In England, by 2013 all young people in England have to stay on in education or training at least part-time until they are 17-years-old. By 2015, all young people will have to stay on in education or training at least part-time, until they are 18-years-old.
This means that your pupils are required to participate in education or training through either:
- full-time education or training, including at sixth-form or college
- work-based learning, such as an Apprenticeship
- part-time education or training or volunteering more than 20 hours a week
Key Stage 5 refers to the qualifications you can gain at this level, aged between 16-18, and these include academic qualifications (A-levels, IB, Diploma) if your pupils are intending to apply for university and the more vocational qualifications (NVQs, BTECs) if your pupils decide to enter the workplace.
Key Stage 5 refers to the qualifications listed above, which your pupils will undertake when they are between 16-18-years-old, however schooling at this age is not compulsory. Your pupils can choose from either academic qualifications (A-levels, IB) if they intend to apply for university or the more vocational qualifications (NVQs, BTECs) which they will need to enter the workplace.
Key Stage 5 is equivalent to your senior phase which takes place during S5-S6, which your pupils will undertake when they are between 15-17-years-old. Schooling at this age is not compulsory, however if they do stay they can choose from either academic qualifications (highers and advanced highers) if they intend to apply for university or the more vocational qualifications (SVQs) which they will need to enter the workplace.
Key Stage 5 refers to the qualifications listed above, which your pupils will undertake when they are between 16-18-years-old, however schooling at this age is not compulsory. Your pupils can choose from either academic qualifications (A-levels, IB) if they intend to apply for university or more vocational qualifications (NVQs, BTECs) they will need to enter the workplace.
Advanced Levels (A Levels) are the traditional acadmic qualification available, and with 45 subjects to choose from you can study them as part of a Diploma or alongside other qualifications, such as an extended project or NVQs. See the other tabs for these additional qualifications.
A Levels are made up of AS (advanced subsidiary) and A2 units. An AS Level is half the size of a full A Level - so you'll undertake 3 modules to gain an AS Level and 6 modules to gain an A Level. In Year 12/Lower Sixth you’ll generally take four A Levels and sit AS exams in the third term of the year. You can then either drop the subject and gain the AS Level or continue the subject onto A Level by studying the A2 units. It is common to drop one subject after Year 12. You may also have to undertake coursework depending on the course you choose to study.
Subject availability depend on your college and timetable, however you will be able to choose from a range which will include the sciences, arts, languages, humanities and social sciences.
A Levels focus on traditional/academic study skills and are the most common qualification for those looking to attend university. However, they are also highly valued by employers so offer you the flexibility of looking for a job after you complete your courses if this is your plan.
You can obtain a grade between A-E at AS Level and A*-E at A Level, and your results come out in the second Thursday of August (August 14th) ready for clearing and university.
If you aren’t happy with the results of your pupils you can request your pupils' papers from the exam body, or check the marking or ask the marking to be added up again. If you are still unhappy and think the awarding body hasn’t followed the correct procedures in marking you can appeal to the awarding body. If this doesn’t work you can take your appeal to Ofqual or the Independent Examinations Appeals Board.
It is possible to re-sit each AS and A2 units the following summer, and if you decide to re-sit a unit, the awarding body will automatically use the highest mark from all your attempts to count towards the final grade.
After A Levels you can undertake a higher apprenticeship, find a job or go to university.
If your pupils are unsure of what subjects to take, and are looking to attend university they will want to choose courses that will help them in their endeavour. The Russell Group, a group of 24 leading universities, regularly produces a leaflet, Informed Choices, which helps you understand what is needed to attend one of their universities. Many popular degrees, such as Accountancy, Anthropology, Archeology, Business Studies, History of Art, Law, Management, Media Studies, Philosophy, Politics, Religious Studies and Sociology, are typically open to students without any specific subject background, however to increase your chances the Russell Group propose that you study ‘facilitating subjects.’ These subjects are: Maths and Further Maths, Chemistry, Biology, Physics, English Literature, History, Geography and Languages (Classical and Modern). They also explain A-Levels and GCSE requirements for specific degrees, such as Medicine, Engineering, Architecture etc.
