Year 11 Careers Information & Advice: A Parent’s Guide to Post 16 Options

28th September 2018

It may feel that you aren’t sure what is happening with regards post 16 options choices for your son or daughter or you may be very informed. Our intention is to fill in some of the blank spaces or confirm what you already know (so you can sleep easier at night).

A word of warning: Your situation may vary slightly, depending on the school your son or daughter attends.


Year 11 students will be applying for courses in schools and colleges across Kent using a website called

It is a site which links to the main KCC website that has useful information guides such as:

The actual mechanics of the Kentchoices4u application process, which lists the available courses, is run by UCAS (who you may have heard of in relation to University applications).

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 December.

Each school and college will have their own deadlines for applications, so be sure to find out what these are by speaking to each school and 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.

Open Days

From around October, many schools and colleges will 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.

Open day details can be found at:

It is advisable to attend as many open days as possible at the schools/colleges you are interested in. Whilst there, it is important to do your research. Check the facilities and ask what equipment you may need to purchase (if looking to take a specialist course such as mechanics or catering) and whether the college or school can help with the cost of these.

It is also advisable to look at progression and drop-out rates as well as how much support is available and how far you may have to travel.

You may find this website useful for your research:

If you can, 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 and behaviour as well as how they assess progress.


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 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 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 and higher at GCSE. Some courses are very practical and others more exam based; there really is something for everyone!

Kent County Council (KCC)

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.

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[i] and to make sure your son or daughter is OK next year.

Importantly, young people can apply to as many places as they like and can keep all of their offers of places open equally, until the day they enrol in September (they do not have to specify their final choice until they have received their GCSE results).

Worried or confused?

If your son or daughter is worried, stuck or confused about the future, it may be helpful for them to attend a careers interview. Schools in England have a statutory duty to provide access to independent, impartial information, advice and guidance (IAG), from a fully qualified, level 6 careers adviser[ii].  Ask at your son or daughter’s school how you can access these services.

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, careers and their children which you can find here:

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 telephone:

Art Subjects

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:

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 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 until results day, a variety of applications can also be desirable.

However, 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 the grades they need on results day. In this case, your son or daughter would only need to apply for the level 2.

However if they didn’t, they may need to apply for a level 1 course at another college or training centre as a back-up, just in case.

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[iii]) 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. 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.

Financial Help

A variety of help is available to you:

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.

Results Day

Results day in August 2019 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 Maths and English lessons in January 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.

Careers guidance services vary from school to school; some will provide support all year round whereas others may only be available for a few months.

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 It Goes Wrong

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 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… SEE ABOVE!), 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.

Sometimes schools and colleges will have to cut courses at the last minute if they don’t get enough students applying or if staff leave over the summer. 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. Keep this in mind and consider having back-ups in place!

If your son or daughter doesn’t gain their grades 4 or above in English and Maths GCSE, 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. Often these are in addition to their main studies.

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.

Other Options

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.

  • A study programme is a course of study from six weeks to a year which include Maths, English and often 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 further education. Students may find they take several study programmes over the course of a year, with each varying in length.
  • Traineeships can follow college, school or study programmes. Encompassing up to six months of unpaid work experience, they are seen as a stepping stone to an apprenticeship. Some providers put together a programme of support that starts with a study programme and then builds to a traineeship, followed by an apprenticeship.
  • Apprenticeships come in all shapes and sizes, with varying entry criteria (the more technical ones require 4s and above in English and Maths GCSE). Most are one day a week at a college or a training centre, with the rest of the time (four days a week) at work. Students receive a training wage[iv]. Apprenticeships must also include a guarantee of work when they are completed.

Applications for each of these differ to the school or college process.

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).

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 start really 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.

For example, if a student was interested in working in a hairdressers, finding either a Saturday job or work experience could convince an employer to take them on.

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.

If you are considering applying for an apprenticeship, study programme or looking for work experience you can find further help at:


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.

According to some experts many of us won’t know what we really want to do until we are closer to our thirties[v]. Our teenage years and twenties are often spent “trying out” and “finding out” about the things we may wish to do or be. For our children, these years are a series of transitions and transformations, as they begin to fulfil their destinies; for parents and careers this can be somewhat nerve wracking! If you find you, your son or daughter need support, please contact us at CXK and we will do what we can to help.

CXK provides a variety of support services, for people of all ages, including emotional wellbeing, careers information, advice and guidance and study programmes.

Written by Chris Targett, Careers Adviser






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