What happens when a home-educated child turns 16? Most go to college or sixth form to study at 16-18, but some continue to study for qualifications from home, while others go into employment. If you want to gain qualifications at age 19+, please see Adult Education.
- 1 College or Sixth Form for 16-18 year-olds
- 2 Continuing with Home Education
- 3 Apprenticeships and Employment
- 4 When can you leave formal education?
- 5 References
College or Sixth Form for 16-18 year-olds
The UK has generous funding for education at 16-18 years old, if you enrol in a college or school sixth form. The government will pay for you to study qualifications up to Level 3. Standard funding is for the equivalent of 3 full A-levels, but students can be funded for 4 full A-levels (or equivalent) if they are expected to get high grades. You are funded under this scheme if you are aged 16-18 when you start a 2-year course, so even if you turn 19 while studying, your funding will continue (#References: 16-19 funding). This means that even if you are 18 years old, you can still start a 2-year A-level course and be fully funded by the government. However, it is entirely up to the sixth form / college whether they want to accept students who are older than average. If they accept you, the government will fund it.
There are definite advantages to getting a set of core GCSE-level qualifications by age 16, to give you the most options. If you've done that, you can usually go straight on to Level 3 courses - that's A-level or L3 Btec/ City & Guilds etc.
If you don't have 4+ GCSEs by age 16, you would usually start with Level 1 or Level 2 qualifications. It is quite common for people to spend a year at age 16 gaining some GCSEs or other Level 2 qualifications, then study for Level 3 qualifications at 17-19. However, be aware that most Further Education colleges will have only a limited range of GCSE courses available at 16-19. In many cases it will only be English and maths. Other courses at level 2 are likely to lead to vocational qualifications such as BTecs. These can gain you admission to Level 3 vocational courses but it may be difficult to gain admission to A-level courses from this background, if that is your aim. Check all the colleges in your area as what's on offer varies from year to year, and one college may not know what the others offer. A few offer one-year fast-track to GCSE courses, often aimed at new immigrants to the UK or those who did not complete GCSEs at the usual time for other reasons. These can be ideal for home-educated teenagers as they may have a different atmosphere to college classes aimed at resit students. However, they're rare, usually only found in large cities, and may still require you to have a couple of GCSEs at grade 3+ to start.
Colleges may not allow you to start at Level 2 if you have no prior qualifications. Some will, especially on skills-based courses like Art if you have a good portfolio to show - in this situation you may even be able to start at Level 3 - but this is less likely for other subjects. You may be required to start at Level 1 or Entry level, which is below Level 1. You can negotiate, and ask for an assessment. If you start at a higher level and find you can't keep up, it's easy to drop to a lower level. However, if you start at a level that is too low, the higher classes may have covered too much ground for you to switch after a few weeks - so it's worth lobbying strongly to start at the level you want.
If a college wants you to start at level 1 / entry level, consider whether you have enough time to complete all the qualifications you want to cover, while you still have access to the 16-19 funding.
If you are 18 or 19, consider your options carefully before completing a Level 3 course if it's not a useful qualification for you. Note that funding at 19-23 is dependent on whether you have completed your 'first and full' Level 3 qualification. If you complete a Level 3 qualification that does not suit your needs when under 19, that could remove your eligibility for funding at 19-23. On the other hand, at 16-18 there may be a wider range of courses available to you than at 19+ . Typically at 19+ you have a good choice of vocational courses and Access courses, but few opportunities to study for A-levels. There are a few situations where you might be better off dropping out of an unsuitable course so that you can start a new one aged 19.
If you want to gain qualifications at age 19+, please see our page on Adult Education.
Even if you have completed a level 3 qualification, once you are 19+ you are still entitled to the Advanced Learner Loan to enable you to take additional qualifications.
Continuing with Home Education
It is possible to study for most A-levels from home education, although this is a much greater challenge than GCSE-level study. The subjects which are easiest to access from home are those with no coursework or practical element, so it's common for home-educated teens to take maths, business study or psychology A-levels, for example. However, science A-levels have core practicals which must be completed to gain the practical endorsement, and so are much more complicated and expensive to study from home. Please see our A-levels page for more information.
Vocational qualifications such as Btecs are not usually an option for home-educated children, but a few can be studied by distance learning. See our Alternative Qualifications page for more.
As with home education under age 16, there is not normally any funding for home study at 16-19. You usually have to pay for any courses and qualifications.
University and Careers
Higher Education - applying to university from home education, UCAS statements, funding.
If you continue to home educate a child aged 16-19, you are still entitled to Child Benefit as long as they were home-educated before age 16, AND they are studying for 12 hours a week or more. They do not have to be studying for qualifications. Please see Child Benefit for 16+ on EdYourself.org for all you need to know about claiming.
Apprenticeships and Employment
Apprenticeships are a way to combine getting formal training with earning a wage. They are available from age 16 - there is no maximum age. See our Apprenticeships page for more.
You can get a regular job at age 16 too - see ' When can you leave formal education? ' , below. The employer would have to pay you minimum wage. If you don't have much in the way of qualifications or experience then it may be easier to find an apprenticeship as the employer receives some help with training costs and the minimum wage is lower for apprentices.
When can you leave formal education?