The Diploma is a new qualification (only available in England) combining subjects such as English, maths and ICT with practical learning, including project work and work experience. It is intended for the academically-minded, but contains a work-based slant by combining practical skills and theoretical learning.
There are 17 broad subject areas including business and administration; engineering; creative and media; business and administration; hair and beauty; sport and leisure; health; travel and tourism; manufacturing and product design; and humanities and social science.
The Diploma is a ‘composite qualification’ which means that it’s made up of a number of parts designed to help you develop skills, knowledge and understanding, and then demonstrate what you’ve learnt.
The Diploma is made up of 6 components:
- Principal learning - content closely related to the Diploma subject
- Additional and specialist learning (ASL) - adds breadth to the Diploma by studying a subject of another interest and may include a GCSE or A Level
- Functional skills - skills in English, maths and ICT.
- Personal, learning and thinking skills - this helps you develop wider skills you’ll need through life such as time management, team work and creative thinking.
- Work experience - you’ll spend at least 10 days on a work placement
- Project - lets you choose a topic that relates to your chosen line of learning and gives you a chance to demonstrate the wide skills you’ve learnt through studying for the Diploma.
They take two years to complete through a mixture of controlled assessments, coursework and exams.
There are four levels:
- Foundation Diploma - equivalent to 5 GCSEs grades D-G
- Higher Diploma - equivalent to 7 GCSEs grades A*-C
- Progression Diploma - equivalent to 2 A Levels and aimed at those who cannot complete the whole Advanced Diploma.
- Advanced Diploma - equivalent to 3.5 A Levels
Some of the components of the Diploma are qualifications in their own right, for example, the principal learning and project components. Your overall Diploma grade comes a combination of your core work and project work scores, and you must complete all aspects of the Diploma to obtain the full qualification.
For the Foundation Diploma you’ll gain A*-B or U if ungraded, for the Higher Diploma you’ll gain A*-C or U if ungraded, for the Advanced and Progression Diploma you’ll gain A*-E or U if ungraded.
If you’ve undertaken the Foundation or Higher Diploma you can look into studying further qualifications, for example BTECs, NVQs or A Levels. If you’ve undertaken the Advanced Diploma you can look in attending university in the normal way. If you've completed the Advanced Diploma and are not thinking of attending university, you can apply to either a job or apprenticeship in the normal way.
The Diploma is a relatively new development, so when there's more information we'll make sure to let you know.
The Cambridge Pre-U is a new post-16 qualification offered by Cambridge University that offers you the skills and knowledge needed to succeed at university through the promotion of independent and self-directed learning, and was developed in conjunction with universities and other higher education establishments.
It is underpinned by a clear set of educational aims:
- Encouraging the development of well-informed, open and independent-minded individuals
- Promoting deep understanding through subject specialisation, with a depth and rigour appropriate to progression to higher education
- Helping learners to acquire specific skills of problem-solving, critical thinking, creativity, team-working, independent learning and effective communication
- Recognising the wide range of individual talents and interests
- Promoting an international outlook and cross-cultural awareness
To obtain the Pre-U Diploma you need to undertake 3 principal subjects (one or two can be substituted for A-levels) along with Global Perspectives and Research (GPR). GPR is taught as two successive one-year courses: Global Perspectives develops research and thinking skills during the first year, preparing you for the extended project in the second year (the Research Report).
The Cambridge Pre-U is available in 27 Principal Subjects including Art and Design, the sciences, maths, the social sciences, the humanities and languages. Each principal subject is a two-year programme of study with exams at the end - in this way the courses are linear and you are required to make links between the topics you've been taught (unlike the modular A-levels). Short courses (typically one-year programmes) are also available in some subjects. All syllabuses develop in-depth subject knowledge and skills in problem-solving, critical thinking, creativity, team working, independent learning and effective communication.
Assessment takes place at the end of the two years and you can achieve one of 9 grades:
The International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme is a challenging and well-rounded programme of education for sixth form students. The IB is becoming more popular with 147 independent and state schools now offering the Diploma Programme.
The IB is accepted by UK universities and is also an advantage if you want to study overseas.
It has a reputation for being demanding but very rewarding. It offers a broader programme of study than A Levels, and encourages you to think creatively and independently.
