There are many post-16 options for young people, so it’s good to find out about as many opportunities as possible before you choose your next steps after your compulsory school education. Don’t panic though! Many people change their minds! Here are some options for you to consider.
Choosing a post-16 course at college or sixth form
Colleges, sixth forms and various other post-16 providers, such as academies, offer a range of courses, ranging from Entry or Gateway level courses up to Level 3 (A Level) courses. Each college will explain the criteria for joining their courses. You will usually need at least 4 or 5 GCSE grades at grade 4 or above to do A level courses and some colleges will have additional criteria, so it’s important to read the college prospectus and make sure you meet the course eligibility criteria before applying.
‘Conditional’ and ‘unconditional’ offers
Usually, you will be invited to an interview in the spring or summer term before you start your September college course and many colleges will offer you a ‘conditional’ place. This means that you will have a place on the course you have applied for if you get the required exam grades. If the college or sixth form you have applied to you offers you an ‘unconditional’ place, that means that you definitely have a place on this course if you choose to accept it.
What if you don’t get the right GCSE grades?
When you plan to go to college, it’s always best to have a Plan B (i.e. think about what else you could do if you don’t get the exam grades you need for your first choice of course, or if something else changes in your personal circumstances). Most colleges will try to offer you an alternative if they have a suitable option for you (e.g. students who originally planned to take a Level 2 qualification but do not get the right GCSE grades are often offered a place on a Level 1 course first). Don’t worry if you don’t get your target exam grades, as there is likely to be an option to retake (especially English and Maths) at college.
Funding for post-16 courses.
Colleges who offer 16-19 courses fully funded courses receive annual funding allocations from the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) for the provision of 16 to 19 education. Usually, if you have lived in the UK since birth, you will automatically qualify for your first fully funded 16-19 course. If you are not sure if you meet the criteria for a funded course, you should discuss this with your college at your interview. You can read more about ESFA funding here.
Enrolment: starting your post-16 course
Post-16 education is different to compulsory school education. When you were under 16, your school would automatically include you in the next year’s course, i.e. you didn’t have to apply to move from one year to the next. However, you do have to apply for a post-16 course and (as explained above) then you have an interview and if you are offered a place, this will be either ‘conditional’ or ‘unconditional’.
Once you have accepted a place on a post-16 course, you still need to enrol when it starts. Enrolment usually involves filling in a form on the first day of term (or you may be asked to do this online before your course starts). This is when you confirm your contact details and you will be asked to give other relevant personal details (e.g. information – if you are happy to share it- about any additional support needs you may have). Once you have enrolled on your course, the college receives funding from the government.
When you complete your enrolment form, there is a usually an option to say whether or not you would like your parent/s to be copied into correspondence when the college contacts you. Unless there is an emergency, your college will not usually contact your parent/s unless you have asked them to when you enrol.
What if I change my mind?
Many young people apply to (and accept a place at) more than one post-16 college or sixth form. However, you can obviously only physically attend one course. Even it were physically possible to attend two courses, the government will only pay for one, so you need to make a decision and stick to it. If you have accepted a place on more than one course, it’s really helpful to the college that you don’t want to attend if you tell them as soon as possible, so that they can offer your place to someone else. The course you enrol on is the one you need to attend (see Enrolment, above).
If, after a few days of doing the course, you realise that it’s not the right course for you, it’s really important to talk to your college tutors about this immediately. It may be possible to change course if there’s a viable alternative (i.e. if you meet the alternative course criteria) with a space and if you request this right at the beginning of your course. However, there is no guarantee that the college will allow you to change courses and certainly after a few weeks it will usually be too late to ask for a change of course.
The Access to Work Grant is a government fund that can support you if you have a physical or mental health condition or a disability. It can help you get work (e.g. if you already have an interview and need help to communicate during the interview) or to stay in work. (e.g. if you need someone to help you whilst you are at work). The support you may get depends on your needs.
