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Post 16 further education, training and study options explained

There are a range of Post 16 options availble for young people.

UCAS has produced a helpful guide that explains more about different types of further study and post 16 options available to young people: Which qualifications are right for me?  

The following explanations may also help you understand what option is the best choice for you.

Last updated: 24/01/19

Entry Level

If you do not have experience, or are not feeling confident about your abilities, then this level could be a good place to start. 

OCR - Entry Level Qualifications information

AQA - Entry Level Qualification information

Level 1 courses

Level 1 courses provide a general introduction to skills tasks and knowledge.

They are ideal if you are starting out or are new to the subject area.

Level one courses may include:

  • NVQ 1
  • BTEC Level 1
  • City and Guilds
  • Traineeships

Level 2 courses

In order to enrol on a Level 2 course you need to have some knowledge or experience of the subject area.

Once completed, Level 2 courses are equivalent to 4 - 5 GCSEs at Grade C or above. Options might include: 

  • BTEC Level 2
  • NVQ Level 2 
  • Re-taking GCSE’s 
  • CACHE Certificate 

Level 3 courses

Level 3 courses will further develop your knowledge and understanding of your chosen subject area.

They are a progression of qulaifications and courses you have taken before. 

Level 3 courses generally last 2 years and might also include: 

  • A-levels
  • BTEC Extended Diplomas 
  • NVQ Level 3 
  • Access to Higher Education Diplomas post 19 only

Level 4 courses and above

Level 4 courses and courses above level 4 help you gain specialist knowledge and understanding of the subject area. They fall in to the category of Higher Education and are equivalent to courses taught at Universities

Level 4 courses may include:

  • Degree courses
  • NVQ Level 4 within the workplace. 
  • HNC’s and HND’s


ASDAN qualifications are appropriate for pre and post 16 provision.

ASDAN courses help young people develop skills for learning, employment and life.

They offer progression from Level 1 to Level 3.

Find out more: About ASDANS


NVQs are vocational awards achieved through assessment and training, usually in the workplace.

These are ‘competence based’ qualifications where people learn practical, work-related tasks to help develop the skills and knowledge to increase their effectiveness.

They do not involve taking exams and can be an option from Level 1-4.


Traineeships are short, flexible programmes for 16-23 year-olds, combining work experience and pre-employment training to help you successfully find a job or access to an Apprenticeship.

Find out more: Traineeships - GOV.UK 

Supported Internships

What are Supported internships?

Since the Government raised the participation age (RPA) young people aged 16-18 in England must continue with education or training. Supported internships, apprenticeships and traineeships are all options allowed under this legislation.

Supported internships are for young people aged 16 – 24 who have complex learning difficulties due to special educational needs or disability (SEND). They are set up to develop helpful skills and attitudes needed for the workplace and are suitable for those who learn best by doing. Most learning takes place at work and only a small part of the placement is in a classroom. 

Trained job coaches may be available to provide support during the programme.  These are generally funded by the Access to Work Fund which can also help with travel costs and any special equipment required.  Supported internship providers should be able to help interns apply to the fund.

Supported internships are an education programme so the work experience is not paid, however at the end of the programme successful interns would be expected to be ready to take up paid work. 


Who can apply for a supported internship?

Young people with SEND often go to college before doing a supported internship and some college courses incorporate a supported internship in the final year. Other colleges work with supported internship providers to offer taster sessions or shorter projects that prepare young people for taking part in a full supported internship after college.

As supported internships are intended for those with Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) the Plan’s coordinator would discuss a range of options including supported internships with a young person. If the young person is interested, the chosen supported internship is suitable and the application is successful it will be included in the EHC plan.


What about young people with SEND who do not have an EHC plan?

There are a range of options for young people with different support needs. Young people with SEND who do not have an EHC Plan, can access traineeships or 16-19 Study Programmes designed to prepare young people for work or an apprenticeship. 

The Alternative Pathways Directory includes information on local providers. Providers receive discretionary funding to provide support for learners with low level support needs.   

