Further education options after secondary school

When you reach 16 and finish Year 11, you might feel excited, nervous, or confused about your next steps. We've put together some helpful information and resources so you can explore local options.

If you're in school, your careers advisor can help. If you're not learning in school, or you have an Education, Health and Care Plan, our Targeted Information, Advice and Guidance (TIAG) team can help. You can get in touch with them by calling (01226) 775270 or email tiag@barnsley.gov.uk.

What are my options at the end of Year 11?

When you get to age 16 and finish Year 11, there are several options open to you. All young people need to stay in learning until they're 18. These might include:

  • an apprenticeship - where you get paid to work and also study for a qualification
  • A Levels - where you focus on several subjects
  • T Levels - where you study, alongside a work placement
  • vocational qualification - including BTECs, which give you specific experience and skills
  • a job with training or volunteering and part-time work are also options open to you.

The provider is the organisation who offers your course or apprenticeship. This could be a sixth form, further education college or training provider. The best option is one that suits you, the level of qualification that you need and how you prefer to learn. You can find more details about each qualification on the National Careers Service website.

Vocational, A Levels and T Levels

Where will I study?

You'll study vocational courses, A Levels and T Levels at a further education college, sixth form or training provider. This is the organisation that provides your education. When you’ve found a course you like, check out the course details to see where it'll be based. 

There are lots of choices of where you can study depending upon your interests and whether you're thinking about a vocational course, A Levels or T Levels. Take a look at local and national providers.

What grades do I need?

There are courses available for everyone. You can start at a level that's right for you. There’s a helpful breakdown where you can learn more about what different qualifications mean on the government website.

Can I only start a course September?

College courses can start at different times throughout the year, not only in September. Different colleges and providers have different intake periods for different courses. It's important to check in the course details to find out when the course you're interested in starts.

Colleges and sixth forms start taking applications from November. This is so they can have enough time to get ready for starting the following academic year.

Some providers do have application deadlines so you will need to check with each one individually. The large colleges tend to accept applications all year until August.

Should I go to an open day?

Open days give you the chance to have a look around and get a feel for what learning would be like. You can meet staff and students while finding out about different courses and qualifications.

When do I need to apply?

Colleges and sixth forms start taking applications from November. These aren’t as scary as they sound. They usually ask for basic information like your personal details and predicted GCSE grades. They'll also ask which course you'd like to learn and why you'd like to study.

Some providers do have application deadlines so you'll need to check with each one. The large colleges tend to accept applications all year until August. It’s always worth checking with each provider if there are limited places on the course you're interested in. After you've applied, you'll receive an invitation to attend an interview.

What happens at an interview at a college or sixth form?

For many providers, this will be a chat about why you're interested in their course. Be yourself and try your best. They'll try to put you at ease as they know you'll be nervous.

I’m worried about starting my course, what support is there?

Please don’t worry. Colleges, sixth forms and training providers are used to some students finding it overwhelming or nervous. They'll do their best to support you and make arrangements that you feel comfortable with. Contact them to chat through your worries.

If you think you may need more learning support, please contact your course provider. They'll have a team that supports students. This will help to make sure you can access all the opportunities available and enjoy learning.

If you're worried about financial costs, your course provider may be able to help. They might have financial support to help cover some travel costs or course essentials. They also might make a contribution towards food allowance and childcare support. Speak to them about how to apply for financial support. This is often based on proof of household income.

How do I know when I'll start?

The college or training provider will send information about when and where you should enrol. It will include what to bring with you. Enrolling means you officially sign up for the course and become a student.

Your chosen course might offer taster days. These are a chance for you to try out the course and meet other students and the teachers. They're fun days and can help you find your way around college before starting in September.

Contact the course provider if you can’t make your enrolment date and time, so you don’t miss out on your place.


When can I start an apprenticeship?

Apprenticeships are advertised throughout the year. Find current vacancies and details on how to apply on the find an apprenticeship website.

Application tips

There can be lots of competition for an apprenticeship vacancy, so you need to make your CV and application stand out.

If you want to apply for an apprenticeship, you'll need to apply through the employer. You might need to send a CV or complete an application form. How to apply will be explained on the vacancy page on the find an apprenticeship website.

Don’t forget to research the employer when you apply for a job. This might help you to understand more about the company and the type of work you could be doing.

Also, some companies will ask you for a reference or a referee. This could be someone you know as a personal reference, but it shouldn't be a member of your family. If you've had a job or volunteered, the organisation you did this for can also provide a reference.

Check out the National Careers Service application tips

What will the interview involve?

Interviews can sound daunting, but please don’t worry. Interviewers want to hear from you about your interests. It’s always best to prepare for your interview so you can do your best.

Your interview could be in person, online, over the phone, or at an assessment day. Make sure you double-check what format your interview is in. The National Careers Service’s interview guide is a helpful resource. It explores different types of interviews, what to expect and how you can prepare.

What happens next?

If you've been successful, you may need to let your referee know that the company will contact them. The company should let you know what will happen next, such as when your start date is.  

If you were unsuccessful this time you can ask the company for feedback. This will help when you apply to another company again. Talk it through with a TIAG adviser, someone in your family or one of your friends.

Very few people are successful from the start, so try not to feel disheartened. You can contact the TIAG team to help.

How do I know when I'll start?

The apprenticeship employer will contact you with key information. They'll let you know what day you'll start, the time to arrive, where to go and who to ask for. For the qualification aspect of your apprenticeship, you might attend an enrolment session. This will take place where you're studying.