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Questions and Answers

Every parent has questions about their child's education - whether it's about apprenticeships, university, their options at 16 or 18, or how you can keep them happy and healthy.

Choose a topic below and browse through commonly asked questions. Can't find what you're looking for? Fill in the form and we'll help where we can.


What is an apprenticeship?

Female teenage apprentice with employer outside looking at reports: The Parents' Guide to Apprenticeships combine on the job training with classroom learning and the opportunity to obtain a nationally recognised qualification at the end. Approximately 20% of the apprenticeship is dedicated to learning, usually at a university, college or training provider. The rest of the time is spent working, enabling the apprentice to apply and develop their knowledge and skills in the workplace. Apprenticeships can take between one and six years and apprentices will be paid a salary, which should help cover living expenses. For apprentices under the age of 19 years old, the current minimum wage is £4.15 per hour (correct as of April 2020). To learn more about apprenticeships and how you can support your child through the application process, click here.

What types of apprenticeships are available in the UK?

Students in classroom, learning component of an apprenticeship, writing on flipchart paper: The Parents' Guide toBroadly speaking there are four main types of apprenticeships. These are:

  • Level 2 - Intermediate apprenticeships
  • Level 3 - Advanced apprenticeships
  • Levels 4/5 - Higher apprenticeships
  • Levels 6/7 - Degree apprenticeships
The type and level of apprenticeship your child will start at will depend on several factors including the qualifications they have and the job role or industry they are looking to enter. Level 2 - Intermediate apprenticeships usually last around 12-18 months and are mostly aimed at 16-year-olds with limited or no academic qualifications. Level 3 - Advanced apprenticeships usually last 12-24 months and are suitable for 16-year-olds with reasonable academic achievements, such as five pass grades at GCSE. Levels 4/5 - Higher apprenticeships can last up to 5 years and might suit those who want to qualify for professional career paths without attending university or college. They are sometimes referred to as ‘school leaver’ or ‘non-graduate’ programmes. Levels 6/7 - Degree apprenticeships can last up to 7 years and are currently aimed at students that want to study for a degree or similar whilst working. Degree apprenticeships are a lot more competitive than higher or advanced apprenticeships and the application process is often very rigorous. Some apprenticeships will allow your child to progress and obtain higher level qualifications once the initial apprenticeship is over, so it is always worth checking with the apprenticeship provider whether this is possible.To learn more about the different types of apprenticeships and how you can support your child in finding the right one, click here. Alternatively, you might be interested in purchasing our full edition parent guides on apprenticeships or degree apprenticeships - a serires of step by step guides on how you can help your child find, apply and prepare for an apprenticeship.

Where can my child find an apprenticeship?

Mother and daughter researching apprenticeship option at home online computerThe Parents' Guide to Unlike applying to university through UCAS, apprenticeships can be found in a number of ways. The most popular options include: Government website Most apprenticeships are posted on the Government’s website and can be found using their 'search' function. Your child can create their own account and set up email notifications for when apprenticeships matching their interests are released. This means they'll get details straight to their inbox and won't miss anything if they're not regularly checking the webite. Companies direct Encourage your child to check the websites of companies that interest them. Not all companies offer apprenticeships, but many do. Be warned - apprenticeships offered by well known companies such as BBC, Nestle, Virgin or British Gas are likely to be incredibly competitive. Job boards Local and national job agencies will also advertise various apprenticeship options on their website or local office. School careers advisor If your child is still at school or college, then getting them to speak with their careers adviser is a good move. Careers advisors are often the first to hear from companies adveritising new apprenticeships. To learn more about apprenticeships, including support on how to apply, read our articles on finding and applying for apprenticeships. You may also be interested in buying a full copy of The Parents’ Guide to Apprenticeships 2020-2021.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of doing an apprenticeship?

Teenage girl first day as an apprentice in the office with employees: The Parents' Guide toBenefits of an apprenticeship:

  • If your child has a reasonable confidence in the type of career they wish to follow once they finish school, then an apprenticeship can provide a focused and direct route into that profession;
  • Apprenticeships offer a more practical approach to learning, which may be a better fit for your child's preferred learning style;
  • Apprenticeships may provide future employment within the company;
  • Developing work based skills and gaining experience with on the job training will provide your child with a competitive advantage when applying for jobs in the future;
  • Degree apprenticeships offer an earn while you learn route to a bachelor's or master's degree without getting into debt.
  • Apprenticeships may narrow options early on. Your child will need to have a fairly clear idea of the type of career they wish to pursue before committing to an apprenticeship of one or more years;
  • Apprenticeships can be challenging, and it is not easy to combine study and classrom learning with working;
  • Apprenticeships do not offer the same 'student experience' when compare to attending university full time;
  • The salary of an apprentice under the age of 19 can be quite low (minimum wage is £4.15 an hour) and this will need to cover living expenses and travel, particularly if your child chooses to move away from home;
  • Universities host career fairs and networking events to help students explore different career routes. This is particularly useful for students who are still not sure what type of careers they might be interested in;
  • As degree apprenticeships are still relatively new, places can be extremely competitive.
To learn more about apprenticeships and how they might benefit your child, you may be interested in purchasing our online and interactive guide: The Parents' Guide to Apprenticeships.

