bigstock-continuing education

 Once you have done your careers research and planning and you either want or need to stay in education, then there are lots of things you need to think about but the 2 main things are what to study and where to study.



GCSE grades A*- C = Level 2   –   If you achieve 4-5  GCSE grades A-C then you can progress onto a level 3 course.  Level 3 courses  =  A levels / BTEC National/Extended Diploma / NVQ level 3.

GCSE grades D/E = Level 1   –   If you achieve GCSE grades C/D then you may need to do a level 2 course. Level 2 courses =  BTEC 1st / NVQ level 2

GCSE  grades E or lower   –   you would need to do a foundation level or NVQ level 1 course.

These different levels can be confusing so it’s important to get advice at open events where you can talk to tutors, by going on the Government website or by asking to see me to help you with this.


Post-16 courses are split into either academic or vocational courses

* ACADEMIC COURSES – A levels / International Baccalaureate

A Level Reform – From September 2015 some subjects will be reformed and follow a new specification. The main difference for these subjects is that students will complete stand alone AS examination assessments at the end of year 12. Students who pass this can then continue to year 13 to complete the full A level in that subject. Students will then be assessed on all content from years 12 and 13 at the end of the 2 year A level programme of study.

Subjects that have not yet been reformed will continue to be taught with the AS programme in year 12 worth 50% and the A2 programme in year 13 worth 50% of the overall A level programme.

As every school and college will be offering different ways to study your A levels it’s very important to find out what they have on offer, their entry requirements and how the A level courses will be structured. See the Bishop Walsh 6th form site and prospectus for details. For colleges and other 6th forms you’ll need to check their websites.

Although most A levels are in academic subjects such as History or English, there are also vocational subjects available such as Business or Accounting, for example.

NEXT STEPS – After A levels you could progress onto University, a school/college leaver programme or an Advanced level 3 or Higher level 4 Apprenticeship.


This course is for 2 years & offers a broad range of study in subjects such as the arts. maths, science and languages plus other subjects. This is also a level 3 qualification and is recognised internationally. If you want to find out more about this then visit  


These courses are linked to different kinds of work eg: hair and beauty, civil engineering, fashion, textiles, animal care etc. These are usually offered as full time courses so you would be focusing on one subject unlike A levels where you could be studying up to 5 different subjects.  

Often placements are offered as part of the course enabling you to gain some invaluable work experience, employability skills and useful contacts. These courses can be from entry level up to level 8,  although most post-16 students will be studying level 1 to level 3 courses.

NEXT STEPS – After completing a vocational course you could progress onto University (with a level 3 qualification),  a school/college leaver programme or onto an Apprenticeship at the next appropriate level. Many vocational courses are accepted by universities for entry to their degree programmes and many employers recognise the value of taking on someone who has completed a more practical course as these students can often demonstrate good employability skills gained from their work experience placements.

In some schools / colleges it is possible to study a combination of academic and vocational courses – find out about these on websites and at open events.


These help you to gain skills and qualifications that should enable you to move on to a level 1 course or on to an Apprenticeship.

If you want to improve a GCSE grade then it might be possible to re-take GCSE’s alongside your chosen course although usually you have to have achieved a minimum grade D in the subject you want to re-sit. The GCSE subjects on offer are usually maths, English or a science – again check with your chosen institution.

FUNCTIONAL SKILLS – these may also be on offer and these help you to improve your practical skills in key subjects such as English, maths and ICT. You would usually study them alongside another full time course.



Where you study is a personal choice but there are certain questions that you need to ask before deciding 

* Do they offer the subjects that I’m interested in studying?

* What extra curricular activities are on offer?

*  Travel? If it’s a new school how far / how long will it take to get there?

* Would I be happier in a familiar environment with teachers that I know or am I ready for a change and study in a new environment?


One of the most useful and important things you can do is to go along to an open day or evening at school / college. This will give you an opportunity to have a look around, pick up course information, talk to tutors and current students and find out what facilities they have to offer. These open events usually start from October so start checking school / college websites as soon as the Autumn term starts. Some of the colleges also offer taster days, mainly for vocational courses,  so you can find out what it’s like to study your chosen subject. You would need to book onto these so check college websites for details.


This could be your own or at a different school.  Even if you feel sure that you want to stay on at your school 6th form it can be useful to look at other places to help you to understand what else is on offer. This may make you decide that you want to go elsewhere after all or it might help you to feel confident that staying on in your own 6th form is the right decision for you.  School 6th forms usually have open evenings starting in the Autumn term so you need to check school websites from September. Bishop Walsh  usually hold their 6th form open evening in the Spring Term.


There are a number of these across Birmingham offering A level and vocational courses for 16-19 year olds. They offer a more adult environment but are usually smaller than the FE colleges in Birmingham. However, most of these are in the south of the city.


These colleges offer A levels and a wide range of vocational courses from entry level upwards. Most of these colleges are very large and offer a very different environment from school. However, if you’re keen to go to college and are a self-motivated learner then this could be an option for you. Below is a list of the main colleges in the north and centre of Birmingham.

Birmingham Metropolitan College (BMET).

This is the main college  in the north Birmingham area. The main campuses are Sutton Coldfield and James Watt in the north and Matthew Boulton campus in the city centre although there are other smaller campuses as well.  BMET offers a wide range of courses both A levels and vocational courses. They run regular open days and evenings from October  – visit for details

University College Birmingham (UCB)

Based in the city centre and offers vocational courses in hospitality, catering, business, leisure, tourism, health and social care, childcare and hair and beauty.

South & City College Birmingham (SCCB)

Has a number of campuses mostly in and around the south of the city although it does have a campus in Digbeth specialising in digital media, ICT, business and music.


These are sponsored by a university and specialise in a vocational area. They are open to 14 – 19 year olds who are keen to pursue a career within that specific career sector. Currently there are 3 of these academies in Birmingham, one focusing on engineering and science – AUEA, one on creative, digital and performing arts – BOA and the new Construction UTC in Walsall opening in September 2014. If you’re interested in applying to any of these then you need to apply early, preferably during the Autumn term but usually by the end of January.

Birmingham Ormiston Academy (BOA)

1 Grosvenor Street, Birmingham B4 9QD

Tel:  0121 359 9300   

Aston University Engineering Academy

Aston Triangle, Birmingham B4 7ET

Tel: 0121 204 4266   

West Midlands Construction University Technical College

There are other colleges in the Birmingham / South Staffs area not mentioned here so please see the Further Education section on the  Useful Websites  page for full details.

These are important decisions so it’s up to you to find out as much as you can about what  and where you want to study. For further advice please ask for a careers interview or send me an email with any questions you have.