Options after school or college: helping your child decide

Updated: May 21

What your child chooses to do after sixth form (or college) is exciting but can be nerve-racking. There are lots of options available and understanding the pros and cons between different choices can be confusing.

It’s not just about deciding whether to go to work or continue further education – although that’s a good starting point. Important considerations include how long they want to continue studying, how they will finance living expenses and course fees, whether they want to study in a more academic environment or in a more practical environment (such as studying whilst working) and whether they have a particular career pathway in mind.

Higher education

UK higher education offers a range of courses and qualifications, including BA or BSC degrees, foundation degrees or Higher National Diplomas. Most courses are taught in universities, but some courses are also offered by colleges or specialist course providers such as conservatoires.

For more information on University and the UCAS application process you may be interested in The Parents’ Guide to University 2020-2021.

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Teenage boy apprentice engineer work vocational post 18 option the parents guide to


Apprenticeships used to be associated with trade industries (such as electricians, mechanics or plumbers). Nowadays, apprenticeships can be taken in a wide range of industry sectors and provide entry to all types of careers, including accountancy, banking, IT, law, management and television.

Relatively new to the apprenticeship suite are “degree apprenticeships”, offering an earn while you learn route to BSc or BA status. In other words, the end qualification is the same as if your child had attended university full time, the difference is that they will not have incurred any debt in tuition fees and will finish their degree with robust and transferable workplace skills.

Taking an apprenticeship is not an easy option and competition can be fierce. It takes organisation and dedication to balance work, where your child will be expected to contribute to the same standards as everyone else, and study. Holidays are far fewer than at college or university. However, if they have a more practical, work-related bias towards learning this will suit them well and they will obtain valuable experience which will strengthen opportunities in finding rewarding work when the apprenticeship is over.

For more information on apprenticeships and how you can help your child apply for an apprenticeship you may be interested in The Parents’ Guide to Apprenticeships 2020-2021.


Traineeships are a type of vocational training and can last six weeks to six months. They are a great way to prepare for apprenticeships (if your child doesn’t have the minimum entry requirements) or to get first-hand experience of what a job is like.

School leaver programmes

School leaver programmes offer opportunities to join the workplace straight after sixth form studies and

commence skills development and career progression through experience as well as studying to obtain a nationally recognised qualification. Entry requirements vary from employer to employer.