What types of industries are offering apprenticeships?

Female teenage apprentice with employer discussing work and on job trainingApprenticeships used to be associated with trade industries, but nowadays can be found in a huge variety of roles and industries, including:

  • Agriculture and animal care
  • Arts
  • Business and administration
  • Construction, planning and the built environment
  • Education and training
  • Engineering
  • Health, public services and care
  • Information and communication technology
  • Law
  • Leisure, travel and tourism, retail and commercial enterprise
  • Manufacturing technologies
  • Media and publishing
  • Science and mathematics

Will my child receive a salary for the work they do in an apprenticeship?

Teenage boy outside working as an apprenticeThe Parents' Guide to All UK apprenticeships are paid and your child will receive an income. Apprentices must be paid at least the National Minimum Wage although some employers may choose to pay above this. The current minimum wage for an apprentice under the age of 19 years old is £4.15 (correct as of April 2020). For apprentices 19 or over (and have completed their first year of the apprenticeship) national minimum wage law applies. This is as followed: 19-20 years old: £6.45 20-25 years old: £8.20 25 years and older: £8.72 Not sure what your child is entitled to? Check out the Gov.UK National Minimum Wage calculator. What parts of the apprenticeship are paid? All apprentices must be paid for the hours they work plus any required training whether delivered in-house or by a university or college. Apprentices will also get at least 20 days paid holiday per year, plus bank holidays. For degree apprenticeships, your child is likely to earn a salary rather than an hourly wage. Salaries for degree apprenticeships vary significantly by employer but tend to range between £12 000 and £19 000 per annum. To learn more about your child's legal entitlements when starting an apprenticeship, check out The Parent's Guide to apprenticeships full edition.

Will my child get a job at the end of the apprenticeship?

There’s no guarantee that a job offer will follow an apprenticeship, but a company’s objective in investing in the apprenticeship is to create a top-pool of talent from which they can select the very best employees. Apprenticeships are a very significant investment for companies, in staff time, finance and other resources. Employers promise to fund (or part-fund) tuition costs, salary (and all the related additional costs, such as holiday / sick leave), mentoring and on the job training. Such a commitment is not undertaken lightly and, in the most part, companies do this because they aim to develop individuals, skilled to fulfil the companies’ needs, who will continue working for them long into the future.

What are degree apprenticeships?

Degree apprenticeships were introduced in 2015 and offer the opportunity for students to gain a bachelor's or master's degree as part of their apprenticeship. They combine working with part-time studying, usually at a university.

Degree apprenticeships last between 3 to 6 years and students will spend some of their time at university and the rest working. How this time is split will depend on the employer.

Teenage girl wearing high vis shirt on construction site working toward a degree apprenticeship Degree apprenticeships are still relatively new and so places are likely to be limited, although the number of vacancies is expected to grow significantly over the next few years. Some high-profile employers currently involved in the scheme include: Accenture BBC Deloitte KPMG Nestle Rolls Royce Typical entry requirements for a degree apprenticeship:
  • Unlike other apprenticeships, applicants for degree apprenticeships can live anywhere in the UK, but the apprenticeships are only available in England and Wales;
  • Must work at least 30 hours per week – which includes teaching time;
  • Must have a Grade 4 “GCSE” (or equivalent) in English and Maths or be studying towards it;
  • Must have Level 3 qualifications (minimum two A level passes or equivalent). Sometimes more is required;
  • Some employers have specific entry requests;
  • Should commit to the full term of their apprenticeship (which may be three to four years, or longer if part time).
To read about the pros and cons of taking a degree apprenticeship versus full time study at university, read our latest blog post on degree apprenticeships - making the right choices. Alternatively, you might be interested in purchasing The Parents' Guide to Degree apprenticeships, a detailed review of degree apprenticeships and why they might make a good choice for your child.

What qualifications will my child get by completing an apprenticeship?

apprentice and employer level 2 apprenticeship as a chef All apprentices receive a nationally recognised qualification at the end of their apprenticeship. The nature of this qualification will depend on the type and level of apprenticeship your child is on. Level 2 apprenticeships (intermediate) work toward qualifications equivalent to five GCSEs. These can include NVQ Level 2, BTEC Diploma or BTEC Certificate in the subject area of the apprenticeship. Most apprentices will also work toward a Level 2 qualification in maths and English, if they do not already have one. Level 3 apprenticeships (advanced) work toward qualifications equivalent to two A level passes. Level 4 and 5 apprenticeships (higher) work toward qualifications such as National Vocational Qualification (Level 4), Higher National Diploma or foundation degree. Level 6 and 7 apprenticeships (degree) work toward a full bachelor's or master's degree. Apprenticeships are designed to be flexible and encourage progression where possible. It might be the case that your child begins on a level 3 apprenticeship, but goes on to achieve a level 4 or 5 qualification. Always check with the apprenticeship provider whether such progression is possible. To learn more, we recommend you have a look at The Parents' Guide to Apprenticeships or The Parents' Guide to Degree apprenticeships. ​​​​​​​


What is UCAS?