There are three compulsory, core ‘elements’ to the IB:
- Theory of Knowledge (TOK) - introduces you to theories about the nature and limitations of knowledge, and provides practice in determining the meaning and validity of knowledge.
- Extended Essay (EE) - an independent research essay of up to 4,000 words.
- Creativity, action and service (CAS) - provides you with opportunities for personal growth, self-reflection and intellectual, phsyical and creative challenges through voluntary work, sports or creative activities such as the theatre.
As well as the three compulsory elements, you’ll undertake six subjects, three at standard level and three at higher level, one from each subject group:
- Studies in Language & Literature
- Language Acquisition - a second language
- Individuals and Societies - a social science, with courses including business, economics, geography, history, philosophy, psychology and anthropology
- Experimental Sciences - including chemistry, biology and physics
- The arts - including dance, music and theatre
Points are awarded from 1 to 7, with 7 being equal to an A*, 6 equal to an A and so on. Up to three additional points are awarded depending on grades achieved in the EE and TOK, so the maximum possible mark is 45. In order to receive the IB Diploma, students must receive a minimum of 24 points. The top UK universities usually make offers to students who achieve between 32 and 40 points.
Exams take place at the end of two years and there are two or three papers for each subject. The IB also uses internal assessments through oral presentations, practical work or written work and these assessments account for 20-50% of the mark awarded for each subject. You must also complete the requirements for the EE, CAS and TOK to be awarded the diploma regardless of the point you receive in your subjects.
Highers are taken in S5 when you are 15-16 at a school, sixth-form college or higher education college. They are roughly equivalent to AS-levels (however studied a year early) while Advanced Highers are roughly equivalent to A-levels.
Highers are the normal entry qualifications for universities in Scotland which generally ask for four Highers. If your pupils are looking to study elsewhere in the UK, check with the university of their choice's website for what's needed - many universities are open to those with Highers often asking for five or more, while others ask for three Advanced Highers. Most will ask for a mix of both Highers and Advanced Highers.
You can continue with subjects studied in S4 or study new ones and there are approximately 70 subjects you can choose from which include:
- humanities & social sciences such as economics and psychology
- applied sciences such as electrical engineering, manufacturing, and land use
- arts such as art & design, drama and music
- languages, ancient and modern
- pure sciences and maths
Depending on the course, there will be a final exam, and you might also be assessed through coursework. To "qualify" for the final exam, you need to pass the Nation Assessment Bank (NABs), which are essentially end-of-unit tests in each subject. Final exams take place in May/June, while the results come out 5th August, and you will received an A-D or no award if you failed to achieve the required marks.
After S5 you can then apply to university (you can apply earlier, but most people don't do this) through UCAS. If you already have the grades the university is asking for, you'll obtain an unconditional offer, however they might ask for higher grades, Advanced Highers or more subjects, whereby you will obtain a conditional offer and your place will be conditional depending on your results in S6.
In S6 you can then take additional Highers or Advanced Highers. You might choose to take two or three to Advanced Highers, or just take an extra couple of Highers depending on what you want to do, or what you need to achieve to get into university if you have applied. You can also up-grade or re-take Highers if you didn't get the grade you need.
Advanced Highers are useful if you are intending on taking on the subject further (for example taking Advanced Higher maths if you wish to study maths at university), and while there are fewer Advanced Highers to choose from, there are still more than 50.
Advanced Highers work in the same way as Highers whereby depending on the course, there will be a final exam, and you might also be assessed through coursework. To "qualify" for the final exam, you need to pass the Nation Assessment Bank (NABs), which are essentially end-of-unit tests in each subject. Final exams take place in May/June, while the results come out 5th August and you will received an A-D or no award if you failed to achieve the required marks.
If you find you have more free time in S6, you could always get a part-time job or volunteer for a few hours a week.
The Technical Baccalaureate (TechBacc) was introduced in September 2014 and aims to deliver rigorous and challenging vocational qualifications on par with A Levels. They are available at school sixth forms and colleges. You will study three elements:
- a technical qualification
- AS level maths
- an extended project, which will develop and test you skills in writing, communication, research, self-discipline and self-motivation
The TechBacc will benefit you most if you are looking to enter the STEM technical sector (e.g. lab technicians, engineering technicians, construction professionals), the service technical sector (retail and hospitality management, personal services, junior accounting) or the creative technical sector (digital media, sport industry, material/textiles, design).
