Your young person is now in Year 11 and preparing for their GCSEs. Although these are changing times, now is the time to prepare for post 16 choices if you have not started already.
We hope that this brief guide will help you and your young person.
Note: your situation may vary slightly, depending on the school your child attends.
Current Year 11 students will be applying for courses in schools and colleges across Kent either using an application portal called Kentchoices (from the end of October – see links below) or via direct application to their school, college or training provider of choice.
If applying outside of Kent, students will need to either apply with a direct application to their chosen provider or using that county’s or borough’s online application portal (if available).
A few schools have internal application processes which allow students to apply to their current school on a paper application form.
Each school and college have their own deadlines for applications, so be sure to find out when these are by speaking to each school and college your son or daughter is interested in applying to at open days.
From early October, many schools and colleges usually hold open days aimed at Year 11 students, to show what courses they have available and to allow students and parents/carers a chance to look around.
It is advisable to explore the social media content of schools and colleges on popular platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to see what additional information schools and colleges are providing, as well as reviews by former students.
Some colleges already have virtual tours available on YouTube, with 360-degree visuals on their websites and embedded in their course pages (here are some examples below):
Aim to attend as many open days as possible at the schools/colleges you are interested in.
Remember some schools and colleges also provide residential or boarding opportunities which may incur additional costs. However, these costs can sometime be covered by scholarship and/or financial packages of support (contact each school for details).
It is important to do your research; there are a few important questions you can ask:
Schools and colleges start interviewing students from January onwards, with some running a first-come, first-served process. When they are full, some start a ‘waiting list’. It is for this reason that an early application is vital once your young person knows what they wish to study.
Some courses are more popular than others, so getting in early can be vital!
The level of course they can apply for will vary depending on the grades they are predicted by their teachers.
Courses at post 16 vary significantly in depth and breadth, with options available for students with complex SEND requirements, for those with no qualifications (or very few) all the way through to courses for students who are predicted to gain grades 4 or higher at GCSE.
Some courses are very practical and others more exam based; there really is something for everyone!
KCC has a statutory duty to track the destinations of all young people at ages 16 and 17 during the two academic years of Year 12 and Year 13. This data is used to target resources and provide additional coordinated support to the most vulnerable young people, through the Early Help and Preventative Services, Virtual School Kent and the Care Leavers Service.
You may have heard of this referred to as the September Guarantee. For this reason, you may receive literature or be contacted during the school year with regards this. Part of this is to make sure young people are engaged in education, employment or training to meet the Raising Participation Age and to make sure your son or daughter is OK next year.
Young people can apply to as many places as they like (whilst they are figuring out what they wish to do) and can keep all of their offers of places open until the day they enrol in September (they do not have to specify their final choice until they have received their GCSE results).
If they are worried, stuck or confused about the future, it may be helpful for them to attend a careers guidance interview.
CXK have a team of dedicated and highly trained independent careers advisers who deliver these services at many schools across Kent. Our advisers are qualified to level 6 (the same as teachers). As well as providing support to schools we also provide a private service to parents, carers and their children which you can find here: CXK Services: Careers Information, Advice and Guidance for your Young Person.
If you are unable to access independent IAG, some colleges provide free access to their own careers advisers and information services (although not all are level 6 qualified).
Alternatively, the National Careers Service for teenagers can also be accessed for free on social media and by telephone: Careers helpline for teenagers – GOV.UK.
If you son or daughter is looking to study art, design, photography, media or illustration you may find they will need to put together a portfolio of work (including sketchbooks for some courses). The depth and breadth each school or college looks for varies but often they look to see a combination of work which has been completed at school and home which evidences their enthusiasm and initial ability.
If looking to apply for performing arts, music, dance or acting, an audition piece may need to be prepared. If applying for private study elsewhere this website may be useful: Dance and Drama Awards: funding for students – GOV.UK.
Schools and Colleges aren’t looking for “finished artists, designers or actors”, they are looking for potential, so keep this in mind when applying.
If you are interested in the arts but haven’t studied these at GCSE you can still apply for a lower level course and work your way up.
It is advisable that students apply to more than one place for several reasons. If they don’t achieve the grades they need for their first choice, it is useful for them to have a second option with lower entry criteria.
