I was talking to a good friend of mine the other week whose daughter has just entered Year 11. We were talking about the year ahead and the choices her daughter will be making. It soon became clear that although her daughter was relatively clued up; having attended careers sessions and talks, very little had been communicated to the parents and carers about what is going to happen, including deadlines and processes. This has led me to writing this article, to help parents in Kent facing a similar predicament so, here is our handy options guide…
What is going to happen in Year 11?
It may feel that you aren’t sure what is happening with regards option choices at all or you may be ahead of the curve already (if your son or daughter has an older sibling who has already recently gone through the process). Our intention is to fill in some of the blank spaces or confirm what you already know (so you can sleep easier at night).
As a word of warning, your exact situation may vary depending on the school your son or daughter attends; this is intended as a rough guide only.
Year 11 students will be applying for courses in schools and colleges across Kent using a website called www.kentchoices4u.com. It is a site which links to the main KCC website (which also has useful information guides such as: http://www.kent.gov.uk/education-and-children/college-sixth-form-employment-and-training/options-at-16-and-beyond ). The actual mechanics of the Kentchoices4u website, which lists the available courses, is run by UCAS (who you may have heard of in relation to University applications). The site also links to other parts of the country (so if you are considering moving away from Kent, this aspect is very useful).
Your son or daughter will receive a unique login code and username from KCC in the post at the end of October which will allow them to access the website and begin to search and apply for courses. If you don’t receive a copy of this, your school should also have received a duplicate copy as well. In many schools, Year 11 students will have made their initial applications for Schools and/or Colleges by the holidays this December. Some schools and colleges will also have deadlines for applications, so be mindful of finding out what these are by speaking to each school or college your son or daughter is interested in applying to.
A few schools have internal application processes which allow students to apply to their current school on a paper application form without using Kentchoices4u.
From about October, many schools and colleges will have their 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 attend as many of these as possible at the places you are interested in going to. Whilst there, it is important to do your research; check the facilities, ask what equipment you may need to purchase (if looking to take a specialist course such as mechanics or catering), look at progression and drop-out rates as well as how much support is available and how far you may have to travel.
Speak to students who already attend the school or college and talk to the teachers, as well as support staff to find out what each place is like. Ensure you find out what their school policies are on dress code, attendance as well as how they assess progress. Online review sites such as https://www.gov.uk/school-performance-tables can also be helpful.
Schools and Colleges often start interviewing students from January onwards, with some running a first come, first served process; when they are full they start a “waiting list”. It is for this reason that an early application is vital once your son or daughter knows what they wish to study. It is worth noting that there are not enough places on every course, for every student to always have their first choice… an early application reduces the chance of disappointment.
The level of course they can apply for will vary on the grades they are predicted by their teachers (which can be found in their academic overview or teaching reports). If they don’t know what they are predicted they will need to find this out from their teachers as soon as possible. Courses at Post 16 vary significantly in their 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 students predicted to gain grades 4/5 and higher at GCSE. Some courses are very practical and others more exam based; there really is something for everyone.
Kent County Council
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 Service, Virtual School Kent and the Care Leavers Service.[i]” 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 of Training to meet the Raising Participation Age[ii] and to make sure your son or daughter is placed for September.
Importantly, young people can apply to as many place as they like and can keep all of their offers of places open until the day they enrol in September 2018 (they do not have to specify their final choice until they have received their GCSE results).
Worried, stuck or confused?
If your son or daughter is worried, stuck or confused about the future, it is helpful for them to attend a careers interview. Schools in England have a statutory duty to provide access to independent, impartial careers guidance, from a qualified careers adviser[iii]. Ask at your school how you can access this if unsure.
CXK have a team of dedicated and highly trained independent careers advisers who deliver services at many schools across Kent. Our advisers are qualified to at least Level 6 (the same as teachers). If you can’t access services such as ours at your school, some colleges provide free access to careers advisers and information services (although not all are Level 6 qualified). The National Careers Service can also be accessed for free on social media and telephone: https://www.gov.uk/careers-helpline-for-teenagers.
In addition, CXK does provide private face to face interviews (subject to adviser availability) as a paid for service which young people and their parents or carers can attend. Contact details can be found on our website: https://www.cxk.org/contact-us
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, if studying a related subject, and work from home which evidences their enthusiasm and initial ability.
If looking to apply for Performing Arts, Music, Dance or Acting, an audition piece will need to be prepared for many places. If applying for private study elsewhere this website may be useful: https://www.gov.uk/dance-drama-awards.
Note: Schools and Colleges aren’t looking for “finished Artists, Designers or Actors” they are looking for potential so keep this in mind when applying.
It is advisable that students apply to more than one place for several reasons. If they may not achieve the grades they need for their first choice, it is advisable for them to have a second place with lower entry criteria. If they are unsure of their final choice and wish to keep their options open, a variety of applications can be desirable.
Note: some schools and colleges will accept students on a Level 2 programme of study and will have a Level 1 programme they can offer in September if students don’t achieve their desired grades on results day (the same is also true for some options at other levels). At interview in January, check whether this is possible, as it may affect how you apply.
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 SEND requirements, this can be an exception if they are undertaking a supported transition with their EHCP[iv] which may focus on just applying to one place (and supporting the transition through organised visits in the spring and summer).