Once you've achieved your TechBacc you can go into a job, apply for an apprenticeship or apply for further study, including technical courses at university.
The Welsh Baccalaureate (Welsh Bac or WBQ) is designed to combine the traditional qualifications you are working towards with experiences and projects that help you develop your personal skills, and equip you for your next steps in life, whether it's work or university.
The Qualification consists of two parts - a compulsory Core, which is a programme of acitvities, and a choice of Options, which are made up of optional subjects or qualifications which you may be studying, for example A-Level, BTECs or NVQs. The qualification is offered at the Foundation, Intermediate and Advanced levels - the Advanced level being needed for entry to university - and the level you will undertaken depends on the level beign covered in your Options. Someone undertaking their GCSEs who is likely to achieve A*-C grades at GCSE would work towards the Intermediate Diploma, whilst someone undertaking A-levels would work towards the Advanced Diploma. The structure of the core is the same at all three levels and consists of:
- Essential Skills Wales/Key Skills qualifications (Exact requirements depend on the level followed)
- Wales, Europe and the World (WEW)
- Personal and Social Education (PSE)
- Work-related Education (WRE)- work experience and a team enterprise activity
- Community Participation
- Language Module
- Individual Investigation (Exact requirements depend on the level followed
The Welsh Baccalaureate Advanced Diploma attracts 120 UCAS points, which is equivalent to an A at A-Level and is awarded by WJEC.
The majority of universities accept the WBQ, and the skills you'll develop are looked favourably upon by universities as good preparation for degree-level studying, including: critical thinking; research & analytical skills; presentation skills; and initiative & problem solving. The work experience and community participation also gives you plenty to talk about on your personal statement.
However if you are taking the WBQ as an extra subject you may find that, if you're finding the workload tricky, it's better to concentrate on achieving high grades on your three subjects rather than more mediocre grades on your three subjects and the WBQ. Furthermore, although universities accept the WBQ it may not count towards a specific grade, for example you may need AAB including As in maths and physics to study physics, so if you've achieved an A in it but a B in either maths or physics you won't be accepted.
National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) are work-based awards achieved through assessment and training. You can undertake them full-type while working, or at school or college in alongside to a work placement or part-time job that enables you to develop appropriate skills. They do not need to be completed over a specific amount of time, and cover all the main aspects of an occupation, including current best practice, the ability to adapt to future requirements, and the knowledge and understanding that underpins competent performance.
NVQs are available at 5 different levels and are equivalent to other qualifications and therefore entry requirements differ depending on entry level. Specifically (and roughly):
- Level 1 - equivalent to three or four GCSE at grade D-E
- Level 2 - equivalent to four or five GCSE at grade A*-C
- Level 3 - equivalent to two or more A Levels
NVQs test your abilities in the workplace and to complete an NVQ you need to prove that you can do certain work-related tasks. This is assessed through a portfolio (evidence of the work you've done) and observation (an assessor watches you work and checks that you can do the tasks). You also compare your performance with the set standards as you go along: in this way, you look at what you've achieved, how much you still need to do and how you are to go about it, until you are competent enough to be assessed for a whole module or NVQ.
If you are interested in the areas of tending to animals, plants and the land; construction; engineering; manufacturing; transporting; providing good and services; providing health, social and protective services; and providing business services then NVQs may be the most suitable qualifications for you to take.
Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQs) are work-based awards achieved through assessment and training. You can undertake them full-type while working, or at school or college in alongside to a work placement or part-time job that enables you to develop appropriate skills. They do not need to be completed over a specific amount of time, and cover all the main aspects of an occupation, including current best practice, the ability to adapt to future requirements, and the knowledge and understanding that underpins competent performance.