Through Access to Work, you can apply for:
- a grant to help pay for practical support with your work
- support with managing your mental health at work
- money to pay for communication support at job interviews
Access to Work could give you a grant to help pay for things like:
- BSL interpreters, lip speakers or note takers
- adaptations to your vehicle so you can get to work
- taxi fares to work or a support worker if you cannot use public transport
- a support worker or job coach to help you in your workplace
- mental health support to help you stay in work
Your workplace includes your where you live, if you work from home some or all of the time. If you get an Access to Work grant, it is not based on how much you earn, it will not affect any other benefits you get and you will not have to pay it back. However, you or your employer may need to pay some costs up front and claim them back later.
How To Apply for Access to Work Grant
What is an Apprencticeship?
An apprenticeship is a job where you will:
- earn a wage and get holiday pay
- work alongside experienced staff
- gain job-specific skills
- train for a specific period of time
- get time for training and study related to your role
The training might be at your place of work, a college, a training provider or online.
Who can do an Apprenticeship?
To apply for an apprenticeship, you will need to:
- be aged 16 or over (you can apply for an apprenticeship while you’re still at school
- live in England
- not be in full-time education
What help is available to young people who have SEN and want to do an apprenticeship?
How do I find out about apprenticeships in my area?
This link tells you more about apprenticeships. It explains how to create an account if you want to search for apprenticeships in your area and other useful information, like how to apply for an apprenticeship and what to expect if you attend an interview.
There is a wide range of disability-related financial support, including benefits, tax credits, payments, grants and concessions. Below is some general information about the types of benefits available. However, SENDIAS is not a benefits expert, so do get some advice if you think you may qualify for a benefit and/or if you need help applying for a benefit.
Some local charities such as Reaching Families and Possability People may have a trained expert who can give advice about applying for benefits, so you may wish to contact them for further information. Please note, however, that we cannot guarantee if, how or how soon other organisations may be able to help you.
Examples of benefits include:
- Access to Work Grant (see above)
- Attendance Allowance
- Constant attendance allowance
- ‘New style’ Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
- Industrial injuries benefit
- Personal Independence Payment (PIP) or Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
- Universal Credit
Vehicles and Transport
If you have a disability, you may be entitled to one or more of the following:
- exemption from paying vehicle tax
- parking benefits – Blue Badge
- disabled persons bus pass or Disabled Persons Railcard
- help to buy or lease a car from The Motability Scheme
Help at home
If you have a disability, and if you need help at home so that you can live independently, you may be entitled to help to find and/or pay for your someone to support you. You can read the links below about Direct Payments and Disabled Facilities Grants and/or you may wish to read our separate page on health and social care for more information on getting a social care assessment.
- Direct payments – allowing you to buy in and arrange help yourself instead of getting it directly from social services
- Disabled Facilities Grants – which is money towards the costs of home adaptations to enable you to continue living there
If you are on a low income
You may be eligible for Universal Credit and could get help with housing costs.If not, you can check to see if you’re eligible for Housing Benefit and/or Council Tax Reduction from your local council.
Help if you’re employed
- special equipment, adaptations or support worker services to help you do things like answer the phone or go to meetings
- help getting to and from work
- mental health support
- communication support at a job interview (for example, a British Sign Language interpreter or a lipspeaker)
You can read more about the Access to Work Grant in our separate section (above).
VAT relief on certain goods and services
If you are disabled or have a long term illness, you do not have to pay VAT on certain goods and services if they are just for your own use.
The National Careers Service website provides information and advice to help you to choose your next step. This might be work, volunteering, study or a combination of all 3. In addition to general careers advice, there is an option to speak to a careers advisor and you can choose to chat on the phone, online or by post.
In addition to the above National Careers Service, there are also local careers advisors. Each school or college will have access to careers advice; if you do not know who your careers advisor is, look on your school or college website or ask one of your tutors how you can book an appointment with a careers advisor. You can choose whether your parent/carer meets the careers advisor with you.
In addition to general careers advice, some careers advisors offer specific advice for young people with additional needs. For example, some careers advisors have specialised training to advise those who are NEET (not in education, employment or training). If you have an Education, Health and Care Plan you will receive personalised careers advice.
