With more qualifications you will have more choice about what job you want to do, so you’re more likely to find a job you enjoy rather than get stuck in a rut doing unskilled work. Also, research shows that better qualifications can give you a chance to earn more money - and make you happier! 

Gaining good qualifications will help you

  • Move on to your next stage of learning. 
  • Broaden your career choices. 
  • Get a better-paid and more interesting job in the long term. 
  • Be more in control of your life. 
  • Become interested in learning new things throughout your life. 

Good to know...

In England, young people between the ages of 16 and 18 must either: • stay in full-time education • start an apprenticeship or traineeship (a course with work experience that gets them ready for work or an apprenticeship) • spend 20 hours or more a week working or volunteering, while in part-time education or training For more information, and to find out about rules that apply in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, visit www.gov.uk/know-when-you-can-leave-school.

Many employers welcome people with the higher-level skills that higher education qualifications develop, irrespective of the subject studied. So, the A-Level / Applied Vocational Qualification route to university can be a good way to carry on learning and developing higher-level skills, even if you are not absolutely sure what job or career you want to do in the future 

Some careers require a specific degree such as medicine or architecture so you will need to have the right qualifications to gain entry to that degree course. More importantly, many employers now will favor candidates who have studied beyond GCSE level. 

All pathways at 16 offer opportunities for higher education study and training at 18. If your thinking about going on to higher education – for example doing a university degree – most courses require specific A levels at particular grades. (Universities will also often accept other qualifications, such as BTECs.) 

If they are not sure what to do next, A levels are a good way of gaining widely recognised qualifications while you explore your options.  

Sixth form or College?   

Sixth forms and further education colleges tend to have different cultures and teaching approaches.

  • At a school sixth form students may still have to wear uniform, attend assemblies and work to a structured timetable.
  • Further education colleges tend to be less formal and expect students to take more responsibility for their learning.
  • Sixth form colleges (not attached to a school) are often a middle ground between the two.

You need to think about what suits you and your learning style. Do you like the idea of staying in a familiar and more structured setting, with teachers and classmates you know, or do you feel ready for a bit more independence – and if so, have you got the self-discipline and maturity to thrive in a college environment? 

Researching study options  

You might decide to continue your education in the sixth form of your current school. However, if you want to explore alternatives, looking at school and college websites and sending off for prospectuses will help you get a picture of the courses available and the culture and approach of different institutions. However, the best way to get a feel for whether a school or college is right for you is to see it for yourselves at an open event.

Click here to see what Post-16 Educational Institutions exist across Lincolnshire 

These can take place in the evening or daytime, and schools/ colleges will advertise the dates on their websites. Some may offer more than one date. Ask your teacher/career lead or parent/carer to to help you with the research.

Good to know...

Remember, don’t feel you have to do what your teacher, parent/carer or friends suggest. By researching your options, you will have all the information you need to make the decision that is right for you. Listen to what they have to say, but don’t feel pressure to do follow the path they suggest, if you don’t think it’s the right thing for you. Also, just because your friends are going to a particular school or college, or doing a certain course, that you have to. You need to make the right choice for you, based on your unique career choices and aspirations.


You can apply to more than one school or college and make a final decision when you get your GCSE results. But it’s a good idea to apply and receive offers as early as possible during Year 11 so you know what your options are. Sixth forms and college application deadlines vary. They are likely to fall somewhere between December and February for the next September intake, but it’s important to check with individual schools/colleges and make a note of the deadlines so that you and your parent/carer can apply in good time. Some sixth forms and colleges may invite prospective students for an interview