation in education.


Vulnerable Learner Bursary:

These are worth £1,200 and are targeted at those young people who are one or more of the following:

• In Care
• Care Leavers
• In receipt of Income Support or Universal Credit in their own right
• In receipt of Employment Support Allowance or Universal Credit together with Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payments

Those in receipt of a Vulnerable learner Bursary in their own right will also be entitled to a Free School Meal each day they attend College worth £2.41 per day.
Core Bursary and Free School Meals

These are targeted at those students whose parents/carers receive one or more of the following:

• Income Support
• Income-based Jobseekers Allowance
• Support under Part VI ofthe Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
, The Guarantee element of State Pension Credit
, Child Tax Credit, provided they were not entitled to Working Tax Credit and have an annual income (as assessed by HM Revenue and Customs) that does not exceed£16,190
• The new Universal Credit benefit, where applicable that does not exceed £16, 190

The Core Bursary will be to each individual’s needs and maybe provided for those who need to use public transport to travel to College. These are worth up to £300 approximately.

In addition everyone who is entitled to a Core Bursary will be entitled to receive a Free School Meal to the value of £2.41 for each day that they attend College.


Mainstream Bursaries 

1) These bursaries are targeted at those students not eligible for a core Bursary where their parents or carers have an annual income of less than £21 ,000.
2) Bursaries that are targeted at those who face emergency short term financial hardship.

Bursary Funds can be used to support costs with: Travel, meals, equipment and materials, course related visits, UCAS applications, sport activities, and/or one off emergencies.


Priestley Education and Training Trust (PETT) Bursaries

In 2012 the College established its own charity with the aim of supporting those in most need. If you are not eligible for one of the 16-18 Bursaries you may be able to apply for a PETT Bursary.

19+ Discretionary Learner Support Fund

This fund is targeted at those students who will be 19 or older on 1 September 2017 who face significant financial hardship. This fund supports costs as listed above but can also be used to support costs for: Tuition and exam fees and/or Child Care.


Other Sources of Financial Support

Child Benefit: Parents can continue to claim Child Benefit until their child’s 20th birthday if you stay in full time education.

Care to Learn: Those students under the age of 20 can apply for financial support to cover childcare costs up to £160 per week through the Care to Learn scheme. Childcare must be provided by an OFSTED registered childcare provider.

Bursary and Free School Meals Applications: Application Forms are available now and can be downloaded from our website or you can request a copy from

Student Services. Bursary application forms will be available at Registration. Applications with supporting documentation can be brought to Student Services during the summer holiday rather than waiting for registration

Any questions: You can phone to speak in confidence to a member of our Student Services Team on 01925 633591.

Can I change my mind if I start a course, but I find that I don’t like it?

Yes, but your aim should be to make the best choice at enrolment. During the induction period, and up until the end of September, you can change a course after discussion with your Personal Tutor. It is not advisable to change courses after the induction period since you are likely to be too far behind to join a new course.

Is there any help for students who are young parents?

Priestley College is committed to giving young parents support during their continued education. The head of student services is able to help you complete the Care to Learn form, and to advise on other financial matters. We can also advise and guide a young person about the most appropriate childcare facilities in their local community. Just give college a ring and you will be put through to Head of Student Services who will be happy to help you.

Careers advice

How does Priestley support your UCAS Applications?

As a college we make every effort to support our former students with any university application made in the years immediately after completing your studies. This support can take one of two forms;

  1. Individual advice and guidance from one of our qualified and experienced Careers Advisers covering issues such as choosing courses, writing your ‘Personal Statement’ and filling in your UCAS form.
  2. Providing a reference to support your UCAS application.

Because of the pressures of time and the demands of our current students, we ask any former students who want individual advice and guidance regarding their UCAS application to contact Student Services before November 30th.

If you are clear about the decisions you have to make and confident about filling in your UCAS form, so simply require a reference to support your UCAS application. Please contact Student Services before December 7th. Please do not contact your former personal tutor directly, as all reference requests are dealt with in Student Services and doing so may delay your application reaching UCAS.

Whilst we will make every attempt to process reference requests made after December 7st from former students we can not guarantee that your application will reach UCAS before the January 15th closing date.

How can I train as a primary school teacher?

There are two main ways to train as a primary teacher in the UK.


Undergraduate (degree) Course

Here you will need to study for a university degree and gain Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) at the same time by doing one of the following courses:

BA (Hons) degree or BSc (Hons) degree with QTS

Bachelor of Education (BEd) degree course.