UCAS stands for the ' Universities and Colleges Admissions Service' and is the only way to apply for undergraduate courses in the UK. Students apply for an undergraduate course by submitting an online application through UCAS. Over 2 million applications to UK based universities were processed by UCAS last year. The online application through UCAS involves completing seven sections:

  1. Personal details, such as name, address and email
  2. Additional information (UK based students only)
  3. Student finance
  4. University choices (maximum of five)
  5. Education details
  6. Personal statement
  7. Employment history
To learn more about UCAS and the application process, click here. Female teenage completing her UCAS application on her iPad in school

What are UCAS tariff points?

British university with pathway and students walking and talkingIn order to compare students as fairly as possible, UCAS offers a tariff (previously known as the “points system”) whereby each sixth form qualification is awarded a certain number of points according to a combination of the time spent studying it and the grade achieved. This tariff is recognised nationally across the UK and universities use it to gauge the standard of achievement for sixth form students. It enables them to make comparisons between students who have studied different types of sixth form courses – i.e. National Highers, BTEC, A levels etc. Depending on the perceived course difficulty and the type of university, the minimum entry requirements will vary both from university to university and from course to course within the same university. Not all universities cite a UCAS tariff, they might specify grade requirements (i.e. x3 A levels, minimum ABB). However, if they do cite a UCAS tariff (i.e. minimum 120 points), you might want to use the UCAS calculator to work out what qualification and grades your child will need to gain university entry. To find out more about the UCAS application process and how it works, check out our blog post: What is UCAS and how does it work? You might also be interested in purchasing The Parents' Guide to university applications.

How many university courses can my child apply to?

When making an application through UCAS, your child can apply to a maximum of five courses. This can be five different courses at the same university or the same course at five different universities, or any combination thereof. It's a good idea to apply to a range of courses with different entry requirements in case your child's predicted grades are surpassed or not met. For more information on how you can help your child choose the right undergraduate course, click here.

How will my child pay for university?

Mother and teenage son talking to bank about student finance UK university Student Finance is the organisation responsible for providing Tuition Fee Loans (to cover the cost of the degree) and Maintenance Loans (to cover living expenses) to students applying to go to university.
Applications for student finance can be made prior to receiving results and confirming a university offer. So, once application to UCAS has been completed, your child can make a provisional application for student finance whilst waiting on results. Loan applications must be made at least eight weeks before the course commences, otherwise payment may be delayed: don’t forget this covers both types of loan - tuition fees and maintenance loans. We recommend encouraging your child to apply early to ensure loans are processed on time. Tuition fees The tuition fees (up to £9,250 per annum) are paid via Student Finance direct to the university (once the place has been accepted) and parental earnings do not impact this. Maintenance loans The maintenance loan is influenced by parental earnings. Simply put, the higher the family income, the less money granted:- parents will be expected to cover any shortfall. However, assessment is made on “residual” income – i.e. the money left over after debts and expenses have been paid (so not pre-tax earnings or even net income). This money is paid termly directly to the student, so make sure they know how to budget. Divorced / separated Parents Where parents are separated or divorced, income is assessed on the parent with whom the child resides and (if applicable) their current partner (irrespective of whether or not that partner is responsible for the child). Income for the other biological parent is not assessed.
Other financing options It’s worth reviewing scholarships, grants and bursaries to see whether you child might qualify for additional income, particularly if they are studying for specialist degrees such as medical, social work or teaching.

How will my child know if they have a place at university?

Unconditional offers If your child has accepted an unconditional offer, then their place at university has been confirmed regardless of how they perform in their exams. There is not much to worry about on results day other than whether they have achieved their potential. Conditional offers If you child has received conditional offers, then they will need to wait until results day to see whether they have met the conditions of the offer. If your child does not meet the conditions of the offer, such as receiving a lower grade than is required, then they will need to check the university's final decision by logging into their UCAS track account: “Unconditional” (place and course confirmed – this means that the entry requirements for the previously conditional offer have been met) “Unsuccessful” (conditions not met, no place) “Unconditional changed course” (they have not succeeded in achieving a place on their desired course, but are being offered an alternative with lower entry requirements) If your child is 'unsuccessful' in gaining a place at their preferred university (first or insurance) and are still interested in going to university, then they will need to go through Clearing.

What is Clearing and will my child need to go through it?