Compulsory school age is from 5 to 16 (details below). A home-educating parent has a responsibility to ensure a full-time education is provided up until school leaving age. After age 16, the parent no longer has this responsibility. Although in England young people are supposed to be in education or training until 18, in practice this doesn't affect home education.
The "Participation Age" is now 18 in England. In theory, young people are supposed to be in education or training, even if part-time, until age 18. In practice, there are no penalties on the young person or their employer if they choose to work full-time from age 16. The background to this is that the Labour government of 2005-2010 legislated to raise the participation age, saying there was a duty to participate in education or training until age 18, but left the penalties for failing to comply to be decided at a later date. The Conservative - Lib Dem Coalition government which was elected in 2010 was not in favour of this legislation, saying that it would put employers off taking on 16-18 year-olds, so they did not enact any penalties for failing to comply with it. We are left with the odd situation where the Local Authority has a duty to encourage young people to participate in education or training until age 18, but there are no penalties on the young person if the decide not to, and no penalties for an employer who employs them without training.
This means that home-educating parents do not have to satisfy the Local Authority about their educational provision after a child reaches school leaving age.
.. LAs are not expected or required to have any involvement in post-16 home education, and in fact there is no legal power for them to do so. However, some LAs will contact home educating families as the young person turns 16 to ask about future plans, since LAs have to return information to the government about the rate of post-16 participation in their area. There is no obligation on the family to respond but if there is no answer the young person may be recorded as NEET (not in employment education or training)
Note that, for young people with SENDs, the participation age is 25 so EHCPs (replacements for statements) can run until a young person is 25 if it is needed to help meet the person’s educational needs.
References - Compulsory School Age
Your school leaving age depends on where you live.
You can leave school on the last Friday in June if you’ll be 16 by the end of the summer holidays.
You must then do one of the following until you’re 18:
- stay in full-time education, for example at a college
- start an apprenticeship or traineeship
- spend 20 hours or more a week working or volunteering, while in part-time education or training
If you turn 16 between 1 March and 30 September you can leave school after 31 May of that year.
If you turn 16 between 1 October and the end of February you can leave at the start of the Christmas holidays in that school year.
You can leave school on the last Friday in June, as long as you’ll be 16 by the end of that school year’s summer holidays.
If you turn 16 during the school year (between 1 September and 1 July) you can leave school after 30 June.
If you turn 16 between 2 July and 31 August you can’t leave school until 30 June the following year.
References - Raising the Participation Age to 18
The Local Authority has a duty to identify and 'encourage' people aged 16 and 17 to undertake training, which should lead to a qualification.
"Young people in jobs without training 22. Those in jobs without the required training should be encouraged to take up suitable part-time accredited education or training alongside their work. Local authorities should be aware of their duty to secure appropriate provision16 for all young people and 15 An overview of Care to Learn is available at gov.uk. 16 Section 15ZA and 18A of the Education Act 1996 (as inserted by the ASCL Act 2009) and from 1st September 2014, Part 3 of the Children and Families Act 2014 20 so ensure that flexible provision is in place where needed. Local authorities should work closely with local employers to agree suitable arrangements for young people. "
"Young people in jobs with non-accredited training 23. Those in jobs with training that does not lead to an accredited qualification should also be encouraged to take up accredited part-time education or training alongside their work"
"...The responses to the consultation suggested that potential fines might act as a perverse incentive, discouraging businesses from hiring 16 and 17 year-olds. We have therefore decided that the duties on employers within the RPA legislation will not be commenced in 2013. This will mean that employers will not be discouraged from hiring 16 and 17 year-olds by concerns about additional burdens or the possibility of fines. Those 16 and 17 year-olds who do work full-time will still be under a duty to participate in education or training part-time alongside. We know that employers recognise the benefits for the individual and their business of young people undertaking training and will want to support this, without the need to place additional duties on employers. We will work further with employers’ organisations and local authorities to make sure that this is clearly communicated and that employers have the information they need to understand the benefits of training for their young staff without the need for regulation. These duties will remain on the statute book and we will keep this under review, with the option to introduce the employers’ duties and enforcement in future if these are needed."
References: 16-19 Funding
If you want to 'catch up' with qualifications, eg by taking GCSEs at 16 and then starting A-levels aged 17 or 18, you can still be funded for the whole 2-year A-level course:
"39. To maintain eligibility for funding for individual students during a learning programme, a wider definition is used by the funding bodies. A student who was aged 16, 17 or 18 on 31 August at the start of the funding year when they began a learning programme, as recorded on their learning agreement, continues to be funded as a 16- to 18-year-old student. If they become 19 years old during their learning programme such students are funded at 16 to 18 rates to complete their learning programmes.
40. A learning programme comprises all of a student’s activities that lead to a set of outcomes agreed with the student as part of their IAG process. A learning programme may be composed of one or more learning aims and may span more than one funding year. A learning programme will generally be centred around learning aims at a single level, with a minority of, if any, learning aims at a different level being used to support the wider needs of the student (for example, a GCSE in mathematics maybe be appropriate for a student studying non-mathematical A levels). An A level subject taken over 2 years is a single learning programme, whereas progression from GCSEs to A levels is 2 separate learning programmes."
Education & Skills Funding Agency, Funding guidance for young people 2018 to 2019
Funding regulations Version 1.0 published April 2017, p16
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