These are usually full-time courses combining university-based study with periods of ‘Teaching Practice’ in schools. These courses take three to four years depending upon the university.


Postgraduate Course

If you have a degree in a subject area relevant to the primary national curriculum, you can gain QTS by doing a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) course. Courses are one year, full-time or two years, part-time.


For both routes the National Minimum requirements are currently;

GCSEs (A-C) or equivalent in English, Mathematics and a Science subject.

Passes in numeracy and literacy skills tests. In an announcement made by the Department for Education in October 2012 it was suggested that these tests will, for entry to courses starting in September 2013 and beyond, be broadly equivalent to a B grade at GCSE.

Enhanced Disclosure checks through the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB).


In addition to this..

For the Undergraduate (degree) route you would normally need at least 280 UCAS points from some combination of level three qualifications such as;


BTEC National Extended / National Diploma


However, as entry qualifications are decided by each individual university it is important check the qualifications they will accept. Most universities are currently asking for significantly more, both in terms of GCSEs and level 3 qualifications where specific subjects and grades are often required, as is relevant classroom experience.

Finally for both undergraduate and postgraduate courses you will also need to be successful at an admissions interview with the university.

It is also possible to train as a primary school teacher through a number of work-based programmes, however this requires several years experience of working within a school for example as a classroom assistant, so is not a realistic option for someone directly after advanced level study.

How does Priestley support students applying for apprenticeships and jobs?

As a former student of Priestley we will support you with your apprenticeship / employment applications in a number of ways;

  1. Our Careers Advisers will send via email each week during the summer break, the latest apprenticeship / employment vacancies we are notified of, to all our leavers who have not made a university application.
  2. If once you leave college you are experiencing problems finding an apprenticeship / employment, you can contact Student Services on 01925 633591 to talk to one of our Careers Advisers about your situation. If necessary we can book you in for a one to one interview to help you with your job search.
  3. As your applications progress, we will process any requests for a reference about you by potential employers. Please ask any potential employer requiring a reference to contact Student Services, as requests that go directly to former tutors may be delayed particularly during the summer break.

What is an apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship is a job in which you receive both ‘on the job’ and formal training and are paid by the company. It is the company who decide how many apprentices they need to recruit, in what areas of work and when to recruit them.

Apprenticeships typically take between one and four years, although there is no set time to complete as Apprenticeships vary widely in content and size.

The length of time taken will depend on the ability of the individual apprentice and the employer’s requirements.

Apprentices work towards an appropriate nationally recognised work-based qualification (usually an NVQ). As an employee the apprentice will be in the workplace for the majority of their time, as most training takes place on the job. The rest usually takes place at a local college or a specialist training organisation. Apprentices can complete this off-the-job training on day release or over a number of days in a block.

It is the employer who sets the rate of pay for their apprentices; however this can not be lower than the National Apprenticeship Rate which was increased in October 2012 to £2.65 per hour. It is interesting to note that in the Warrington area most employers pay more than this national minimum.

What jobs / apprenticeships could I apply for when I have finished my studies at college?

Students leaving Priestley go into a wide range of jobs / apprenticeships.

For most, their first job is the beginning of a long term career, and gives them the opportunity to gain work specific qualifications often building upon on their studies at college.

For other students leaving Priestley, because their longer term career ideas have restrictions of age or experience (for example Police or Paramedic) , their first job may be something they plan to do for only a few years until they are able to apply for employment and training in the area they intend to make their career.

In the past five years students leaving Priestley to go straight into work have gone into;

  • Office work – including finance, legal, IT and call centre work.
  • Retail work – including management training programmes.
  • Engineering – including in particular the electrical, mechanical and chemical branches.
  • Construction – including the traditional ‘craft’ trades as well as ‘technician’ level work such as drafting and design work.
  • Care work – including work with the elderly and qualified practitioner work with children.
  • Catering – including traditional restaurant work, fast food and industrial catering.

What university courses could I go on to study when I have finished my studies at college?

Whilst there are more than 78,000 higher education courses on offer in the UK – and more at universities overseas – some areas of study prove particularly popular with Priestley students each year.

Last year the most popular subjects with Priestley leavers were;

  • Sport including sports science and development
  • Teaching and childhood studies.
  • Science including medicine and veterinary
  • Art including fashion and graphics
  • Business including finance and tourism
  • Psychology and criminology
  • History
  • English
  • Computing and information technology
  • Law
  • Engineering

Can I apply for subjects at University that I have not taken to Advanced Level?

Although some university courses are very prescriptive about the subjects applicants must have to apply, in many cases it has always been possible at universities to apply with a wide range of subjects – in the same way as it is to apply for Advanced Level subjects you have not taken at GCSE.