Girl happy with A level results on results day 2021 UK Clearing is the system universities use to fill up any vacancies they have on a course. It’s available to students that don’t have any offers: either because they have not succeeded in meeting criteria for conditional offers or because they have rejected all the offers they have. Why might there be spare places? Don’t feel that because a university offers a university place through Clearing this means the courses are undesirable. It is possible that fewer students applied than anticipated; students didn’t achieve the minimum entry requirements; or successful students had a change of heart. How it works Students must apply (through UCAS) to participate in Clearing. If a university hasn’t responded and confirmed the place for which your child originally applied (for example, they may be just below entry requirements and the university is considering whether to make an offer) they will not be eligible to apply for another course through Clearing until such time as they have received a rejection. In this scenario, it’s worth making direct contact with the university in question to get an update on status. Clearing can only be used to apply for one course at a time, so it’s important to make sure this is the right course. A good way to do this is to research ahead of Results Day, anticipating the need to use Clearing. If great results mean this extra research doesn’t come in handy, so much the better; however, in the event of needing Clearing, it will be time very well spent. For more information on A level results day and how you can support your child, have a look at The Parents Guide to Results day 2021.

What should my child do if they get better A level results than expected?

Male teenage student on results day, smiling whilst looking at their A level grades. Adjustment is used if a student has surpassed their predicted grades and wants to apply for a course with higher entry requirements. It opens on A Level results day until 31 August. It’s easy to get carried away when achieving results that are much better than expected especially if the perception is that this opens up opportunities to attend more “prestigious” universities than originally anticipated. However, consider additional options with a balanced perspective. Lots of students who get better results than expected stick with one of their original university choices. Adjustment opportunities aren’t listed (as in Clearing) so phone calls to the university are necessary. This can be a long process, so don’t let your child get caught in lengthy conversations if there are no places on offer: politely end the conversation and move on. Think beyond grades Universities that require higher admission levels don’t necessarily equate to “better” universities, especially when put into the context of your child and what learning environment suits them. Previous research All the considerations regarding location, accommodation, transport, etc. still apply. It’s possible your child may have discovered a lot about their preferences whilst researching universities and these should not be ignored when choosing a new university through adjustment.
Avoid compromise The courses on offer through Adjustment may not be as suitable (or as interesting!) as the course originally accepted. Don’t let your child ditch all their diligent research for the sake of getting into a university that they consider ranks better than others due to them getting better A level results than expected. It could prove a very costly mistake – both financially and emotionally. For more information on A level results day and how you can support your child, have a look at The Parents Guide to Results day 2021.

How can my child prepare for a university open day?

Most universities offer an “open day” for prospective students, including lectures and talks, as well as existing staff and students on hand to answer questions. Websites, literature and videos can all give an excellent sense of the university, but nothing beats a personal visit. If you can, join your child on visits without taking control; go with them on open days to give them support and guidance (it can be daunting visiting a new place) but give them some time alone if they need it. Plan ahead It is vital your child arrives prepared to get plenty of answers to whether the university can meet their needs. Ideally, being armed with lots of questions to ask during a visit gives a good basis for conversation and interaction on the day, which could help them stand out. What’s important is to get a good sense of the comprehensive opportunities available and whether they are offered in an environment that suits your child’s personality to make the most of them. Think beyond academics Don’t focus solely on the academic elements of the university. Check out halls of residence, social centres and sports facilities. If the university is town-based, spend time in the local area and give some thought to how it would feel living there for the next few years. It’s not a lifelong commitment, but three-to-five years, especially for a late teenager, seems a long time. Trust your child’s instincts No matter how appealing a course might be, if your child hates the feel of the university the minute they step in the door, it’s highly unlikely that they will get either the qualifications or experience they deserve. What looks good in theory doesn’t always match up in reality. Pay heed if they take an instant dislike to a place. For more information on university open days and how you can support your child in preparing for them, why not read our blog post on getting the most out of university open days. University of Birmingham main building, United Kingdom

Options at 16

What can my child do after their GCSEs?

All 16 year olds must undertake some further education until they are 18. This doesn’t mean they have to stay on at school or go to college, they can get a job with a training element to it, but they cannot work full-time without some training. Their options are to take academic qualifications, such as A levels, BTECs, IB or T Levels or take vocational qualifications, such as an apprenticeship or job with training. If they’ve struggled to get good results at GCSE, they can do an internship or traineeships to get the experience to progress. Group of students sitting on stairs talking about GCSE exams in uniform For more information on what your child can do after their GCSEs, check our our blog post for a detailed review on all their options. Alternatively, you might be interested in purchasing The Parents' Guide to Post 16 options (full edition)

What is an EPQ and should my child do one?

Teenage boy completing EPQ on computer in his bedroomAlongside A levels (or equivalent), many schools offer EPQ (Extended Project Qualification) which is a dissertation or project created on the basis of independent research and worth between 8 and 28 UCAS points. Students can choose the subject matter, so this can be focused around their interests. A different approach to learning
There’s minimum supervision for EPQs, just a little light guidance. This means that research, structure and composition of the project is down to your child, as is meeting deadlines. This approach is much closer to what will be expected at university (or even in the workplace), so it’s a good introduction to them finding their own way of learning. However, this style of working doesn't suit everyone, so check whether your child can cope with the added pressures an EPQ may bring. University offers
An EPQ is the equivalent to half an A-level so it can be a useful way for your child to increase their UCAS points. Furthermore, some universities may make two offers: one without the EPQ and one including the EPQ. For example, the standard offer might be BBB but the second offer (with the EPQ) could be BBC plus a pass grade in the EPQ. This might allow your child the flex they need to meet the entry requirements of competitive universities. What skills will your child develop
In developing their own way of working, they’re likely to become better at:

