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03. Choices at 16

Young people legally have to stay in education or employment with training up until the age of eighteen. Year eleven have various options they can choose to focus on until they are eighteen years old. 

Their options are: 

  • Sixth form (mostly academic courses with some vocational courses)
  • College (mostly vocational courses with some academic)
  • Apprenticeship (vocational training)
  • T-level (vocational training)
  • The Armed Services (Army, Navy or RAF)

To find out more information about the following, please look through the information below and visit the following websites, or make an appointment to see our impartial careers' adviser. Email Mr Perraton to make an appointment 

Sixth forms 

Most sixth forms around us focus on academic qualifications (A-levels) and some vocational courses (or BTEC's). Remember that more academic courses focus on subjects that involve mostly exams, compared to a vocational qualification that does not. Be mindful that some subjects offered within a sixth form are not studied lower down the school, such as psychology and sociology. It's worth finding out more information about these subjects before applying for them. Attending sixth form open evenings (usually around November time) are very important. These evenings will give you more information about the courses you may be interested. 

A sixth form student will typically study three (or four) different courses. If they have not gained a 4 in maths or English, then they will have to attend extra lessons in this to achieve a 4 or above. As a general rule, sixth forms ask for 5 GCSE grades of grade 5 or above, although other sixth forms ask for different grades. Remember that some subjects might ask for different GCSE qualifications, like physics and maths who might ask for a 7 in a specific GCSE. It is worth looking at all the different sixth forms around us, starting with what our sixth form offers and then looking at Clarendon, St. Augustine's and St Laurence. Why not look even further afield and see what sixth forms offer in Bath. Always keep your options open and shop around. 


College courses will focus more on vocational courses, with only a few more academic ones. Around Trowbridge, these courses are going to be BTEC courses. A BTEC course is a vocational course. A vocational course is just one course that focuses and prepares you for a specific job. It gives you the required skills you need to work in a specific area. So, if someone wanted to become a plumber or an electrician they would need to focus on a vocational course at college (unless they wanted to work towards an apprenticeship or T-level). Remember that there are three levels of courses, which would be the same level as someone who is in a sixth form studying three A-levels. 

As with a sixth form, it is important to check out when the open evenings are for college. Shop around and look at the websites for Bath College, Wiltshire College and Swindon College to see if there are possible courses that you are interested in. If you have not achieved a 4 in English and maths, then you may well have to study these qualifications again.  There are level one, two and three courses at college. A level one course is for someone who has achieved 1's and 2's in their GCSE's, a level two course is for someone with mostly 2's and 3's and a level three course is for someone with mostly 4's and above. it is important that you choose the right level for you. Someone who decides to go to college can still go to university in the same way that someone who studies at a sixth form can. 

T-levels and apprenticeships 

Both of these courses are vocational courses. They prepare you for a specific job or career. A T-level (the 'T' stands for technical) is one of the newest qualifications that a young person can follow. They are designed specifically for 16-19 year olds, and employers and businesses have designed these courses to get someone ready for industry. Some of your time will be in college learning the skills needed for your chosen level and the rest of your time will be spent with an employer putting the skills you have learnt in college into practice. Someone can study a T-level and gain UCAS points (points for university), whereas an apprenticeship has no UCAS points attached to it. 

An apprenticeship is very similar to a T-level, although anyone of any age can do an apprenticeship. There are three levels of apprenticeships. An intermediate apprenticeship is for someone with 1's, 2's and 3's for their GCSE results, an advanced apprenticeship is a level three course (the same as three A-levels or a level three BETC course) for someone with 4's and above for their GCSE's. A higher apprenticeship is the same level as a degree. So, someone who wishes to follow this route can still study the same level of course as someone who chooses an A-level route to university. Someone who studies an apprenticeship does get paid whilst they earn. This is something that does not happen at college or a sixth form. You are literally earning whilst you are learning. Although it is easier to get onto a degree course with a T-level (due to the UCAS points), someone can still decide to go to university after studying for an apprenticeship. It is worth checking this with specific universities just to make sure, as some might not accept an apprenticeship. 

Armed services 

Deciding to join the armed services is a big decision to make at any age, let alone someone who is sixteen years old. The armed services are made up of the Army (land), Navy (sea) and RAF (air). The armed services are not just involved in conflicts, but also offer humanitarian support for countries around the world and spend time involved in peacekeeping. However, being in an actual conflict is a real-life possibility. Someone can decide to join the armed services at 16/17 years old, depending on which part of the armed services you are interested in. At this age a young person will need their parents' consent for this. At the age of eighteen you do not. 

Joining the armed services involves moving away from home for extended periods of time and taking part in extensive training. Someone who wants to 'join up' needs to be physically fit and ready for the demands that this sort of career choice entails. Take a look at the links below for the armed services, or contact Mr Perraton who can put you in touch with a careers' officer from the Amy, Navy or RAF. 

Need more help? 

Take a look through the following websites below. If you need more general careers advice, then carry out some research on Careerpilot ( or Start Profile (, or visit the other websites included here. These two sites include a lot more information on post-16 choices as well as a range of careers for you to look through. It is important to remember that everyone has the right to a careers interview, so you must make sure you email Mr Perraton to ask for help. 

Bath college website:

Wiltshire College: 

Apprenticeship help: 


Army careers:

RAF careers:

Navy careers:

Take a look at our sixth form area on the website as well.