If you son or daughter has SEND requirements but doesn’t have an EHCP, it can be 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. If in doubt, speak to your school about the support you can access, ideally in the autumn term as getting support in place can take longer than expected in some cases.
A variety of help is available to you, depending on your circumstances and where you apply. KCC provide support with travel: http://www.kent.gov.uk/about-the-council/strategies-and-policies/transport-and-highways-policies/post-16-transport-policies and there is the 16-19 Bursary: http://local.kent.gov.uk/kb5/kent/directory/service.page?id=fmG-EDPJC8w There is also support for young parents through the Care-to-learn scheme: https://www.gov.uk/care-to-learn. 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 hardships funds you can access through them.
As frightening as this is, results day in August 2018 will come round very quickly! It is so important that your son or daughter accesses as much help as they can starting now, as leaving it until after Easter to get additional study support in school can sometimes be a case of too little, too late! Some schools will start extra Maths and English lessons in January and have teachers available to help, so 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. However, things can sometimes be tricky…
If your son or daughter starts a course at School or College, many offer a 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 needing to do this.
If you find that your son or daughter hasn’t received the grades they need for their course (and hasn’t got a back-up in place), the first thing to do is to speak to the school or college they applied to. In rare circumstances they may still be able to accept them. If not, they 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 limited, but some Colleges and Schools lay on support services to help at this time.
It is worth noting that sometimes Schools and Colleges will have to cut courses at the last minute, if they don’t get enough students applying or staff leave over the summer. For example, if a school only has two students applying for History A-Level they are likely to cut it. So, even if your grades look certain and you are offered a place at your first choice of School or College there is still no guarantee your course will run, until the start of the new academic year. Keep this in mind and consider having backups in place!
If your son or daughter doesn’t gain their grades 4 or above in English and Maths GCSEs, they will find that they will be asked to re-sit these; either as Functional Skills or GCSEs – this is the same whether they attend School, College or a Study Programme (see below). Often these are in addition to their main studies or will form part of the GLH (guided learning hours) to bring them up to full time status.
If on the day, your son or daughter is really stuck, they will need to speak to a qualified and independent careers adviser as soon as possible.
Hang on, what about…
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 School or College which allow students to progress after Year 11.
A Study Programme is a course of study from six weeks to a year which include Maths, English and often an element of work experience and employability skills. Aimed mainly at students of a lower ability or those who find mainstream education a challenge, they form pathways into Apprenticeships and/or College. Students may find they take several Study Programmes over the course of a year, with each varying in length.
Traineeships can often follow College, School or Study Programmes; sometimes they are taken after GCSEs. Encompassing up to six months unpaid work experience, often they are seen as a stepping stone to an Apprenticeship. Some providers put together a programme of support that starts with a bespoke Study Programme and then builds to a Traineeship, with the end goal of gaining an Apprenticeship.
Apprenticeships come in all shapes and sizes, with varying entry criteria (the more technical Post 16 ones require 4s and above in English and Maths GCSEs). Most are one day a week at a college or a training centre, studying theory, Maths and English, with the rest of the time (four days a week) at work. Students receive a training wage[v] which, means that as a parent or carer, your benefits may be affected. Apprenticeships now include a guarantee of work when they complete.
Applications for these differ to the School or College process. Study Programmes and Traineeships for Kent can be found at https://www.readytoworkkent.co.uk/ where information including start dates and what they involve is available. 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 won’t 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).
Traineeships can also be found via: https://www.gov.uk/find-traineeship which is worth exploring during the year if interested in this option.
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. Local websites for applications include: http://www.apprenticekent.com/home and https://www.kenttrainingandapprenticeships.co.uk/. The main national site is: https://www.getingofar.gov.uk/. You will find that Apprenticeship listings will be open all year round, but for Year 11 the applications with a September start really crank up 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. For example, if a student was interested in working in a hairdressers, finding either a Saturday job or work experience over the weekends and holidays now can be vital in that employer possibly deciding to take the student on as an Apprentice following Year 11.
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 Careers Adviser in school who will be able to support them with this where possible. 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 Apprenticeships when they are 18.
All of this may feel a little daunting, but it is important to note that according to some experts many of us won’t know what we really want to do until we are closer to our thirties[vi]. Our teenage years and twenties are often spent “trying out” and “finding out” about the things we may wish to do or who we wish to become. For our children, these years are a series of transitions and transformations, as they begin to fulfil their destinies.
We are also incredibly fortunate with regards how further education is structured in England, as it is incredibly flexible. For example a student can study one subject in a training centre, college, school for a few years and then they can (if they have met the entry criteria) start an Apprenticeship in a completely different area, or a student may attend a couple of years at school, before spending a year in college[vii]. This means that young people are not stuck or trapped in silos, being forced to take one route. If there is a misplaced decision now or things don’t quite work out as expected, other doors are available, if you know what is possible.
Whatever happens for your son or daughter, all of us at CXK wish them well. I hope this article will help when things look tricky, and if help is required, please reach out.
CXK provides a variety of support services, for people of all ages, including Emotional Wellbeing, Careers Information, Advice and Guidance, Study Programmes, NEET Support and Progression: https://www.cxk.org/