SVQs are available at 5 different levels and are equivalent to other qualifications and therefore entry requirements differ depending on entry level. Specifically (and roughly):
- Level 1 - basic, routine and repetitive work skills
- Level 2 - broad range of skills including non-routine activities and individual responsibility
- Level 3 - supervisory skills
- Level 4 - management skills
- Level 5 - senior management skills
SVQs test your abilities in the workplace and to complete an SVQ you need to prove that you can do certain work-related tasks. This is assessed through a portfolio (evidence of the work you've done) and observation (an assessor watches you work and checks that you can do the tasks). You also compare your performance with the set standards as you go along: in this way, you look at what you've achieved, how much you still need to do and how you are to go about it, until you are competent enough to be assessed for a whole module or SVQ.
If you are interested in the areas of tending to animals, plants and the land; construction; engineering; manufacturing; transporting; providing good and services; providing health, social and protective services; and providing business services then SVQs may be the most suitable qualifications for you to take.
Business and Technology Education Council (BTECs) are industry-led qualifications designed to help you learn more about a particular area of work. They are hands-on, with many being created with advice from real-life industry professionals. They will generally take one or two years to complete, depending on whether you study full-time or part-time and the level of qualification you choose to undertake.
BTECs cover a range of career choices including health and social care; creative and performing arts; hospitality; leisure and sport; motor vehicles and engineering; retail; information technology; and business studies.
BTECs are available at different levels and therefore entry requirements differ. If you are studying at the equivalent level to A-levels you'll be looking at Level 3, and to study for them you'll need at least five GCSEs at grade C or above or have completed a Level 2 BTEC. The Level 3 qualifications available are:
- BTEC National Award (or BTEC Subsidiary Diploma - 6 units) - equivalent to 1 A Level
- BTEC National Certificate (or BTEC Diploma - 12 units) - equivalent to 2 A Levels
- BTEC National Diploma (or BTEC Extended Diploma - 18 units) - equivalent to 3 A Levels
BTECs are assessed through coursework, case studies and evidence on the skills you have developed on the course and you’ll be awarded with a pass, merit or distinction. They are made up of a number of units of different sizes which have specified Guided Learning Hours depending on the size of the unit, and you'll be given a grade for each unit which can be converted into the PMD format once you've completed the course.
Traditionally, as they are hands-on, they led to the world of work. This is still true, and employers value BTEC qualifications - you may find that many of your employers have BTECs themselves. However, BTECs are increasingly accepted as a route to university, with 95% of UK universities accepting them including Oxford and Cambridge. If you've a career in mind and are unsure whether you want to attend university, BTECs may be a good option - you've the hands-on experience of the course which will stand you in good stead when looking for a job, but you've also the qualifications and skills to apply for university.
In applying for university, you'll be asked for specific grades, e.g. DDM. If you are not taking the Extended Diploma you may have to top-up your qualification with one or two A-levels - increasing numbers of students are applying to university with a mix of A-levels and BTEC qualifications, so do not worry about this. For grade comparisons between A-levels and other qualifications, please see our UCAS Tariff Tables.
If you are looking to study a more vocational degree at university, a BTEC qualification may even be a bonus - for example, if you are looking to apply for nursing or midwifery work placements and experience in a health and social care setting will lead to a stronger application.
However, one thing to remember is that, compared to A-levels, BTECs narrow your later choices, so the degrees you can apply for have to relate to your previous BTEC experience. For example, a BTEC in health and social care can only lead you to degrees including physiotherapy, paramedic science, nursing, occupational health, social work and midwifery.
You can also study for a BTEC at a higher level, such as Level 4 HNC and Level 5 HND. (See Higher Education for more information). In gaining these qualifications, which offer you more in-depth knowledge of a subject, you can apply to study at either second or final year at university and gain your qualification over a shorter period of time to a conventional Bachelor's degree.
Money to Learn Education Maintenance Allowance
If your pupils decide to stay on at school or go to a further education college, they may be able to get the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA), which is available for both academic and vocational courses.
EMA is a weekly award of £30 which is paid fortnightly to students whose households fall within certain income thresholds and who stay on in education after they reach statutory leaving age (after the end of their compulsory schooling). EMA is intended to help cover the day-to-day costs that they have to meet when they stay on at school or college like travel costs, books and equipment for your course.