There are many recruitment agencies and job search engines that specialise in helping people to find work by matching your interests and experience to current job vacancies. Some of these are run by private organisations and some are on local government websites. You can search for local governments jobs here.
When you apply for a job, most employers either ask to see a copy of your CV (curriculum vitae – this is a summary of your qualifications, work experience and skills) or they will ask you to fill in an online application form. If you need help with writing a CV or finding a job, you can speak to a careers advisor for advice on how to find and apply for the right job for you (see Careers Advice above).
Or if you are aged between 18 and 24 years old and you had a job but you are no longer working, you can contact Job Centre Plus for guidance. Job Centre Plus has specialist advisors for young people, lone parents and people with a health condition or disability. They will give you a trained Work Coach who can help you to find work or to gain new skills for a job. A Work Coach can help you with work preparation, recruitment, interview coaching and even help you with confidence building.
If you want to contact your nearest Job Centre Plus office, you can find their details using the local office search. The Job Centre Plus also have a ‘Find a job’ service (previously Universal Jobmatch).
National Insurance Number
National Insurance is a type of tax that the government uses to pay for things like the state pension and other types of benefits (see Benefits above). Everyone living in England who is over 16 years of age has a NI (National Insurance) Number. You will use this number throughout your working life and in retirement, either to give to your employer or to use on tax returns if you are self-employed. Other people may ask for your NI number, as a proof of your entitlement and identity for things like applying for a bank account.
Your employer deducts National Insurance from your wages if you earn more than a certain amount per week from one job. If you are self-employed you pay your National Insurance directly to the government.
Get a National Insurance number
Funding, bursaries, grants and student loans.
You can find out more about funding, bursaries, grants, student loans and other types of financial support on our Help and School and College page.
You can also read about Access to Work Grants and different types of government benefits and disability-related financial support on this page (above).
Below are some other links about money:
GoHenry is a private organisation that introduced a debit card for children and teenagers. It is a plastic card or app on your phone, linked to an account, and it works like a simple bank account. You or your parent/carer adds money to the account and you can use the card or app to spend the money in your account. It is a safe alternative to cash because if you lose the card, it can be replaced, whereas if you lose cash, it’s lost!
A debit card is different from a credit card, which is available only to people over 18 years of age. a credit card is a type of loan. GoHenry has all the tools you need to feel safe and secure as you learn about money. You can tap to purchase with Apple Pay (13+) and if you have a part-ime job, you can have wages paid straight to your account. It allows young people to spend securely online and it gives them a choice of special offers from shops who offer discounts to GoHenry users.
Other organisations offer similar accounts to the GoHenry card, so shop around before you decide which one to use. For example, if you already have a savings account with a bank or building society, they may be able to offer you a similar card and app
There are many different types of bank account (savings accounts, current accounts, student accounts to name but a few!). Many people find Money Saving Expert or similar websites helpful in chooses the right account.
Make sure you read the terms and conditions before you sign up to any kind of account, as some have monthly fees and some do not allow you to access your money straight away. Remember that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is!
Financial Capability: What is it and why is it important?
Financial capability gives you the power and the confidence to make the most of your money. It means the ability to manage your money well. This means making financial decisions about what to spend now and in the future and being able to cope with unexpected expenses. both day-to-day and through significant life events.
Things like moving home, learning to drive or buying a car can be very expensive and just coping with day to day expenses can also be challenging if you’re not used to managing your own money. If you can get into the habit of saving some of your money, however little, on a regular basis, this will help you to cope betters when life is financially difficult.
Being financially capable is a skill for life. If you get the right advice before you make financial decisions, this can boost your confidence and help you to be more independent throughout your life. But don’t worry if you make a mistake, we all do! The important think is knowing who to ask if you’re not sure.
If you owe money or you can’t pay your bills, don’t borrow money from an unofficial source. it’s best to avoid borrowing money from friends, too, as this can cause a strain in your relationship. Click on the following links to find out more about financial capability and where you can go for *impartial financial advice.
*impartial advice is given by a person or organisation who is not directly involved and who can give you information without expressing their personal opinion
What is a Supported Internship?