Universities look for evidence that you have developed the required skills from those A Level subjects as well as having achieved the grades and or UCAS points required.

What is the Art Foundation Course?

This is an intensive one-year course for students who have completed level 3 qualifications and are keen to develop their creative abilities. The aim is to educate students to make informed decisions which will allow them to progress, primarily but not exclusively to appropriate university courses in all areas of art and design. Currently more than 60% of university art and design students come from an Art Foundation course background.

The course builds on students’ previous experience (A Level or BTEC Extended / National Diploma), linking skills already acquired, with ideas and challenges which will extend their critical independence, and provide them with a full understanding of the career opportunities in the creative industries.

As a result of the course students are able to identify and apply to the courses at university to which they are best suited, build a strong, mature and varied portfolio for the university admissions process and work toward a level 4 ‘Final Exhibition’ which is equivalent to first year degree work.

How do I train for a career as a nurse?

From September 2013, applicants will only be able to qualify as a nurse by studying for a degree in nursing. There are currently five ‘branches’ of nursing;

  • Adult
  • Children
  • Learning disability
  • Mental health
  • Midwifery

In order to make a realistic application, you need decide on which of the five branches you are interested in, and the ‘Personal Statement’ of your university application needs to reflect this through you having undertaken relevant experience during your level three study.

Whilst entry requirements for nursing courses are decided by each individual university, in general they all look for a minimum of five GCSE grade C or better (including English, Mathematics and a Science).

Then at level three somewhere in the region of 280 to 320 UCAS points which can be from A Levels, BTEC National Diplomas, the International Baccalaureate, and the CPLD Diploma.

For the very popular branches of nursing such as midwifery most universities are currently requiring at least some of your UCAS points to come from an A Level in Biology.

What are UCAS points?

UCAS has a tariff system which allows level three qualification grades to be converted into points, these points can then be added together to give a total that are used by universities as a requirement to get onto a course.

Whilst many universities express their requirements in this way, some universities choose to express their requirements in terms of grades. For example ‘AAB’ for A Level students, or ‘Distinction, Distinction, Merit’ for students taking BTEC National qualifications.

The points awarded currently for the main level three qualifications under the UCAS tariff are as follows;

A Level qualifications 

A Level Grade

AS Level Grade

UCAS Points



































BTEC National Qualifications

Extended Diploma


Subsidiary Diploma

UCAS Points






























































What do students do on leaving Priestley?

The overwhelming majority of level two leavers continue on to level three courses at Priestley, a small number of students will move on to other colleges for specialist courses such as those in animal care, engineering or catering.

Level three leavers have two main destinations after Priestley. The largest number of students continue their education by going on to study at university.

A second large group of students choose to go into a wide range of employment and training opportunities (including apprenticeships). In addition each year there is a smaller group of students who take a ‘gap year’ before going on to university the following year.

Who can help me decide what to do after college?

Your personal tutor and subject teachers can all help. As specialists in their subject areas they have a wide range of experience and knowledge that you can draw upon.

If you are looking for more detailed guidance you should see one of our two college Careers Advisers who are based in Student Services.

They can help with;

  • Mapping out career options
  • Deciding on career aims
  • Choosing university courses
  • Looking at sources of finance,
  • Making job and apprenticeship applications
  • Accessing voluntary and work experience placements
  • Deciding on ‘Gap Year’ opportunities

As a starting point for your thinking you can begin to work through the careers information and research exercises on ‘Moodle’ the college virtual learning environment that all Priestley students have access to.

Choosing your options + what’s next after GCSEs

At the end of year 9 you will have some exciting decisions to make about your future when you choose your options. These subjects could impact on your options for future study and employment. Don’t worry, there’s lots of support and advice out there to help you make the right choices. Below some of our students talk you

Read about their experiences by clicking on the link below..

 Case studies

Making the right decision

In general once you have completed your GCSEs (or any level two qualifications) you have some important decisions to take about what you do next. There are lots of ways of beginning to think about them, but they all boil down to whether or not you want to remain in full-time education or whether you want to move into employment and training.

For some people this is a simple decision, they know what area of work they ultimately want to be in, have researched it thoroughly and know therefore that for them a full-time course at a college then on to university is the required route. For others an apprenticeship combining work with part-time study will get them the career they want.

For most people, however, this is something they need to spend some time thinking about, the best time to do this is during year 10 and the early part of year 11. If you leave it any later you will risk rushing things and may find yourself making the wrong decisions.

