If the answer is a resounding ‘Go!’ remember that there is no longer the option to wave a cheery goodbye to formal education after GCSEs. Since September 2013 it is compulsory for all young people to remain in some kind of education or training until the age of 18. Many students choose to stay on at the same school and glide seamlessly into advanced level study. Some move because their school doesn’t have a sixth form or doesn’t offer the desired subjects. Others are ready for a change, whether it’s to experience the delights of co-education or to make a fresh start with new faces. In the last few years increasing numbers of students have decided that a vocational diploma course or apprenticeship is a better fit for their skills and interests than the standard A level and university route.
A change for the better?
New surroundings and teachers can reinvigorate a flagging school career and for many it’s a chance to ditch an undeserved reputation along with school uniform and least favourite subjects. One parent told us, ‘My son grew up overnight, college has been the making of him. It used to be so hard to get him up in time for school but now even though he has to leave earlier he never misses the bus.’
Better the devil you know?
There is also, of course, much to be said for staying put: teachers who know you, the opportunity to take on positions of responsibility, the security of familiar faces and surroundings. According to the head of one sixth form, ‘Every year some of the students who left after GCSEs phone and ask to come back. College hasn’t lived up to their expectations or they are struggling with independent study and less support. For some the travelling is just too much.’
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