Post 16 Options

National Careers Support

Careers advice is always available from the National Careers Service - see flyer below.

What are my Post-16 Options?

Remember, you now have to stay in some sort of education or training until your 18th birthday. But you do have a number of options for the form this can take. This page helps to explain those options. There are also some very useful downloads at the bottom of the page, including the presentation Helen Cole (our previous careers advisor) did with current Year 11 students in her group sessions in July 2018.

A Levels

The most popular option is to continue your studies into A Levels. You can do this at Herschel or at another school with a sixth form or a sixth form college.  This provides you with the best basis to access university courses, although it's not the only way.

Experienced adviser Ray Le Tarouilly gives some invaluable tips on how and why to choose your A level subjects:

If you are a Year 11 student, you will likely have started thinking about what you are going to do when you have finished your GCSEs. For the first time in your life, you will have a choice over where you will go and what you will study, and with a bit of thought and care, you can make the right decisions and avoid making mistakes over your choices. As you may know, the government requires that all young people stay in some sort of learning until age 18. This does not mean that you have to stay on at school, but it does mean that you will need to take one of the following options:

  • A place at college full time
  • A place at a school sixth form full time
  • An apprenticeship (paid job with training) of at least 30 hours per week
  • A job or voluntary work which involves at least 20 hours per week attendance and includes recognized education or training leading to qualifications

One of the qualification pathways you may be considering is whether to take A levels. These are qualifications taken at schools that have a sixth form and at many colleges. The GCE (General Certificate of Education) Advanced (A) level has been in existence since the early 1950s and so your grandparents and possibly great grandparents may have taken them.

Key facts about A levels

A levels do not train or prepare you for jobs but they are well respected by employers and are still the standard entrance qualifications for entry to university. The skills developed from taking A levels are highly valued eg history or English Literature develop skills in researching information and presenting well-structured and argued written pieces of work. Mathematics develops problem solving and reasoning skills which are often talked about by employers as things they see as desirable from applicants. Sciences develop the ability to analyse and present information effectively and so on.

They take 2 years to complete.

A levels are graded either entirely or mostly by exams at the end of the course, depending on the subject, with the top grade possible being an A* and the lowest pass an E grade. “U” grade stands for unclassified which is a fail. A levels are not changing to number grades as with GCSE.

They are much more demanding than GCSEs; rather than simply repeating information, you will be required to express your own ideas much more and study subjects in much greater depth than at GCSE. Essays will be longer and need to show a much greater depth of understanding than those encountered at GCSE.

To be permitted to study A levels, you will need at least 5 GCSEs grade C/new grade 5 including English language and mathematics, and for some subjects at A level you will need at least a grade B/new grade 6 at GCSE eg if intending to take a language, sciences or mathematics at A level. Check college and sixth form websites or prospecti as they can vary.

Three, sometimes four subjects only are studied.

A levels buy you some time if you are unsure about what you want to do as a future job or study at university, but it is important to choose subjects that are going to be right for you and combine to maximise your choices later.

Reasons for choosing A levels should be based on the following:

  • That you have the ABILITY to take them. For example, subjects such as sociology or government & politics may be new to you, but you need good English skills as they are essay based.
  • That you are INTERESTED in them. A levels will require you to do a LOT more private study, reading etc outside of lessons. Having a passion for a subject will help!
  • That they are needed for the career or university course you want to do. For example, at least two sciences (usually chemistry and biology) will be required for entry to medicine, dentistry or veterinary science at university.

What A Levels should I choose?

Entrance requirements for some university degree courses can be high, so grades achieved at A level can be essential. A debate I have often encountered in my many years of careers guidance work is whether students should take three sciences for entry to medicine. Taking three sciences will potentially open all universities to you, but the majority are happy to accept two, with the third subject being something different. ONLY take three sciences if you are particularly good at them! If, for example, you are very strong in the life sciences (chemistry and biology), also very good at history but weaker in physics, you would do better to choose history.

Subjects like history are among what are called facilitating A levels which are those preferred or even required by more competitive entry universities.

Having a broader skillset which can be gained from taking a non-science subject can be a good thing, for example you will have developed strong written communication skills from studying history which can be invaluable when writing university assignments.

