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.


Gap 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!

Work Experience.

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.

Further Education.

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;

5 = NVQ level 2
AS/A2 levels = NVQ level 3
Degree Level = NVQ level 4
Postgraduate/prodessional qualification = 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.


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