In England, you now have to stay in education until you are 18. This means going to college, doing an apprenticeship or traineeship, or working towards a nationally-recognised qualification while in paid or voluntary work. What you end up doing and where you choose to go depends on a number of factors including:

  1. Where you are now - what qualifications are you set to achieve in the summer (academic GCSEs or more vocational BTECs or a mix of both) and what sort of grades you are aiming for. What extra-curricular activities are you involved in, and what hobbies do you enjoy outside school? 
  2. Where do you want to be after college - you don't need a whole life plan, but think about whether you'd like to go to university, or get job, and whether you think an apprenticeship might be suitable for the career you want. If you have no idea of what you want to do the National Careers Service has a range of job profiles where you can see the qualifications you'll need, the career path you need to take, and the type of skills, interests and personal qualities that might be useful to you in the job. 
  3. How do I get to where I want to be - if you know the type of career you want to have, or whether you want to go to university especially if you know what you want to study, understand what qualifications you'll need in order to get there. Again, the National Careers Service shows you what qualifications you'll need for a range of careers. 

And if you have absolutely no idea then don't worry! Year 11 is the time to start thinking about these thing; where and what you study can depend on your preferred learning style. Think about what you've done in school so far and how you might like to learn after you leave school:

  • work-based learning - takes place in a work environment. It is a practical way of learning that offers real life work experience whilst working towards relevant qualifications in the industry. 16-19 work-based learning takes the form of traineeships and apprenticeships. 
  • vocational learning - involves more practical activities and is commonly used to prepare you for a particular trade or industry.
  • academic learning - is more formal and usually based on theory rather than practical activities. 

Work-based and vocational learning are generally undertaken in Further Education Colleges and at training providers, while academic learning is generally undertaken in a Sixth Form. In this way, you can then see where you need to study, and where to apply:

 Work-based learningVocational learningAcademic learning
Training Provider  
Further Education College
Sixth Form College    
School Sixth Form    

At the same time, the qualifications you might look at doing will depend on your learning style:

 Work-based learningVocational learningAcademic learning
Functional Skills    
International Baccalaureate    
BTEC (award, certificate, diploma)  
NVQ  
A-Level