What are my post-GCSE options?


The educational and employment landscape is ever changing, and long gone are the days when the only post-16 options available were ‘do A levels’ or ‘get a job’. GCSE Results Day in the 21st century sees students facing a wide range of possible options. Let’s look at some of the choices available:

A levels

Traditionally, this was perhaps the only ‘real’ option available if you were considered to be academically capable. Whilst that isn’t necessarily the case anymore, it is the choice that will appeal to many and which still, arguable, provides the most obvious route to a degree. Look at your GCSE results - if the majority sit at A*-B with perhaps a few Cs thrown in, then the likelihood is that you will be able to perform well at A level. And if your results are a little lower, there is nothing to say that picking up your game and choosing the right subjects won’t also lead to A level success.

BTEC Diploma

Contrary to popular believe, these aren’t (and shouldn’t be seen as) the natural ‘go to’ if you don’t perform so well at GCSE. Quite simply, they are a different way of studying. The subject focus will be broader and more vocational, thus making more sense to those who prefer a real-life application to their learning. And assessment steers away from exams and essays, and towards project based work which also suits some people better. Bear in mind that a BTEC Diploma gained at the highest level (Distinction, Distinction, Distinction) will give you exactly the same UCAS points as an A level students achieving 3 A’s. However, university admission is always at the discretion of the admissions staff and for more academic degree courses at very competitive universities, they may have a bias towards A level students.

Resits (or other level 2 qualifications)

Maybe you need to take a step back before you can take a step forwards? Resits may be the best option for you if you had disappointing grades that don’t justify your potential, or a disrupted year of study. It is becoming harder and harder to find institutions that offer GCSE resits - many opting for alternative level 2 qualifications instead (BTEC Level 2 or NVQs for example). You may need to be prepared to look into distance learning options if you are adamant that GCSEs are the way forward for you.


If you are vocationally focused and have a specific career area in mind, then it may be wise to consider the benefits of an apprenticeship. Quite simply, this is a real job with relevant training attached (often in the form of ‘day release’ at a local college) so you will be earning money but continuing to learn at the same time. The last 2 or 3 years has seen a massive increase in apprenticeships available. Visit www.apprenticeships.org.uk for more information on the 1,500 job areas covered. Be aware, though, that apprenticeships are exempt from National Minimum Wage legislation so you may find that your initial earnings are low whilst still in your training phase.


Is the work place beckoning you? Provided you are making sensible choices about the opportunities available, there is nothing to say that this isn’t the right path for you. There are many well-documented examples after all of role models who left school at 16 and ended up doing well for themselves. As well as the more structured ‘School Leaver Programmes’ that exist amongst a range of larger employers, recruitment agencies should know of entry level opportunities that may appeal to students with level 2 qualifications. However, be aware that job search can be hard and extremely time consuming. Don’t expect opportunities to fall into your lap unless you are willing to put in the groundwork.