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How Do I Prepare For The Next Stage Of My Child's Education? - KS4

After Key Stage 4, compulsory education ends. Your child can now leave school. There are a number of big decisions to be made.

Your child might want to start work or become self-employed and will need your support, encouragement and guidance and, probably, financial help if he/she also wants to leave home.

Going into full-time work, though, doesn't have to be the end of your child's learning. He/she may still want to take work-related qualifications while he/she works and earns a living. If he/she has done a Young Apprenticeship, your child may want to continue into a full Apprenticeship. Please be aware that from 2015 it will be compulsory for your child to continue in education or training until the age of 18. This does not have to take place in a school and can be work-based so young people will still have a number of directions to choose from.

If your child is not happy with the results of his/her examinations, he/she may wish to re-take them. Confidential advice is available to him/her from the DCSF national results telephone helpline on 0808 100 8000.

If your child does want to continue his/her studies, then there may be financial help available to him/her through the Education Maintenance Allowance. He/she might be able to get up to £30 a week to help with books, travel, equipment, etc. You can find out more at

Students who want to continue their education can sit a number of different examinations. They might want to stay in their current school's ‘sixth form', move to another sixth form or go on to a dedicated sixth-form college. Further education and sixth-form colleges are registered with and inspected by OFSTED. Reports can be found on the OFSTED website. Most colleges have open days for prospective students or trainees and you and your child will be able to talk to current students and staff.

You can help your child to explore the possibilities that are available through the national Aimhigher scheme which gives advice to students and families.

There are a range of qualifications that students can work towards:

Students can combine AS (advanced subsidiary) levels with A levels and vocational A levels. The AS level has 3 units, can lead to a full A level if a student wishes and forms the first half of an A level. AS levels normally take 1 year of study to complete. Many students concentrate on 3 or 4 subjects at A level. A levels have 6 units and are normally taken after AS level. They usually take another year.

Vocational A levels and Advanced Vocational Certificates of Education (AVCEs) are designed to teach job-related skills that a young person will need in the workplace. They are usually related to areas such as engineering, hospitality and catering, leisure and tourism, etc.

Some schools and colleges offer the International Baccalaureate Diploma, an internationally recognised qualification. It is a comprehensive 2-year curriculum aimed at highly-motivated students aged 16 to 19.

National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) relate to the world of work and test whether a student can carry out the skills needed in a job. They are usually taken while the student is working. They don't normally have to be taken within a specific time period. There are NVQs for most areas of work from beauty therapy, childcare or policing to accounting, environmental conservation or health and social care.

Edexcel BTEC qualifications are also work related and nationally recognised. They can provide an introduction to an area of work such as retail or administration or they relate to a specific job such as floristry or journalism. The First Certificate (part-time study) and First Diploma (full-time study) take 1 year. The National Certificate (part-time study) and National Diploma (full-time study) take 2 years. The Higher National Certificate (HNC) and Higher National Diploma (HND) are usually taken after the age of 18.

City & Guilds qualifications are work related and nationally recognised. They can be taken in areas such as ICT, journalism and radio, sport, fashion, occupational health, etc.

All the options can be discussed with your child's teachers, careers adviser or Connexions Direct adviser before he/she leaves school.

If your child can't yet decide between work and further study, one possibility might be voluntary work, maybe overseas. You can find more information at or

Your child might not yet know exactly what he/she wants to do. You will need to explore the options together. There are a number of sources of information available. Whatever your son or daughter decides it is likely that he/she will benefit from your continued support and guidance in the future.