If they are also unsure of their final choice and wish to keep their options open until results day, a variety of applications can be very desirable (so as not to put all their eggs in one basket).
Be mindful that courses can sometimes change at the last minute in schools or colleges, so as a rule of thumb have at least two applications made where possible, unless there are circumstances which affect doing this – for example, if your son or daughter has a special education needs or disabilities (SEND) requirement and needs to focus on making a supported transition to just one school or college.
If you son or daughter has SEND requirements (with or without an EHCP) it is advisable to discuss supported transitions with your SENCO and the school or college you are applying to. Some have the capacity to offer support whereas others have less.
Speak to your school about the support you can access this autumn as getting support in place can take longer than expected in some cases.
In addition, you can access support from the SEND team at KCC:
There are also supported apprenticeships available for students with SEND, called Supported Employment. The team at: Specialist Employment – The Education People can help you explore this as an option.
A variety of help is available:
If circumstances provide you with greater worries, it is important that you speak to the school or college you are applying to, as some have hardship funds you can access through them as well as staff trained in financial support.
School or college is not the only option for young people. Some young people may wish to consider a traineeship, apprenticeship or study programme, these are alternatives to the traditional school or college options.
Apprenticeships must now include a guarantee of work when they are completed.
Applications for each of these differ to the school or college process as follows:
There is a wide range so search carefully. Applications can be made through this website and it is possible to arrange to visit each provider before starting. Although many will not have set open days, most are happy for students, parents and carers to visit. Due to their nature, some have very limited places (only taking about twelve to fourteen young people on a programme).
With regards to apprenticeships there are many helpful and useful websites, with some being sector specific. Speak to your careers adviser in school to access the sites you need for the occupational area(s) which interest you. Websites for applications include:
Apprenticeship vacancy listings will be open all year round, but for Year 11 students the applications with a September often start from around March onwards. Places are hard to find and competitive, so if taking this route make sure you also have a backup in place!
Many apprenticeships are found through networks (as opposed to just the vacancy sites above). It is important for young people and their families to develop their networks and relationships with local employers, as this increases the chances of them finding an apprenticeship. This can be via work experience with local employers or even speaking to friends and family.
If help is needed in developing a strategy to do this (such as how to write a CV or approach employers), students should speak to their independent careers adviser in school who will be able to support them with this.
Sometimes, students decide to undertake Post 16 study at school, college or a study programme/traineeship first, as this can help build their confidence, before applying for an apprenticeship when they are older.
Results day in August 2021 will come round very quickly! It is important that your son or daughter accesses as much help as they can beforehand. Some schools will start extra revision lessons in January 2020 and have teachers available to help; speak to your school to find out what opportunities for extra study are available as soon as you can.
Results day can be a mixture of emotions, depending on what has happened. If all has gone well, there will be no drama and just an enjoyable day.
If your son or daughter starts a course at school or college, many offer a two to six week window at the start of term where they can change their mind about what they are studying (if they are having second thoughts) and switch to a different course (subject to places being available). Speak to your school or college about this at the time, if needed.
If you find that your son or daughter hasn’t received the grades they need for their course (and haven’t got a back-up in place) the first thing to do is to speak to the school or college they applied to and see if they can help.
If not, you will need to start contacting local schools and colleges to see what is available with the grades they have. Choices at this stage can be very limited, but some colleges and schools lay on support services to help at this time, as does CXK.
Keep this in mind and consider having back-ups in place!
If on results day your son or daughter is stuck, they will need to speak to a qualified and independent careers adviser as soon as possible; contact us at CXK if you need this support or the National Careers Service exam helpline.
All of this may feel a little daunting, but our careers advisers in schools as well as our colleagues at the National Careers Service helpline for teenagers are here to support you if you have any questions or queries.
We wish everyone the best of luck with their GCSEs and future!
Written by Chris Targett RCDP, Careers Adviser
CXK provides confidential and impartial careers information, advice and guidance to help you make decisions on learning, training and work opportunities. If you’re a young person looking for support, or a parent looking for careers advice for your young person, visit our Careers Advice for Young People page.
The National Careers Service provides free, up to date, impartial information, advice and guidance on careers, skills and the labour market in England to anyone aged 13 and upwards. To speak to a National Careers Service adviser, call 0800 100 900 or use our webchat (8am to 10pm, 7 days a week)