If you’ve just received your GCSE results and aren’t sure what you want to do next, don’t panic. More and more pupils are choosing to go into further education and training and so a broader range of exciting qualifications and skills, outside the traditional A level route, are available to you.
If you like the idea of earning whilst you’re learning then an apprenticeship is the one for you. In an apprenticeship you will combine gaining a qualification with an actual role in an industry.
You can choose from areas such as Arts and Media, Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies and Education and Training. Apprenticeships are designed so you qualify and begin work straight away in your industry.
Advanced apprenticeships are equivalent to two A level passes, followed by Higher apprenticeships which lead to NVQ Level 4 and above or a Foundation Degree.
Find more information from The National Apprenticeship Service.
If you don’t think you’re ready for an apprenticeship yet then a traineeship might be a better option. They can last for up to six months and include work preparation training, support in improving your English and maths and a work experience placement.
Taking part in a traineeship can boost your CV and help you to apply for an apprenticeship or a job. At the end of the work experience placement you’ll get a job interview with the company, if a role becomes available, or a reference and an exit interview.
You can find out more information on traineeships from The National Apprenticeship Service.
These come in different levels. Level 2 qualifications are the equivalent of grades A*-C at GCSE whilst level 3 is the equivalent of an A level.
They are designed to allow you to learn in a way that suits you and give you the skills that will help you to get a job in areas such as Hair and Beauty, Business and Management and Construction and Property.
BTECs, NVQs, diplomas (at level 3) and other vocational qualifications are taught as equivalents to A levels. They cover a wider range of subjects - offering different skills and incorporating more practical experiences that make students more employable.
You can see what vocational qualifications your school or college offers by visiting their website.
From September 2014 the new ‘Tech Bacc’ will be available for students aged 16-19. It is not a qualification itself but a mark of vocational achievement.
It contains three elements: at least one Department for Education approved Tech Level (such as a level 3 BTEC), a level 3 maths qualification (such as AS level maths) and an extended project qualification.
The Tech Bacc is designed for those students who wish to pursue a technical career, and don’t want to do A levels. It is intended to equip students with both technical knowledge and theoretical understanding and students should have already achieved grades A*-C in GCSE maths and English.
Find more information on traineeships.
The Extended Project
If you don’t want to do A levels but are interested in looking into an area of study in a little more depth then you can do an extended project. This means you can focus on a subject you are really interested in beyond the confines of an A level.
It can be a standalone qualification or part of an advanced diploma and it's worth half an A level. It is a great way to show universities that you are up to the challenge of university study.
You can speak to your school or college about completing one of these projects.
The International Baccalaureate diploma programme
This is based around detailed study on a wide range of subjects, covering Maths, Science, Languages, the Arts, History and Geography.
This all adds up to one whole qualification, although if you do not complete the diploma you will be awarded certificates in the subjects you complete.
It aims to teach you to understand your culture in more depth, and gain the ability to communicate and understand other cultures. It is recognised by universities as being A level equivalent, however it is not available at all schools so you will need to research colleges and schools in your area to find out where teaches the programme.
Get more information from The International Baccalaureate.
AS and A Levels
Of course there is always the traditional route of A Levels which carry on from where you left of with your GCSEs. Courses on offer go from the standard school subjects to more specific subjects, depending on your school or college. It’s worth talking to your teachers or looking at your school or colleges website to see exactly what they have on offer and how it differs from GCSEs.
AS levels are now standalone qualifications, which no longer contribute to your overall A level grade. A levels are therefore two year qualifications, with exams in most subjects at the end of two years.
Remember, do your research because there are many options out there to consider and it’s important to get the one that you think caters best to your needs!