This is what those who left year 11 in the summer of 2013 from Warrington schools did..

Where to study?

In general there are three sorts of place you could study full-time after your GCSEs, and while every individual institution is different there are similarities between those of the same type;


Sixth Form College

Offering a wide range of academic and vocational programmes, with specialist teaching and support aimed specifically at 16 to 19-year-old students. They offer greater independence than a school, but continue to provide structured individual support for students. Students’ timetables are individual and you will have time during the day to spend on individual study or to undertake part-time work and voluntary work.


Sixth Form attached to a school

As part of a school you will already know your teachers and they will know you, you will be surrounded by pupils from age 11 onwards. The day will most likely be punctuated by bells and set breaks, you could have to remain in site for the whole of the school day, and you may still have to wear a uniform.


College of Further Education

Usually large institutions offering mainly vocational courses. Whilst they have many 16 to 19-year-old students, most are significantly older, many of whom will be studying part-time rather than full-time on adult and community learning courses.

What type of course?

What you do will depend on your interests and the qualifications you get in Year 11. The main split is between;


Academic courses – In these your study is based upon individual subject(s) and could include;

Advanced Subsidiary (AS) leading to A Levels


Vocational courses – in these your study is linked to a broad area of work and could include;

BTEC Level 2 Diploma

BTEC National Award


It is usually possible to add one or two subjects to your main programme, often key subjects like English or Mathematics if you just missed getting a grade ‘C’ at school.

It is also possible to mix and match what you do by taking some subjects you might have studied previously at GCSE with completely new ones, but be sure to check the course content in detail so that you know what you are letting yourself in for.

What is an apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship combines working in a job, learning ‘hands on’, and studying for qualifications like NVQ 2 or 3, Key Skills and Technical Certificates such as BTEC or City and Guilds. The Higher Apprenticeship can also offer you the chance to take a Foundation Degree. There are apprenticeships in lots of job areas; nationally there are more than 200 types of work supported through apprenticeship programmes.

This is why most young people who go into work or training in the Warrington area do so through an apprenticeship.

What are the different levels of apprenticeship?

In order to cater for as wide a range of young people as possible there are three levels of apprenticeship for those aged 16 to 24..

  • Intermediate Level Apprenticeships
  • Advanced Level Apprenticeships
  • Higher Apprenticeships


As apprenticeship places with some employers are very competitive, you may need GCSEs at a set grade to start a programme.

Many employers will also use assessment tests and interviews to help them decide who to take on. In addition depending on your grades in GCSE English and Mathematics, you might need to take a literacy and numeracy test.

What if you lose a job or college place?

As has been said before, the assumption here is that the ultimate aim of everyone who is considering work is doing so, at least in part, in order to enable themselves to become independent, not relying upon others be that parents, partners or the state for their financial security.

But what if you are unable to find a job, apprenticeship or a place to continue your studies full-time and what if you lose a job or college place? What happens to you and how do you live when you are part of the NEET (not in education employment or training)?

There are lots of myths and stories about what if anything you can claim if you do not have a job, apprenticeship or a place to continue your studies.

The aim of the government is to ensure that 16 and 17-year-olds can secure a suitable offer of education or training in a school, college or work-based training. This process is known as the ‘September Guarantee’(1). Because of this 16 and 17-year-olds are not expected be able to make a claim for either of the two main benefits Jobseeker’s Allowance and Income Support. However, depending on your individual circumstances you may be able to claim.


Jobseeker’s Allowance

Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) is a benefit open to most people over the age of 18 who are unemployed, not in education and looking for work.

If you are 16 or 17, you will only be able to receive Jobseeker’s Allowance in exceptional circumstances. For example if you are unable to live at home with your family, this is what they call ‘estrangement’.


Income Support

If you are over 16 and unable to work because you are a lone parent, a parent who has to stay home and look after your children, registered as a disabled person, or you are responsible for the care of a relative who is disabled you may be eligible for Income Support.


Advice and help

If you think you may be eligible to make a claim for one of these benefits you need to call your local Jobcentre Plus office. Staff there will be able to help you find out what you are entitled to and guide you through filling in a claim form.

For many people, asking about and filling in forms for benefits can seem a little daunting so if you are 16 or 17 the best place to start is to call in to talk to one of the advisers from the Warrington Borough Council Young People’s Careers Service in the Youth Café on Mondays to Fridays from 12.30pm to 5pm.

As well as giving advice about what, if any, benefits you may be able to claim, the advisers will help you to find a job, apprenticeship or a place to continue your studies full-time.