Year 11 will soon be over – happy days! Most people by now have an idea of what they want to do. If you don’t, keep reading. We happy put together a summary of the main options available out there. Around 80% of young people stay in education after completing their GCSE/ National 5s. The four main options to consider are:
A LEVEL/ Scottish Advanced Higher/ Advanced Welsh Bacc: Generally, these typically major on a more academic study approach with a course structure focussing more on written work and exams. A Levels/ Scottish Advanced Higher/ Advanced Welsh Bacc are considered the main (but not the only) route into university/ higher education. Most people usually study three subjects over a 2-year period with main exams sat at the end of the course.
Vocational Qualifications: these tend to have a more practical approach, equipping with both the hands-on skills and practical knowledge to undertake the job. They range from those with a ‘Tech’ orientation (generally common in fields such as engineering, IT and Science) to those with an ‘Applied’ orientation (generally common in broader fields such as business, social science or sport).
The most popular further education progression option after GCSE/ National 5s is taking a Level 3 qualification. These include Level 3 NVQs (National Vocational Qualifications) or SVQs (Scottish Vocational Qualifications) BTEC Nationals, Advanced and Progression Diplomas, BTEC, OCR Level 3 Cambridge Technicals, T Levels and CACHE Level 3 Diplomas. Completing this level will give you entry into University, Degree Apprenticeships, some Training Schemes and a range of technical or supervisory roles.
Apprenticeships (and Traineeships): This option is for those who are fed up with full-time classroom education but want to practically learn a new trade, profession or set of skills. An apprenticeship is typically a full-time paid job with integrated on-the-job and college training built in. Apprenticeships ideal for school leavers tend to be Levels 1,2, and 3 and their duration usually range between one and three years.
Traineeships tend to be unpaid training and work experience opportunities to help prepare you for an apprenticeship or work. They tend to be short – could be a few weeks or could last up to six months. They are popular for those who didn’t get a good grade in Maths and English as they often integrate Maths and English training to boost your chances of employability.
Employment + Flexible learning (Part-time study / Distance Learning): There are a lot of employers who are willing to take someone straight after their GCSE/ National 5s and are willing to sponsor them to do a further education qualification part-time or by distance-learning. These opportunities are plenty in almost every field and discipline. Discuss with your advisors on the options available in your field.
Tips for Choosing the Right A-Level
Choose subjects you are strong at. You are more likely to be motivated to study a subject that you have a natural ability for than one you are poor at. A good rule of thumb is to pick a subject you have sufficient ability to get at least a Grade 6 (B) in your GCSE/ National 5s. Choosing subjects that you are predicted to get strong GCSE grades – increases your chances of great A Levels/ Scottish Advanced Higher/ Advanced Welsh Bacc and better prospects and wider degree/employment options.
Choose subjects you are familiar with and enjoy. Again, you will most probably be more motivated and engaged studying a subject you ‘to some extent’ enjoy. Take time to familiarise with the range of subjects available at A Levels/ Scottish Advanced Higher/ Advanced Welsh Bacc, including some that are new to you – you never know if it’s something that could excite you. It is a good idea to consider a subject you have a connection with:
– Someone who loves researching, developing an argument, and logical presenting ideas should consider subjects like history, sociology or law.
– Someone who loves the outdoors, nature and environment-related issues may consider subjects like Geography or Environmental Science.
Align the subjects to your career aspirations. Most universities and employers give you guidelines of what subjects are prerequisites for each degree or apprenticeship. For instance:
– Pharmacy generally require Chemistry, plus at least one from Biology, Maths and Physics
– Medicine generally require Chemistry, plus at least one from Biology, Maths and Physics
– English generally require English Literature and/or English Language
– Engineering generally require Maths and one related subject such as Physics, Chemistry, Geography, Science, Computing, Design
Avoid combining overlapping or ‘too similar’ subjects. Examples of combinations that could be classified as too similar, overlapping or too narrow and might give you issues:
– Biology and Human Biology
– Business and Economics
– Business and Accounting
– Drama and Media Studies
Minimise ‘non-preferred’, new and non-traditional subjects. Try have a maximum of one of these less popular subjects. Examples of subjects that fall under this list include:
– Media Studies
– Home Economics
Prioritise ‘facilitating’ subjects. Facilitating subjects are commonly preferred A-level subjects. If possible, include at least one or two of these in your combination. Examples of subjects that fall under this list include:
– Classical / Modern languages
Should you take three or four subjects? Our recommendation is to concentrate on the minimum required 3 subjects as much as possible, unless you feel you really need a wider choice, want to impress in your Oxbridge application or are very convinced the increased workload is not going to be any issue to you.
Research Read the syllabuses and consult your teachers and Careers Advisor.
Lastly decide whether you prefer FE College, Sixth Form College or Sixth Form.
Sixth Forms tend to focus more on the academic subjects (A LEVEL/ Scottish Higher/ Advanced Welsh Bacc).
Most colleges tend to provide a much wider range of courses at different levels including vocational qualifications and in most cases A LEVEL/ Scottish Higher/ Advanced Welsh Bacc as well.
There are few contrasts between the two. The learning environment at college tend to be more relaxed, with a less congested timetable, a more casual dress code (freedom to wear what you want) and a more diverse age range.
Before making a choice
Consult with consult your teachers and Careers Advisor and any parent/senior colleagues who have progressed to Sixth Form/Sixth Form College/FE College.
Visit the different institution and have a first-hand experience of what it’s like to be at a Sixth Form/Sixth Form College/FE College.
Consider your career aspirations and research where the majority of people in your preferred profession/trade have been to.