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Thinking About September?

With more options available than ever it can be difficult to decide which direction to take. To help you choose, here’s our run down of education options for 16 to 18 year olds…

Leaving Year 11 can be a trying time; it feels as if the pressure of choosing a desirable future all hinges on which path you decide to follow. In reality, you will likely change direction at several points throughout your life and the decisions you make now are merely laying a foundation for future experiences. Still, it makes sense to approach this transitional phase with as much insight as possible so that you use this chapter of your life to set you up as well as possible for the next one. With that in mind, here’s our evaluation of the avenues open to you;


Join the Workforce

It's what your grandparents likely did when they turned 16 so it’s probably cool and retro, right? Of course it was a lot easier to find gainful employment without specialist qualifications or experience back then and an ever-increasing workforce means that competition for the better jobs is likely to be pretty fierce.


Begin earning money, gain real-world experience, learn skills which can’t be taught such as how to interact in an adult working environment.


Entry level positions are usually low-paid (and if not then the work is demanding) and it may be difficult or impossible to progress with a career. New employees have very little rights or job security for the first two years in a new position so you may find yourself constantly on edge and maybe even replaced for someone they can pay less as you approach the age of 18… Not to mention that many of these types of jobs are about fulfilling a simple task and so may soon either be automated or at very least they are unlikely to support you with training and professional development.



Apprenticeships are a bridge between work and education, they tend to be mainly based around performing the job role which you are training for, with extra support from experienced staff members, while usually setting aside a regular period of study to gain a formal qualification relevant to the role.


Get paid while you qualify while learning what its really like to work in your chosen industry. Make connections which often form the foundation of a career, this option also gives the chance to hone and improve skills and demonstrate your worth to your employer over a longer period of time.


Although you are getting paid it is usually significantly below minimum wage and as a young person you may find that you are treated as less-than-adult whilst simultaneously being worked even harder in order to ‘prove yourself’ (this is particularly the case in certain industries). Although you are gaining a qualification this can often be industry specific which can limit your future options if you decide this is not the career for you.


Sixth Form

Continue on at a secondary school, either the one you attended for Years 7-11 or another local one and gain qualifications, usually with more focus on academic subjects. This can be one of the more convenient options (especially if staying at the same school) as you are more likely to be guaranteed a place and won’t have to worry about new travel arrangements or settling in.


Familiarity with teachers, premises and other students. Academic subjects tailored for entry into university and a continuity in the structure of school-style education.


Staying within your comfort zone never encouraged anyone’s growth and there tends to be a general lack of vocational subjects which is not ideal if you don’t intend to continue within academia. Also, the continuation of school rules and culture such as uniform and lesson structure does little to prepare learners for a more adult environment.



For many learners, college is a chance to spread their wings; away from school and able to break the mould they have found themselves cast in for the last five years. It can be a time for reinvention and personal development, choosing their own areas of study and responsible for managing their time while still having the support of living at home with parents or carers.


A more adult environment without restrictions such as uniform, coupled with the ability to choose a from a variety of fields of study- many colleges support both academic and vocational subjects covering a variety of career paths. Networking opportunities with a varied mix of other students from different backgrounds and areas.


In the wake of the Covid19 crisis many students are apprehensive about attending a large college with so many different people from different locations attending everyday, likewise the same concerns apply to travelling to college. Such a new environment with so many different subjects and things going on can be daunting for some and expenses relating to equipment needed for some courses can prove prohibitive.


Online Studies

One positive to emerge from the pandemic has been the rethinking of how both work and education are delivered. More businesses than ever are opting for home-working options, even following the lifting of restrictions, and now Further Education has adapted in the same way; EKC DigitalLearn is East Kents’ virtual educational option for 16-18’s (they have an adult provision too), specialising in subjects such as Business, Enterprise and Entrepreneurship all delivered completely online.


Earn your qualifications from home with the all the benefits of attending a regular college such as careers advice, study support, mentorship and work experience (undertaken digitally, from home) while avoiding exacerbating issues such as Covid19 or social anxiety. Enjoy access to learning resources such as Microsoft Office 365 and benefit from the range of provisions for all abilities- from Entry Level 3 for those who did not achieve the GCSE results they wished, through to Level 3 and even the ability to progress to Level 5 studies, should they wish to do this as an alternative to university.


If you desire the social element to attending college or sixth form in-person then this is something that you are unlikely to find here- although you will meet your classmates during lessons via Microsoft Teams, also the level of self-discipline required to complete a course of study from home is also more rigorous than at a traditional establishment.