  • Managing their time;
  • Conducting research;
  • Summarising lots of information clearly;
  • Motivating themselves;
  • Presenting to an audience;
  • Reflecting;
  • Working independently;
  • Responding to feedback;
  • Accepting when things don't go to plan.
These can be excellent qualities to mention in personal statements (if they are applying to university) or for discussion in interviews for jobs. To learn more about the different qualifications your child can choose to study after their GCSES, have a look at The Parents' Guide to Post 16 options (full edition).

Should my child apply to go to college?

Teenage gir smiling outside front gates of new college The great thing about colleges is that that they have a huge range of academic and vocational courses to study, so there will be plenty of choice. Also, all their focus is on the 16-19 age-range so all facilities and additional offerings are aimed at the same age group, unlike schools who are caring for children of many different ages, sometimes as young as early years. Teachers and lecturers will all be experts in their specialist subjects for this age range. Colleges tend to be larger and less personal than school sixth forms; the experience is much closer to life at university. This is ideal for students who are disciplined at managing their own studies and can meet deadlines on their own, but students that need nudging, coaxing and reminding are less likely to do well. Of course, learning these skills is important regardless of whether they want to go onto university or start work after sixth form, but some sixteen year olds need a little more guidance than others. The question is whether your child will do well with new teachers to get to know, a new environment and, in most cases, a whole new set of friends to make. If they like the challenge of stretching beyond their comfort-zone, it can be a great stepping stone from school to university but if they are reserved, it could be over-whelming.

What happens if my child does not pass their GCSEs?

secondary school boy in Year 11 looking at GCSE exam results When GCSE results come out on 19 August 2021, your child may not have done quite as well in the subjects they have selected to study at sixth form as they had hoped. Please be reassuring and supportive at this time, and try not to get angry, disappointed and frustrated – especially if it is a case of “I told you so”! There are usually alternatives and a positive approach offers a faster route to finding happy solutions. Low grades do not mean they cannot study their chosen subject at sixth form. There may be an option to retake the GCSE, or commence the sixth form subject without a retake. However, in some cases, GCSE results are a strong indicator of future performance and it may not be wise to pursue a subject for which they do not have a natural aptitude; choosing an alternative subject might be a better option. Speak to their school teachers and get advice about next steps. Possible options if they don’t do well at GCSE:

  1. Retake failed subjects;
  2. Do similar sixth form studies somewhere different without having to retake;
  3. Will their chosen place of study accept them even though they have not met minimum standards – it’s worth asking, as they may say yes so long as your child commits to some additional work;
  4. Do an internship, traineeship or volunteering to obtain and be able to prove that they have skills needed to continue further studies or start an apprenticeship.
To learn more, we recommend you have a look at The Parents' Guide to Post 16 options, a detailed review of all your child's options at 16.

What is a T Level?

Teenage girl completing on the job training aspect of T Level qualificationT Levels, or Technical Level Qualifications, are a new government backed qualification introduced as of September 2020 and will be equivalent to 3 A Levels. These 2-year courses have been developed in collaboration with employers and businesses so that the content meets the needs of industry and prepares students for working life. T Levels will offer students a mixture of classroom learning with an ‘on-the-job’ placement equating to 315 hours (approximately 45 days or 20% of the course time). They will provide the knowledge, skills and experience needed for students to get ahead in their chosen industries or go on to further study or a higher apprenticeship. T-Levels will offer the chance to earn between 72 and 168 UCAS points. Subject choices: Initially, only three industry areas will be available to study (construction, ducation and digital production) but an additional seven industry areas will be added from 2021 and further expansion will take place through 2023. T Levels are currently only available in England and differ from apprenticeships because the proportion of study time and working time is reversed. To learn more about the different qualifications your child can choose to study after their GCSES, have a look at The Parents' Guide to Post 16 options (full edition).

What is the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IB)?

The International Baccalaureate Diploma is offered by schools worldwide and aims to provide both breadth and depth of knowledge. Students choose up to six subjects (three standard level and three at higher level) as well as undertaking some compulsory core modules. Most learning is theory, although there are some practical elements. Two students in school studying for their IB examinations IB is graded by levels, with Level 7 (IBO certificate in higher level) earning 56 UCAS points. There are over 200 schools in the UK offering the IB diploma, although many are fee-paying schools. Core modules In addition to their six subjects, each student must undertake three core modules designed to encourage them to become active, compassionate and life-long learners. These are: An extended essay - an in-depth study of a question relating to one of their chosen subjects, which requires independent research. The theory of knowledge - a course on critical thinking assessed through both an oral presentation and a 1,600 word essay. Creativity, action, service (CAS) - a series of activities alongside the student's academic study in creative thinking, healthy living and service to the community. The three strands of CAS are designed to grow a student's personal and interpersonal development through a journey of self discovery.