For entry to medicine, things that you do OUTSIDE of A level study are also very important, for example work experience with vulnerable people, regularly looking at sites such as the GMC (General Medical Council) to keep up to date with issues in medicine and attending a Medlink course to enhance your understanding of medicine as a career.

If you are focused on a business-based career, it can be tempting to choose all business type A levels such as business studies, economics and accounting. This is not necessary, in fact universities often prefer a broader skillset from students entering a business-based degree.

A language A level is particularly useful for entry to business courses, as sciences and mathematics develop analytical and problem solving skills, English literature or language develop written communication skills, geography strengthens data presentation and analytical skills and so on.

If you enjoy writing a great deal, three verbally based subjects can be an attractive proposition, for example history, government & politics and sociology. But remember that there will be a LOT of reading and essay writing!

The age old nutshell is whether to take A level law for entry to a law degree. If I had been paid £5 for each time I have been asked this question I would be very wealthy! The straight answer to this is that it is NOT necessary to take A level law to study this subject at university.

What are facilitating subjects?

Returning to the question of facilitating subjects, if you take at least two from the following list, you will have better opportunities for entry to more competitive entry universities and/or degree courses generally. The facilitating subjects are:- Biology- Chemistry- English Literature- Further Mathematics- Geography- History- Mathematics- Modern Foreign or Classical Languages- Physics.

However, do not lose sight of your aims. For example, if you intend going into an art/design based degree, then you will need to take a subject such as art & design, likewise music if you intend taking a degree in this subject.

The button below links to a very simple but effective guide from Which University to which A Level options can be required for specific degree courses, so if you think you know where you want to be headed, you can use this to double check:

There is also a new A Level choices checker from the Russell Group of Universities which highlights that they are now placing less emphasis on the idea of 'facilitating subjects' and encouraging a wider range of A Level Choices. Click on the logo below to give it a go!

Click HERE for six other things you need to know before deciding!

There are also some very useful documents to do with A Levels available for download at the bottom of this page - these include the 'Informed Choices' guide from the Russell Group of universities, a guide to surviving A Levels written by ex-Herschel student and now Medicine undergraduate Zara Zeb, guides to choosing A Levels for and applying for medicine related degrees, and also some information on other careers that are available in the fields of health and science.

Apprenticeships and School Leaver Programmes

You can apply to do an apprenticeship, and get paid while you learn! See the apprenticeships page of this website for more details by selecting it from the menu on the left.

Other College Courses

You can do a different course at a college.  This could be a diploma or a vocational qualification such as an NVQ, a City and Guilds or a BTEC.  Ms Cole, the school careers adviser, can help you with these, and there is a list of some of the college courses that are currently available locally further down this page. 

National Careers Service

The National Careers Service has a very good summary page for post-16 options - click on the logo below to visit.


Sixth Form Colleges

Click on each one below to go to the college website. Note that Activate Learning is a group of colleges that includes Reading College. The Windsor Forest Colleges group includes Windsor College, Langley College and Strodes College.

You can also find a list of college open events in the downloads at the foot of this page.











Other Useful Guides and Websites

Click the image below to be taken to the Big Guide for school leavers, containing info on graduate schemes, apprenticeships, volunteering, skills development.....loads of useful stuff if you are considering leaving full time education at the end of the year (and even if you're not!):


Click here for a good starting point website for school leaver programmes that don't involve heading to university (some require A Levels, but it's still worth a look):


Local Sixth Form Courses

 All courses listed are equivalent to three A Levels unless otherwise stated

Business and ICT Courses

Level 3 Business BTEC Extended Diploma

Available at almost all colleges (not BCA) 
Requires 4-5 grade C GCSEs often including English and Maths at grade C

AAT Certificate leading to the AAT Diploma

Available at Langley College
AAT Certificate requires 5 GCSEs at grade C including English and Maths

Level 3 Computing IT Practioners’ BTEC Extended Diploma

Available at Langley, Uxbridge, Reading Colleges
Normally requires 5 GCSE grade Cs including English and Maths

