These are two-year, Level 3 courses requiring a minimum of five GCSEs (or equivalent) at Grade 4/5 or above, including English Language and Maths. A-levels are assessed by examinations. Some subjects have specific entry requirements requiring higher grades. Normally you would choose three subjects and alongside your academic studies most sixth forms offer an enrichment programme. You could for example take an Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) or complete extended work experience or volunteering.
A-levels can lead to university, apprenticeships or employment. Some sixth forms now also offer Level 2 and Level 3 BTEC courses. A blended Level 3 approach might be available too.
These are available at many different levels from Entry or Foundation level upwards. Diplomas and Technical Certificates are one of the most common vocational qualifications. Different bodies can award these, including BTEC, UAL and AAT.
Entry requirements for Level 2 courses can vary. Usually four GCSEs at grade 3 or above, including English Language and Maths, are requried. Those who achieve less than a grade 4 in English Language and/or Maths will continue to study this subject/s next year, perhaps alongside a college course or an apprenticeship. An Extended Diploma at Level 3, equivalent to three A-levels, usually requires a minimum of five GCSEs at grade 4 or above, including English Language and Maths. These courses can lead to university, apprenticeships or employment. Your focus will be on one vocational area which will involve more assessment and practical learning, quite often including work placements. There is usually an exam element too. It is always best to check the above information with the provider.
A new career-focused alternative to A-levels. Launched in September 2020, T-levels are a new qualification that follow on from GCSEs and give you a head start towards the career you want. You will be required to achieve a grade 4 in English and Maths. It will suit you if you wish to start working towards a skilled occupation or prefer a practical approach to learning and want a predominantly classroom-based course. T-levels take two years to complete and are delivered by an FE provider (80% in the classroom and 20% in the workplace). Developed in collaboration with employers, T-levels comprise of a mix of practical tasks, projects and exams. One T-level is comparable in size to three A-levels and will attract UCAS points.
Apprenticeships allow you to combine hands-on work with the opportunity to train and obtain qualifications. It’s a paid position so you earn while you learn. The current minimum wage rate for an apprentice is £3.90 per hour; however some employers are prepared to pay up to £275+ per week. You can complete a registration form on the National Apprenticeship Service website. It is also important to search for vacancies on the Oxfordshire Apprenticeships website and the Oxfordshire County Council website. Most Further Education Colleges have apprenticeship teams so register your interest with them too.
It is advantageous to go directly to company websites and check the careers or recruitment pages. Generally, apprenticeships involve four days in the workplace and one day at college each week although this format can vary depending on the industry. They last a minimum of 12 months and start at Level 2.
If you want to work, but need extra help to gain an apprenticeship, then starting a traineeship course is an opportunity to develop the skills and workplace experience that employers may require. They involve skills training, alongside support to improve English and Maths. Schools, colleges and training providers offer these but they are not paid.
If you choose to find employment and work for 20 hours or more when you finish Year 11 you are also required to continue with approved learning. This can be through your workplace or in your own time and can include paid or voluntary work.
If you are not sure about your career ideas yet don’t worry but try to keep a range of options open if you can. It is important to have a back-up plan and apply for more than one option in case you change your mind or in case you do not achieve the required grades for your first choice.