What happens after the age of 16?

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At a glance

Guidance about staying in education or choosing training – including what’s legally required, the options to consider and decisions to make after 16.

Is education compulsory after age 16?

Under the present law, the school leaving age is 16. However from September 2013 the education leaving age will rise to 17 and from 2015 it will rise again, to 18.

The government is raising the leaving age because research shows that young people who carry on learning or training until the age of 18 earn more money, are likely to be healthier and less likely to be in trouble with the police.

So although at the moment your child can leave education once they’re 16, it’s worth thinking carefully about the benefits of carrying on.

What options are available after 16?

Education after 16 doesn’t just mean staying at school full-time: your child can stay at school, go to college, or take up an apprenticeship or a part-time training course. They can earn money and learn new skills at the same time if they want to.

The main qualifications available are:

  • Diplomas: providing the background for a range of careers
  • Vocational qualifications: for young people who already know what career they want to follow and need training for specific jobs
  • A levels: offered as specific mainly academic subjects
  • International Baccalaureate: offering a wider range of subjects than A levels
  • Functional Skills: This qualification can continue to form part of the Diploma, Foundation Learning and included in some Apprenticeship frameworks
  • Foundation Learning: has been developed for low attaining 14-19 year olds to help raise participation, attainment and progress

What financial help is available?

Your child may be able to claim Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) if they’re studying in Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales. EMA is now closed in England.

In England your child may be eligible to apply for a 16 to 19 Bursary Fund to help with studying cost for example equipment you may need for your course and travel expenses. The bursary is paid directly by the school, college or training provider. They will decide how much and when it is paid.

Next steps

Find out more about vocational qualifications, diplomas, A levels and the International Baccalaureate.

Encourage your child to contact their local Connexions, a service offering advice and information to young people. Their school can tell them where the nearest Connexions team is. National Careers Service also provides information and advice to help your child get on to learning courses and job opportunities. The National Careers Service helpline is 0800 100 900.

From now on, learning is more about what your child wants to do and less about what you want them to do. But don’t underestimate your input. You can help make decisions by talking through your child’s choices and offering your support at this important time in their life.

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