A Supported Internship Programme (sometimes known as a SIP) is a structured, work-based study programme for 16 to 24-year-olds with SEND, who have an education, health and care plan (EHCP).
The core aim of a SIP is to support young people to access a work placement, with the help of a Job Coach. A Job Coach is a type of support worker who helps the young person to understand what’s expected of them in the work place. The Job Coach will demonstrate and teach the young person the skills needed to be successful in their SIP. As the young person becomes more confident, the aim is for the Job Coach to gradually withdraw their support. The hope is that, by the end of the SIP, the young person should be ready to work independently and will no longer (or rarely) need support from a Job Coach.
Will I be paid for doing a Supported Internship?
A Supported Internship provides funding for your Job Coach to be paid but a Supported Internship counts as full-time education, so it is unlikely that you would be paid during your Supported Internship. Alongside your work placement, you will attend a college or training centre to practise the skills you will need at work. You will also study English and Maths throughout your SIP. If your SIP is successful, the work placement will hopefully offer you a paid job after your SIP.
How can I apply to do a Supported Internship
Any further education college funded for 16-19 education is allowed to offer Supported Internship Programmes andSIP programmes are managed differently depending on the provider. Two local providers who have been offering SIPs for some time are Team Domenica in Brighton and SAND Project in Worthing. You can also contact your local college to see if they have a SIP programme. However, you can only apply for a Supported Internship if you already have an EHCP.
Preparing for living independently.
Going to university can be exciting and rewarding and for some people, it is a life changing experience because it may be your first experience of living independently from your family. However, it is also expensive to go to university and even if your course fees are paid for you, it is likely that you will need a student loan to help you to pay for your accommodation and daily living costs. You can read our separate section above on Funding and Money Matters for some ideas on how to get financially prepared for managing your money.
How to apply for a university place
If you apply to go to university, your application will be made through UCAS (UCAS, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, an independent charity, and the UK’s shared admissions service for higher education). You can read more about UCAS here.
Before you apply for a course at university, you should find out as much as you can about the university and the course you are thinking of attending. You may wish to speak to a careers advisor (see the section above on careers advice) to get unbiased information to help you to decide. Most students apply to UCAS stating their top 3 university courses. Make sure you have visited each of the universities listed in your UCAS application, so that you feel fully prepared if you do not get your first choice.
Help for Students with Physical or Mental Health Conditions or Learning Differences.
Most universities and colleges have disability support teams and mental health and wellbeing advisers. They provide applicants with information about support and can answer any questions you may have, even if you choose not to apply there. This advice includes how to apply for the Disabled Students’ Allowance), about academic and pastoral (lifestyle) support and facilities at that university. You will find the contact details of the student support team on each university’s website. Click here to reach UCAS information for students with additional needs.
If you had an EHCP (Education, Health and Care Plan) when you were at school or college, this will stop when you go to university. This is because EHCPs are designed for students to achieve up to Level 3 qualifications and university study is at Level 4 and above. As above, there is still lots of help available at university for young people with additional needs but it will not happen automatically. Don’t panic though, you will not be left completely on your own! You will have lots of opportunities to plan the help that you will need at university, including during the final annual review of your EHCP. Young people who qualify for an EHCP at school or college are often eligible for financial support via the Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA). You can read more about DSA and the assessment process here.
Volunteering is a good way of getting work experience, meeting new people and trying a job before deciding whether to apply for paid work. Not only does it look great on your CV, volunteering can be fun, too and it can be an excellent way of learning new skills without doing a formal training course.
There are many national and international volunteering opportunities. You can usually find out more about these on noticeboards at your school, college or university and they will often be advertised on charity websites, too. As above, you may wish to speak to a careers adviser to find the right volunteering opportunity for you, especially if you are likely to need help from someone like a job coach, if you would struggle to apply for or to do the voluntary job by yourself.
You can search for volunteering opportunities of these websites:
- Do-it website
- Volunteering Matters website for young, older and disabled volunteers
- National Association for Voluntary and Community Action website
- National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) website
- Reach Volunteering website for volunteers with specific skills – like accountancy, marketing, law, management, mentoring or IT
- NHS England volunteering website