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Options after 16: helping your child decide

When children reach Year 11, the options ahead seem vast – how do they decide at that age the first step towards what they are going to do for the rest of their lives? provides you with some of the available options to discuss with your teenager…



Education after 16 has lots of different options. Your child can stay at school, go to college, or take up an apprenticeship or a part-time training course. They can combine working with study if they wish, or focus on study full time – their interests and what they want to aim towards in the next several years will influence this decision making.

The main options for study available are:

A levels: These are the traditional qualifications offered by schools and colleges for 16-19 year olds, are usually in traditional academic subjects, and the usual pathway if your child wishes to go to university.


International Baccalaureate: offering a broader scope of study than A-levels, and now also more increasingly a way into university education.

This is becoming a more accessible qualification, being offered in more settings. To find out more about the international education programmes available, click here

Diplomas & Vocational Qualifications: these tend to be about developing skills and knowledge which is more directly relevant to specific workplace industries than academic subjects like A-levels. They will vary, but usually involve project work and work experience, so can also be a good alternative to more exam and essay based academic approaches.







Apprenticeships can be the best of both worlds for some people, as they combine practical training while earning, with study too.

If your child has a clear sense of a role they would like to work in, this may be a great option for them.

Apprenticeships take 1 to 5 years to complete depending on their level.

To explore the apprenticeship options, take a look at the Find an Apprenticeship Service.




Opening non-pressured conversations is important. You want to support your child to find their passions, so they are motivated and committed to making them happen.


  • start by asking for their thoughts on the choices
  • ask what she would most enjoy and what interests her
  • discuss study and career options in her strongest subjects
  • suggest alternatives for work or study


  • lay down the law
  • demand she follows a particular path
  • use bribery or blackmail
  • say it’s just up to her to decide




In England, a child can leave school on the last Friday in June if they will be 16 by the end of the summer holidays. However, they then must do one of the following until they are 18 years old:

  • stay in full-time education, for example at a college
  • start an apprenticeship
  • spend 20 hours or more a week working or volunteering, while also in part-time education or training

In Scotland, if a child turns 16 between 1 March and 30 September they can leave school after 31 May of that year. If they turn 16 between 1 October and the end of February, they can leave at the start of the Christmas holidays in that school year.

In Wales, a child can leave school on the last Friday in June, as long as they will be 16 by the end of that school year’s summer holidays.

In Northern Ireland, if a child turns 16 during the school year (between 1 September and 1 July) they can leave school after 30 June. If they turn 16 between 2 July and 31 August, they can’t leave school until 30 June the following year.


Article update on 01.08.2017 

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