What are your choices post A level? University, gap year, work, apprenticeship and further education are the main options. What is important is that you make an informed decision and don’t drift into an unplanned future. The summer break between AS and A2 is an ideal time to investigate these choices. Don’t be tempted to spend the whole summer just earning money. Future employers and universities will want to see that you have developed personally, not just financially.
Perhaps you are thinking that university isn’t for you; perhaps no one in your family has ever been to university or perhaps you’re worried about paying the fees. It is important to research the alternatives, the cost and weigh up the benefits We have a partnership agreement with Newcastle University which may ease access into HE. More details will be given during the year.
This does not have to be taken at age 18! You need to research attitudes to gap years at your prospective university; in some departments (mostly mathematics and sciences), gap years at 18 are frowned upon as academic staff think it takes too long for students to return to an effective learning routine. Others think the gap year experience is of benefit to a student’s maturity and commitment level. All expect to see personal development, not a year spent just earning money or freewheeling at parents’ expense! Consider taking a gap year when aged 21/22 when there are more employment prospects open to you. To make the most of a gap year, it’s really important to investigate and plan so that you stay safe, (be sure to have adequate insurance) but have plenty of opportunities to develop your skills and interests. Be aware that most companies charge significant sums of money to organise this experience for you. What some companies offer amounts to little more than an expensive holiday, whilst others offer worthwhile character forming experiences; do your research. You would be showing a greater level of initiative by travelling/working independently and clearly this is a cheaper option. Further information can be obtained from the gap year notice board in the sixth form common room, from information in S6, and from staff. For a taste of what’s available in this country, contact Community Projects Carlisle (01228 595566), or the Volunteer Coordinators, Penrith (01768 242391). For general information, see www.gap.org.uk and two well-known companies are www.teachingabroad.co.uk and www.aventure.co.uk If you intend to take a gap year after A2 levels, think about when to apply for university. The main advantage of applying in the autumn of your A2 year, along with everyone else, and making a deferred entry, is that the entire form filling process is completed whilst you have access to advice and support from school staff. If you delay your application, the advantage is that you will have your A2 results and should get a quicker response from the universities.
Local employers can offer opportunities, some with training attached, which can lead to further qualifications, some as high as degree level. Information on this and apprenticeships can be accessed through the school’s Careers Officer. If this option is of interest to you, be proactive; read the local and national press. Write to local employers to express your interest, as some companies don’t advertise opportunities. You will need to compile a high quality c.v. (curriculum vitae) in support of your application letters. Look at the advice given to university applicants who have to write a personal statement, as some of this could be useful for a c.v. There are some useful examples of a c.v. on www.bbc.co.uk and further help is available from the school’s Careers Officer. Most apprenticeships are offered through the training provider (often a local college or training organisation, such as the Construction Training Board or CITB), rather than an employer. There may be entry tests and there are strict deadlines for applications and tests. Make sure you research this thoroughly!
To set up any work experience, you need to contact the school’s Careers Officer before agreeing to any undertaking, as there may be legal implications and a risk assessment to complete.
This is any education offered post 16 and which is not normally of degree level. However, some courses may give you access to Foundation Degrees and Higher National Diplomas (HNDs). It is a complex area, and is changing rapidly, so at an early stage, contact the Careers Officer. For example, Newton Rigg and Kendal College offer a range of courses from basic literacy up to degree level. Predominantly, F.E. courses are vocational and the following areas are usually available; Health and Social Care, Child Care, Catering, Hairdressing and Beauty Therapy, Motor Vehicles, Construction, IT, Engineering, Art and Design and Travel and Tourism. Remember to research your area of interest as different colleges have different courses on offer. You should always try to gain entry to a higher-level qualification so you are progressing, (though this is not always possible because of the vocational nature of these courses). The equivalent levels are as follows;
NVQ level 2
NVQ level 3
NVQ level 4
NVQ level 5
Nursing can be accessed at GCSE level, post A level and at degree level through UCAS. Applications to the Armed Forces cannot be made through UCAS. You may be able to obtain funding for training with the forces; check with them directly. Instead of starting a 3 year Art degree course (applied for through UCAS in the usual way), those interested in Art can undertake a Foundation Degree after A2 level before applying to university. See www.ucas.co.uk and follow the links to Foundation degrees. There are different deadlines for each approach. You can of course, complete a full degree after the Foundation course.
In terms of finance, you should be aware of the following;
- If you start a Further Education course before the age of 19, it is free providing it is full time (involving a minimum of 450 hours of study per year). After the age of 19, fees will be charged.
- Student loans are not available for F.E. students unless studying on a degree course.
- Foundation Art courses are still regarded as F.E. No maintenance allowance is available for this type of course so must be started before the age of 19 to avoid tuition fees. The main advice is to research your area of interest, as the choices available to you are huge.