Where a provider believes that a young person with a learning difficulty or disability, but without an Education Health and Care plan, would benefit from a supported internship, they may wish to contact the local authority to request an assessment of their education, health and care needs and to confirm the appropriateness of the supported internship.

To find out more about making an application for a supported internship in Hackney contact: Prospects careers service – SEND advisor


Find out more: 

Supported Internships - Hackney

Prospects – Careers Service

Hackney Supported Employment Service

Preparing for Adulthood - Access to work fund

Scope - Starting Line East London - pre-employment service for disabled people

Supported Internships - GOV.UK


Study Programmes

Study Programmes

Students aged 16 – 18 attending further education colleges will be enrolled on Study Programmes made up of different elements or a menu of learning that helps prepare young people for adult life including finding work.

Qualifications – Your vocational or academic qualification will make up the main part of your programme.

You will be exploring your collections of A’level subjects or B’tech subject through practical work and theory.

English and Maths- It is the government’s wish that all young people achieve a minimum grade 4 (previous grade C) or higher mark in their Maths and English exams.

Colleges will help people who have not already achieved these results retake them again.

Those that have achieved the required grades or above will be supported to extended their subject knowledge to higher level.

Work experience – A minimum of 30 hours work experience will be included as part of a study programme.

Colleges will have links with organisations and employers that will help students find opportunities to meet this requirement.

This may full time over a few weeks or spread across your time at college.

Personal Social development – To enable all students to develop, formulate ideas, express opinions and achieve their potential they are supported to become independent and self-motivated learners. Students will be supported to continue developing an understanding of themselves and others through tutorials and learning about equality and diversity.

BTEC, City & Guilds and IMI Certificates/Diplomas

BTEC, City & Guilds and IMI Certificates and Diplomas are courses with a vocational focus recommended for those interested in a particular area of study e.g. Performing Arts or Information Technology.

They can be classroom based, are continually assessed coursework based qualifications with very few or no exams.

BTEC Level 3 Extended Diplomas are delivered as two one year programmes:

Year 1 - Subsidiary Diplomas

Year 2 – Diploma / Extended Diploma

Students are expected to satisfactorily complete the subsidiary programme before being  being considered ready for a year 2 qualification.


An Apprenticeship is a real job with training so you can earn while you learn and work towards recognised qualifications.

Training normally takes place in a mixture of a workplace and the College.

In some cases, all training is provided in the workplace by visiting tutors.

To be accepted onto an Apprenticeships you to have 5 GCSE’s or equivalent at A-C grades.

There are three levels of Apprenticeship:

  • Intermediate (equivalent to 5 GCSE’s)
  • Advanced (equivalent to 2 A Level passes)
  • Higher (can lead to NVQ level 4 and above or a foundation degree)

Good apprenticeships can be very popular and there may be lots of people applying for not many places.

Find out more: Apprenticeships - GOV.UK


A-levels are academic qualifications awarded for successfully completing two years of study.

Students are encouraged to take three or four subjects in pathways.

A Levels can lead onto Higher Education.

Access to Higer Education diplomas

Access to Higer Education diplomas courses are accredited by the Open College Network London (OCNL) a national not-for-profit organisation that creates and awards qualifications.

OCNL work in partnership with educators, training providers, charities and employers to help transform people’s lives through learning

Courses are 1 year long and designed for adults who have previously missed opportunities to gain academic qualifications - you do not need specific qualifications to get onto a course but you must be 19 years or over at the start of the course and committed to studying hard.

Find out more: Open College Network London

Higher National Certificates NHCs, Higher National Diplomas and Foundation Degrees

Higher National Certificates (HNC) and Higher National Diplomas (HND) courses are Higher Education level / University level qualifications designed to give and help you develop specialist knowledge in your chosen field.

Most of NHD programmes are for two years.

The curriculum may be planned so that after the first year you could be awarded a HNC.

Some settings offer stand-alone HNCs, both part-time and full-time.

Foundation degrees are equivalent to the first 2 years of a Degree and combine vocational and academic study.

These qualifications can lead to being accepted onto a "top-up" degree at a university.

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