You can get an EMA if:
- you are aged 16, 17, 18 or 19 years on or between 2 July 2013 and 1 July 2014
- if your household income is £20,500 or less for households with one dependent child
- if your household income is £22,500 or less for households with more than one dependent child
- you are full time at school or doing a minimum of 15 guided hours per week at college, studying an eligible course and attending all classes
- you meet the nationality and residency rules set out in the EMA scheme
- you have not already received the maximum allowance for EMA, which is 117 positive or negative weekly attendance confirmations over the total length of your course
Your pupils may be entitled to receive their EMA for a maximum of three years, as long as the household income does not rise above the income threshold which applies to their household. The EMA is available over a four-year period for those young people who may need additional time in further education to achieve their full potential.
The main types of qualifications you have to be enrolled on to gain EMA are:
- A levels
- NVQ/SVQ level 1, 2 or 3
- Pre U
- BTEC National Diploma, National Certificate and First Diploma
- SCE higher grade or similar
Training for Success
Training for Success is a programme designed for young people aged 16-17 (up to 24 years for those requiring additional support) which guarantees training of up to 104 weeks (156 weeks for those with a disability) to help them gain the recognised skills and qualifications to help them progress in their chosen career.
Training for Success is delivered across four strands:
- Skills for your life - will help you address personal and development needs and gain skills and qualifications you need to get a job or progress to higher level education or training.
- Skills for Work Level 1 and 2 - will help you gain skills and vocationally related qualifications to be able to gain employment or progress to the next level of training provision or to further education.
- Skills for Work Level 3 - will help you work towards the achievement of level 3 qualifications. This is aimed at those who have gained a level 2 qualification through Training for Success, have not yet secured paid employment and who still possess training entitlement.
You will be required to achieve targeted qualification in each of the four areas outlined below:
- personal and social development
- employability skills
- professional and technical skills
- essential skills in communication, application of number and ICT
In addition they will receive job experience and job sampling based on their needs and the opportunity to experience different workplaces, and be able to decide what sort of work suits them best.
If they go into training through Training for Success they will automatically qualify for a non means-tested Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) of £40 per week. In addition they will receive Participant Bonuses at various stages of your training from their Training Supplier.
For more information, please see NI Direct
Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) is an income-assessed weekly allowance of £30 to help your pupils with the cost of further education. It is paid every two weeks directly into their bank account. It provides young people, who wish to continue in education after school leaving age, with an incentive to earn awards through good attendance and achieving agreed objectives. Receipt of EMA will not affect any benefits which are currently paid to their household.
You can receive EMA if:
- you are aged 16-19
- if your household income is £20,351 or less for households with one dependent child
- if your household income is £22,403 or less for households with more than one dependent child
- you have 100% weekly attendance
Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) is an income-assessed weekly allowance of £30 to help your pupils with the cost of further education. It is paid every two weeks directly into their bank account. It provides young people, who wish to continue in education after school leaving age, with an incentive to earn awards through good attendance and achieving agreed objectives.
If your pupils are new to EMA in 2014/15 they could get £30 a week, paid every two weeks if:
- they are aged 16-19
- they are an independent student
- their household income is £20,817 or less for households with one dependent child
- their household income is £23,077 or less for households with more than one dependent child
Your pupils could get a bursary to help with education-related costs if they’re aged 16 to 19 and:
- studying at school or college (not university) in England
- on a training course, including unpaid apprenticeships
A bursary is money that your pupils, or their education or training provider, can use to pay for things like:
- clothing, books and other equipment for their course
- transport and lunch on days they study or train
There are 2 types of 16 to 19 bursary.
- Vulnerable student bursary - worth up to £1,200 depending on your circumstances and benefits.
- Discretionary bursary - available if you need financial help but don't qualify for a vulnerable student bursary. Your education or training provider decides how much you get and what it’s used for.
Your provider will decide how your pupils get their bursary and they might be:
- paid in full or in instalments
- paid in cash, by cheque or through a bank account
- given through a travel pass, free meals, books etc instead of money
- Furthermore, some providers also offer one-off payments to cover study trips or travel for university interviews.
To be eligible for a bursary, they must be:
- under 19 at the start of the academic year they want a bursary for
- studying at school or college, or on an unpaid training course