After taking your GCSEs you might want to continue your education but fancy a change from school.
A popular option for a lot of people is to go to a sixth form college. Although it might seem a bit strange leaving school and starting somewhere new, there can be lots of advantages.
A sixth form college is a more informal environment than a school sixth form and because they are usually bigger, sixth form colleges can often offer you a wider range of study options.
You will also get to meet lots of new people and make new friends as colleges take students from different schools.
At college you will be a student, not a pupil, so with support you will be expected to manage your own time and deadlines. This will give you the opportunity to learn new skills which will come in handy at university or in the workplace.
Colleges usually have open days which you can go to. These are great opportunities to see what a college is like, find out information, meet tutors and other students, have a look around and ask lots of questions!
It’s important to think about the things you may need if you are disabled or have learning disabilities; a support teacher, for example, or specialist equipment. Many disabled students prefer attending college as this option offers more independence that can also teach you the skills you need for the workplace or university.
A lot of schools run link courses at further education colleges to let you see what college life is like by attending one or two days a week. Most further education colleges also allow you to combine learning at college with learning at home which can be useful if it’s hard for you to get to college.
If you don’t fancy staying on at school but feel that your local college cannot offer a course to suit your needs, another option is to study at a specialist college.
If you have a Statement of Special Educational Needs (SEN) this will stay with you through Year 11, into sixth form and throughout work experience and university.
If you think a SEN could benefit you, speak to your local authority and they will assess the details of your case. See the links in the ‘Who can help?’ section in this article for more information about this.
Who can help?
Take a look at the Choices in Year 11 section of this site.
It is also worth checking out the ‘It’s Your Choice’ site to get clued up on the choices you’ll have at the end of Year 11.
Speak to the college you are interested in attending. They will be able to advise you on the courses they offer and support you in choosing the best options for you. They will also be able to tell you when their next open day is. Your school should have details of all the colleges in your area. You will also see adverts for college open days in the local newspapers and at your school.
The online 14-19 prospectuses let you find out what courses and qualifications are available at schools, colleges and sixth forms nationally.
Do you know anybody who is currently at the college or who has been there? Maybe a friend or relative could help? You could talk to them to find out what the college is really like.
The Directgov website contains everything you need to know about qualifications for schools and colleges in the ‘Qualifications explained’ section.
If you are a disabled student, the ‘Special educational needs: statements’ section of the Directgov website explains exactly how you go about getting assessed for a Statement of Special Educational Needs (SEN).
The ‘Education and learning for disabled people’ section of the Directgov site also contains details of what schools must do by law to increase their accessibility.
For guidance on the careers available to you after sixth form, visit the Connexions Direct jobs4u careers database.
Check out the ‘Which way now?’ website for more information about what and how you can study.
There is a publication called ‘Parents & Carers: Guide to options 14-19’, which is available to help parents and carers understand the choices ahead and how they can support you in these key decisions. If your parents or carers have not received a copy, ask your school or order a free copy from: Publications, PO Box 5050, Sherwood, Nottingham NG15 0DJ. Telephone: 0845 602 2260. Check out the interactive version online at: www.connexions-direct.com/parentcarer.