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 through their experiences, just click on the link..

Student case studies


Moving forward

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 2011 from Warrington schools did..

 Went into full-time education


Went into employment with training


Went into work-based learning


Went into employment without training


Where not in education, employment or training (NEET)



In total there were 2,508 students who left year 11 in the summer of 2011 from Warrington schools, of whom 30% decided to study at Priestley College


Further study 

 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;

A 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.

A 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.

A 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.

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
  • International Baccalaureate

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.

Employment and training

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.


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.

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