What is a BTEC?

BTEC students completing an assignment as a group BTECs at Level 3 are a similar standard to A levels with a focus on vocational subjects. The subsidiary diploma is equivalent to one A level, the diploma is equivalent to two and the extended diploma is equivalent to three A levels. Study takes place over a two year period and is a combination of both practical and theory. Knowledge is tested through course work and a final examination (comprising 40% of the total grade). For those wishing to go to university, subsidiary diplomas offer the same opportunity to earn UCAS points as A levels (15 to 56 points). UCAS points for BTEC diplomas and extended diploma are double and trebled respectively. If your child prefers learning through practical application, they will more likely do better taking BTECs than A levels. However, some universities have a preference for A levels over BTEC, so if your child has their heart set on a specific university or course, it’s worth checking entry requirements to see whether this will influence their sixth form choices. Most schools offer the option to take a combination of BTECs and A levels. Check out our online parent guides on post 16 options for a full review of the different qualifications your child can choose to study after their GCSEs.

Should my child continue at the same school for sixth form?

There are lots of benefits to staying at the same school for your child: they know the staff, they will have friends there and they are familiar with journey times and routes. It’s also nice for them to be role models to younger pupils and this, combined with the familiar environment, can help build self-confidence. In most cases, sixth forms are smaller than colleges and provide more support. For students with special educational needs, they know what support is provided and whether their needs are met (support can vary widely from one institution to another). Female teenager with headscarf studing in school library for her GCSEs However, because they are smaller, they are unlikely to have as many subject choices or vocational courses as colleges and they need to watch out about becoming complacent by being the “big fish in a small pond”. Applying to sixth form in another school
Providing the school is offering the right subject and course options for your child, this can be a good compromise between staying at the same school or going to college. The challenge of meeting new teachers, new friends and working in a different atmosphere with a different daily journey still exists, but the smaller numbers, greater guidance and nurturing environment also applies. It can prove a good way for your child to start to take control of their own lives, increase confidence and improve communications without everything changing at once. Depending on GCSE results, changing schools can provide the opportunity of going to a more academic school or one that has greater focus on co-curricular interests that may provide job opportunities in the future (such as rowing, music, drama etc). A fresh environment can inspire fresh ideas. To learn more, we recommend you have a look at The Parents' Guide to Post 16 options, a detailed review of all your child's options at 16.

COVID-19 updates

How will predicted grades be calculated for Year 12 students (in order to be included to UCAS application) with so much disruption to schooling this year?

Many schools and colleges are trying to reschedule Year 12 mock examinations to help inform UCAS predictions. This might be in the summer term, with some schools and colleges organising virtual assessments, or in September, when it is hoped schools will be open and examinations can be held. While mock examinations are an important component in helping schools and colleges to predict grades, it is only one of a series of data points and many schools and colleges will be making assessments on how their students have been impacted by school closures when they set these exams.

There are no formal changes to the way grades will be predicted for students in Year 12 applying to university through UCAS. Each school or college has its own processes for predicting grades, which are data driven, aspirational but achievable and determined by professional judgement. While each school will have its own process (UCAS only provides ‘guidance’) many schools will consider the following:

1. Quality of work produced in the classroom;

2. Quality of homework;

3. Depth of understanding shown in lessons;

4. Results of any tests/ mock examinations; and

5. Teacher’s professional judgment on what the student is likely to achieve under positive circumstances.

Typically, an initial set of predicted grades are issued to Year 12 students before the summer holidays with the potential for these to change until the school’s internal deadline for UCAS applications, sometime between September and December. Some schools and colleges may issue them before the summer holidays (even if this might be subject to change at a later date) so students can begin to explore realistic university options over the summer holiday, but others may feel they don’t have appropriate information to make the predictions meaningful, and will wait until the autumn term.

It might be a good idea to ask your child’s school or college when Year 12 mock examinations are likely to take place, as this might give you some indication as to when predicted grades are likely to be published or revisited.

For now, if you want to begin helping your child research potential universities or degree courses, it might be worth using a recent academic report as a starting point.

How will results be awarded for academic subjects without exams?