Information Technology (Software Development) Extended Diploma

Available at Henley College
Requires 5 GCSE grade Cs including English and Maths

Childcare and Health Courses

Children and Young People’s Workforce CACHE Diploma Level 3

Available at Langley, Uxbridge, Reading, BCA
Requires 5 GCSE grade Cs including English

Children’s Care Learning and Development Level 3

As course above
Available at Henley College

Level 3 Health Studies BTEC Extended Diploma

Available at Langley, Uxbridge, Reading, BCA
Requires 5 GCSEs at grade C including English and Maths

Craft Construction Courses

Construction BTEC Diploma Level 1 and 2
Bricklaying Diploma Level 1, 2 and 3
Carpentry Diploma Level 1, 2 and 3
Painting and Decorating Diploma Level 1 and 2
lumbing Technical Certificate Level 2 and 3
lectrical Technical Certificate
Gas Technical Certificate

All of the above are available at Langley College and some at Reading College
Entry requirements vary from none to 3 GCSEs at grade C including Maths English and Science for the Plumbing Technical Certificate Level 2

Level 3 BTEC Extended Diploma in Construction

Available at Langley, Richmond Colleges
Requires 4 GCSEs at grade C or above including English, Maths and Science
This is a very interesting course which can lead to HE courses in construction management, surveying, civil engineering or to employment/training in the construction industry

Art and Design Courses

Level 3 Art and Design BTEC Extended Diploma

Available at Langley, Reading, Uxbridge and Henley. Requires 4/5 GCSEs including an art and design subject plus a portfolio

Level 3 Fashion, Design and Textiles BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma
Level 3 Product Design and Enterprise BTEC Extended Diploma
Level 3 Photography and Digital Imaging Extended Diploma
Level 3 Graphics and Digital Design

All available at Reading College and require 4 C grades at GCSE often including an art and design subject and English and a portfolio of work

Media Courses 

Level 3 Creative Media Production Extended Diploma
Level 3 Interactive Media BTEC Extended Diploma
Level 3 Digital Media Technologies  BTEC Extended Diploma

Entry requirements are 5 GCSEs including English.
Available at Langley, Henley and Reading Colleges

Level 3 Music BTEC Extended Diploma
Level 3 Music Technology BTEC Extended Diploma
Level 3 Music and Media Technology BTEC Extended Diploma

Available at Reading College
Require 4 GCSEs grade C including English and preferably Maths

Performing Arts Courses

Level 3 Performing Arts BTEC Extended Diploma

Available at Uxbridge, Langley, Reading Colleges
Requires 4 GCSEs including English and Maths

Hairdressing and Beauty Therapy Courses

Hairdressing NVQ Level 2 and 3

Available at Reading and Langley Colleges

Beauty Therapy NVQ Level 2 and 3

Available at Reading and Langley Colleges

Engineering Courses

Level 3 BTEC Extended Diploma in Engineering
Level 3 BTEC Extended Diploma in Mechanical Engineering
Level 3 BTEC Sub Diploma in Engineering – British Airways Pre-Apprenticeship
Level 3 BTEC Extended Diploma in Electrical / Electronic Engineering

All available at Uxbridge College
They all require 5 GCSEs grade C including English, Maths, Science and possibly Design Technology
All (apart from the Sub Diploma) are 3 A level equivalent

Motor Vehicle Body Repair Certificate
Motorcycle IMI Level 1 Certificate and Level 2 Certificate
Motor Vehicle Engineering IMI National Diploma with Motorsport Option

All these are available at Langley College
Entry requirements range from none for the Level 1 Motorcycle course to 3 GCSE C grades including Maths, English and Science for the National Diploma course

There are also Level 3 BTEC courses in Travel and Tourism, Sport and Exercise Science, Sport Performance and Excellence, Public Services

Available at Reading, Henley, Langley Colleges and BCA

BCA also offers:

  • Level 3 Extended Diploma in Animal Management
  • Level 3 Extended Diploma in Aboriculture
  • Level 3 Extended Diploma in Countryside
  • Level 3 Extended Diploma in Horticulture
  • Level 3 Extended Diploma in Horse Management

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