The fear of not being accepted into a sixth form college is one that has been felt at least briefly by most high school students, so please do yourself a favour and do not panic! You are most certainly not the first student to not get into sixth form and you will not be the last. This article aims to give you lots of advice on what to do if you don’t get into sixth form college.
The law in England states you must stay in a form of education until you are 18, however if you are from Scotland or Wales you can leave education at 16. If you don’t get accepted due to low grades, then you can always resit them and apply for sixth form in the following academic year. There are also alternative routes of education that you can follow.
If you find yourself un able to get into sixth form college, then I encourage you to read on to find out the options you have available to you.
What are the rules and regulations for under 18s?
As you may be aware, under the law of the United Kingdom, every under 16 must be in education. Click here to find out more about the education laws in the UK. Under English law 17 to 18 year olds must either be in full-time education, or in part-time education. They can also be in training whilst spending 20 hours or more a week working or volunteering. If you live in Scotland or Wales, then you do not have to pursue education once you have turned 16 (though Wales is currently looking into raising the school leaving age to 18). Click here for the Scottish education laws.
As a result if you do not manage to get into a sixth form college, you must either remain in some other form of education or start work.
What should you do if you can’t get into sixth form college?
Even if you were not able to get a place with any of the sixth forms that you applied to, you may still be able to get a place at a different sixth form college by visiting or calling them as soon as possible. Ensure that you have a list of your grades with you as they are going to need them. Make sure to ask about the availability of spaces in the particular subjects you wish to study in case they are oversubscribed. It’s important you know which subjects you are open to studying, as your first choices may not be available.
Visit or ring potential sixth forms as soon as possible to increase your chances of receiving an offer. They may tell you that they will call you within the next few days as they must first process the offers that have been accepted, before they can give you an offer to ensure that those who have already applied get a place with them.
Resit your GCSE exams
If the reason for not getting a place in a sixth form college was due to low GCSE or level 2 grades, then an option available to you is to retake your exams, or even sign up for new qualifications.
For more information about resitting GCSE exams, have a look at the following articles:
- How many times can you resit GCSEs?
- What happens if you do worse in a GCSE resit?
- Can you retake your GCSEs at any age?
Take a gap year
If even after contacting many sixth form colleges you do not manage to receive an offer, one alternative is not going. I know this sounds unconventional but bear with me!
You could try applying again in the following academic year, but this time apply to more sixth forms than you previously did. Education for under 18s is free in Britain, which unfortunately does mean that you may have to pay for your education once you are over the age of 18. However, some schools will actually pay for your qualifications.
If you think you are eligible for a bursary, or require financial support then please click here to read the government page about financial support for 16 to 19 year olds. Alternatively click here to find out about an Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA).
What are the alternatives to sixth form college?
Sixth form colleges (a sixth form which is not linked to any other institute and offers A-Levels and BTECs) are not your only option for studying A-Levels. There are also school sixth forms (just like a sixth form college, but it is linked with a secondary school) and further education colleges (which offer a variety of courses including apprenticeships, other community provisions, IB diplomas, and often bachelor’s degrees).
If you intend to study A Levels or BTECs, then I recommend that you call any sixth forms near you. If, however, you are now looking at a different path of education, then try ringing up a further education college. Check out this article to find out more about what sixth form and sixth form college actually are.
Consider taking T-Levels
A new level 3 qualification was recently introduced, with September 2020 being the launch year of the scheme, which is aimed at students who are very clear on the career path they wish to pursue. The two year course lands you with qualifications that are equivalent to three A-Levels. At least 315 hours of work experience will be included as part of the course, alongside in-class studying. Check out this article to find out more about T-Levels.
If you are interested in completing a T Level, then have a look at the official website. You can click here to find colleges and schools that offer the course. You may also want to check out the government website for an overview of how they work.
Start an apprenticeship or traineeship
If you choose to study for an Advanced Apprenticeship (a level 3 form of education), then you will be a paid employee who will work alongside experienced staff to gain job-specific skills. You will also be given training and study work related to your role (this will take up at least 20% of your working hours). An Advanced Apprenticeship will take up to two years, though they can be longer or shorter.
Once you have completed an Advanced Apprenticeship (or another form of a level 3 qualification), then you can always do a traineeship. This will last for six weeks to one year, though they generally take up to six months. This course will include at least 70 hours of work experience that aims to prepare you for work or for an apprenticeship. You will also be given help to get a job–for example you will be aided in how to: write a CV, improve relevant skills to your desired job, and perform in an interview. Unlike with apprenticeship, you will not be given a wage, though some placements may cover travel and meal expenses.
To find an apprenticeship near you, you can use this government website.
Get a part-time job
Another option available to you is to spend at least 20 hours working, though you must also be in part-time education, or in training.
There are many handy websites that you can use to find a part-time job, such as Student Job and Reed. Also, check out this article to find a list of jobs that you can do without GCSEs, there are still many brilliant ideas that will hopefully help you, should you feel that work is your best option.
Become a volunteer
If you decide to follow this route, you must spend at least 20 hours a week volunteering, while in part-time education, or in training. Check out this website for some ideas of who you can volunteer with.
If you are aged 16 or 17 and live in England, the National Citizens Service is a brilliant organisation to gain some work experience and various valuable life skills from. They run three week courses in the spring, summer and autumn, during the school holidays. You will spend a short period on a residential trip and get involved in team projects that will help your community. To finish the course, you will decide on a social-action project to deal with a local issue that you are passionate about. You will then spend 30 hours putting the project into action in your community.
What happens if you don’t pursue education or work?
If you are wondering about what happens if you leave education before 18 then read this article which explains the laws and consequences (or lack of consequences) of breaking them in more depth.
If you don’t take any of the three options (full-time education, or part-time education with either a job or volunteer work) you are considered a person not in education, employment or training (NEET).
Despite it being illegal to not be in education or work (if you live in England), there are actually no consequences because the government does not want to punish young people for not finding further education. Similarly, they will not fine parents who will most likely be financially supporting their NEET children, and parents will still be able to claim child benefits with the exception if you are self-sufficient.
Under 18 NEETs will not be able to claim a job seeker’s allowance (JSA), as to claim JSA you are not allowed to be in education or employment, however there are some exceptions–check this UK government page for more information.
If you are still struggling with your options, then it is highly recommended that you contact the National Careers Service. They will be able to provide more tailored information and will help you to find a route that suits you and your plans.