Sixth Form results day is 13 August 2020 and GCSE results day is 20 August 2020, unchanged even though there are no examinations. For academic qualifications, results will be decided by schools and colleges. How can teachers recommend grades without examinations? Teachers usually know their students well and evaluations will be made considering the following: 1. Quality of work produced in the classroom; 2. Quality of homework; 3. Rate of improvement / depth of understanding over course period studied up until school closures; 4. Results of any tests/ mock examinations; 5. Consideration for improvements that could have taken place during learning consolidation period once syllabus teaching has been completed (usually beginning of the summer term); 6. Knowledge of student’s usual performance. Grades will be based on work that has already been completed, rather than any work your child is doing now. What if a teacher is biased towards a student? Final grades awarded will have input from the subject teacher, head of department, academic/deputy head and headteacher. Results will not be decided by one teacher alone. Ofqual and exam boards will work together to standardise grades across schools and colleges to make the process as fair as possible. For example, if Ofqual and the exam boards think a school or college has been too harsh with grades, they may move some students up a grade. Can I speak with my child's teacher about the grades they have submitted? Schools and colleges are not allowed to share this information with you and no exceptions will be made. Please avoid asking your child's teachers, or any member of staff, to tell you the grades they will be sending to the exam boards. We understand that this is a worrying time for you and your child, but rest assured that your child's school or college is doing everything they can to make sure your child receives fair grades. Supposing my child thinks the grade is unfair? There will be an opportunity for students to sit examinations as early as possible after the autumn term begins and results will be available in January. How this could impact starting at university, apprenticeships or jobs will vary according to the individual institution, so if your child is planning to sit the examination, they should speak to the relevant institution to see what the options are. Students may also appeal their grades, although they should be mindful that grades can go down as well as up when reassessed. My child was meant to start university this year – how does this affect them? There will be no change to the way the university admissions process works this year. Results will be announced on 13 August and: a) If your child has an unconditional offer, their results have no impact, and they can accept the place if they wish; b) If they meet the grades of a conditional offer, they can accept the place; c) If they do not wish to accept a university offer that they have they can reject it and go through Clearing; d) If they have not received an offer (perhaps their grades are too low), they can go through Clearing; e) If their grades are higher than expected, they can reject their offers and go through Adjustment. How does this impact them getting an apprenticeship? The process will work the same as in other years. Students can discuss their unique situation with the company offering the apprenticeship. Remember, many apprenticeship employers are likely to ask questions about how your child spent their time during lockdown. Make sure your child uses this time positively so that they have plenty to talk about. We provide some ideas in our blog post helping your child stand out. At GCSE level, how does this impact their taking sixth form studies? If your child has not been awarded grades that meet the entry requirements for them going to college/sixth form/taking an apprenticeship, they should speak to the institution as soon as they can. There is every possibility that they will try to be flexible and admit your child or, if they can’t, they’ll be able to discuss other alternatives. Will grades issued in 2020 be treated in the same way as grades issued in previous or future years? Absolutely. The grades your child receives this year will have equal status to the grades awarded in previous years. The process of standardising grades will mean that all grades issued in 2020 will be comparable to previous years and your child will not be disadvantaged (or advantaged) by the use of centre assessed grades. Vocational qualifications For those who should have taken vocational assessments, a Government consultation is underway to work out the best way forward. We’ll give more information on that as soon as we can.

How will vocational / technical results be awarded without usual assessment?

Categories for vocational qualifications There are three categories for vocational qualifications and whether or not a grade is awarded depends on the type of qualification: 1. qualifications used to enable students to move on to further or higher education – in most cases a calculated result will be issued; 2. qualifications serving a mixed purpose, supporting progression to further or higher education, or to employment – in these cases the primary purpose of the qualification will determine whether or not a calculated result is issued; 3. qualifications signalling occupational competence (i.e. the ability to do a job) – students will not receive a calculated result unless the assessment can be adapted to adequately confirm the appropriate level of competence has been achieved. Considerations in awarding results Results will be awarded considering the following: 1. Awarding organisations should provide calculated results where, as far as possible, they can ensure these results are valid and reliable; 2. Where this is not possible, assessment methods should be adapted so students can sit assessments and complete qualifications; 3. If qualifications directly indicate professional competence and it would be unsafe to issue a qualification without the regular assessment, it may be necessary to wait until the next available assessment opportunity. Why the approach may be different depending on the course Awarding organisations may use different approaches to assess and award grades, even when qualifications are similar. This will be influenced by the outcome of the qualification (does it serve as an indicator of suitability for further learning or as a competence to practise in real life) and the order and style of learning. Courses which teach and assess practical elements early on may have been covered the necessary competency checks prior to Covid-19 lockdown, but other similar courses may offer learning in a different order with practical learning near the end of the assessment period and therefore no practical competency has been covered. Likewise, some courses offer regular assessment and interaction between student and tutor and the tutor will know the student well, whereas other course may have limited interaction between tutor and learner, so it would be difficult for the tutor to make a reliable judgement call on the learner’s ability. Results will not be awarded if a student’s ability to practise in real life cannot be appropriately assessed. Health and safety are integral considerations. Calculating results Work conducted after 20 March 2020 will not be considered, except a small number of exceptions where this helps to validate marks awarded per the criteria below. Results will be awarded with consideration for: 1. marks for assessments already completed; 2. marks for assessments completed but not yet verified; 3. centre assessment grade – what the centre believes the student would have achieved if learning / assessment had carried on as normal; 4. trends from historical data – i.e. where performance in one area is an indicator of performance in another area; 5. centre data – i.e. how the assessment centre has performed over time; 6. student’s prior achievements in earlier examinations (i.e. GCSEs). Specialist vocational qualifications Your child can check the government’s interactive tool to find out which approach is being used for each qualification – as some may differ from what’s outlined in this paper (such as International Baccalaureate, Pre-U, qualifications designed specifically for Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland). Appeals If students feel their results do not properly reflect their ability, they have the right to appeal to the awarding organisation, using its formal appeal process via their learning centre. No results issued In cases where it has not been possible to issue a result, students will be kept up to date on when they can take the necessary assessments which will be arranged as soon as possible. Still have a question? Fill in the box below or send us an email at and we'll try our best to help.

What is virtual work experience?

Teenage girl completing virtual work experience with supervisor online

Virtual work experience, also referred to as online, remote or digital, provides young people with the opportunity to gain experience in the workplace, develop their skills, boost their employability and explore new industries and job roles.

It’s a broad term and can include any opportunity which provides young people with an insight into what it’s like to work in an industry or job role while at home. Most virtual work experiences range from half a day to one week, but some may last longer depending on the nature of the work experience and the age of your child.

Not all virtual work experience is the same. Some are open to everyone and provide a platform for students to discover more about the job, view pre-recorded videos on what it’s like to work with the organisation, go on virtual tours and possibly take part in some live Q&A sessions. Others may require your child to go through an application process and offer regular online meetings with a supervisor, individual project work, networking sessions, training opportunities and video tutorials.

For more information on virtual work experience and which companies are offering placements, you might be interested in reading our blog post on virtual work experience - why it might help your child stand out.

Should my child defer their university place because of coronavirus?

If your child is wondering whether it might be better to defer their university place to 2021, here are three important steps to helping them make the right decision. 1. Quality of education Following Cambridge University’s announcement that all their lectures will take place online for the academic year 2020-2021, many universities are considering moving to online teaching and supervision. Feedback on the quality of education universities have provided during lockdown has varied, sparking concerns that, in some cases, students could be paying full fees without receiving the quality of education offered previously. Since lockdown took effect, universities and colleges have been able to dedicate more time and resources into improving their online capabilities and are likely to offer better options in September and beyond. Progress will continue as the digital world innovates and expands. Most universities have not ruled out face-to-face learning, with some suggesting that seminars and smaller sessions are likely to go ahead so long as renewed lockdown restrictions do not prevent this. This means your child might benefit from a mix of online and face-to-face learning or 'blended learning', offering them greater flexibility in their approach to study. A degree that has been earned through a mix of online and face-to-face learning could well have more value in the workplace, because it reflects better how business takes place. Additionaly, remote working is likely to become increasingly important to many businesses in the future, so learning online will develop extremely valuable skills needed in the modern workplace, and could prove an advantage. Whether universities revert to previous teaching methods in September 2021 (assuming the threat from coronavirus has abated) is uncertain. Successful implementation of online learning may well mean it’s here to stay. Therefore, if the reason for deferral is to avoid online learning, whilst this will possibly be reduced in September 2021, it’s unlikely to be eliminated completely. 2. State of the economy The economic consequences of coronavirus and lockdown are likely to be far reaching. The slowdown in the economy is now visibly hitting the labour market, with job losses, reduced working hours and a fall in the number of entry level jobs, internships and placements offered to young people. Some economic forecasters have suggested that it may take up to three years to recover from the effects coronavirus has had on the UK and for the economy to return to levels of growth seen in 2019. If your child is thinking about deferring their place at university in favour of working or applying for an internship, then it is important to encourage them to think carefully about how their industry or sector might have been affected by the economic slowdown. With many organisations choosing not to take on additional employees, a year out may prove fruitless. Likewise, if they hope to enjoy a gap year to work and travel, there will be limited opportunities this year. Those students that included a deferral in their application may find it better to ask not to defer and enjoy their gap year once their further education is over, the economy has picked up and travel restrictions have been completely lifted. With current predictions suggesting the UK economy could return to its pre-coronavirus levels by 2023, choosing to start university now could be well timed: graduating in 2023 just as the job market begins to recover. 3. Missing out on the university experience Freshers week, clubs, societies, living in halls of residences and social events in student unions are an important part of the university experience. Many young people feel that the impact of social distancing will mean they miss out on the typical university experience – particularly on opportunities to make new friends and develop new hobbies. It’s true that freshers week will look and feel different this year, but universities and their student bodies are working extremely hard to provide starters with opportunities to meet new people, take part in social events and join clubs, societies and sporting groups – albeit slightly differently. As lockdown restrictions continue to ease, this will provide universities with opportunities to combine some face-to-face interactions with virtual and online meetups. This unique situation could result in some interesting experiences! Of course, as coronavirus is controlled, social opportunities will open again. Final words If your child is still unsure about whether or not to defer their place at university, then a good starting point is to focus to their alternative options. Can they come up with a better plan on how they might like to spend the next year? For some, applying for a deferral will be the right choice, even if this means reapplying to university next year. However, for most students who had planned on starting university this year, sticking to this will be the best option. Simply deferring a place to “wait until things get back to normal” probably isn’t a good idea. Ultimately, the decision to defer is a personal choice and one which your child will need to make for themself. To read our full article with details on the deferral process and how it works, click here.