If you are planning on leaving school as soon as you can which in England is on the last Friday in June if you’ll be 16 by the end of the summer holidays, you need to have a plan.
In full, the rules about when you can leave school (not education) are as follows:
In England you can leave school on the last Friday in June if you’ll be 16 by the end of the summer holidays.
Remember, this is leave school, not leave education completely. If you choose to leave school at the earliest opportunity then you must then do one of the following until you’re 18:
- stay in full time education but study at a college of further education rather than at school
- start an apprenticeship
- work or volunteer (for 20 hours or more a week) while in part-time education or training.
In Scotland, if you turn 16 between 1st March and 30th September you can leave school after the 31st May of that year and 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.
In Wales 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 as is the case in England.
In Northern Ireland if you turn 16 during the school year (between 1 September and 1 July) you can leave school after 30 June. But if you turn 16 between 2 July and 31 August you can’t leave school until 30 June the following year.
There are many reasons that you might have for wanting to leave school as soon as you can. You might have been unhappy at school and you may want to get away and start afresh somewhere else, you might want to study something that your school doesn’t offer as an option or you might want to access specialist facilities or specialist lecturers that are available at a college but not at school. Whatever your reasons, you need to understand the options available to you.
What you cannot do when you leave school as soon as you can
The earliest possible age that you could leave school at is 15 (as long as you will be 16 by the end of the summer holidays). You cannot at this point leave school and get a full time job. As indicated above, you must be in some form of education until you are 18 year’s old.
An apprenticeship is a job and you can do this
One option that you have is to become an apprentice. An apprenticeship is a job essentially, but it has training attached to it also. This means that you could leave school, work as an apprentice, earn a wage, and receive training and possibly also gain associated qualifications.
What kind of apprentice can I be?
In theory, employers who take on apprentices can set their own entry requirements. However, government apprenticeship standards will state recommendations. For example, a law firm taking on a paralegal apprentice can in theory take someone on who has no qualifications or who has only GCSEs but the standards clearly recommend that candidates have “GCSE Maths & English – grade C or above (or equivalent) and 2 x A Level (or equivalent) – minimum grade C.” And a very quick internet search on paralegal apprenticeship opportunities results in the following being asked for by employers:
- At least five GCSEs (or equivalent), including English and Maths and at least three Cs (or equivalent) at A Level.
- Have completed their A Levels and be interested in pursuing a career in law.
- You will need five GCSE grades A to C or equivalent, including Maths and English. You will also need three A-level grades C or above or equivalent, excluding General Studies (these can be predicted at application stage but any offer will be subject to attaining these grades).
- 16-24 years old?, Have GCSE grades A*-C in Maths and English (or predicted grades)?, Possess excellent IT skills?, Have great communication skills? And are enthusiastic and keen to develop your career?
As you can see, there are some commonalities but also some differences in what qualifications employers are looking for.
Working your way up through apprenticeships
The other thing to bear in mind is that apprenticeships are available at different levels and therefore there is an opportunity to get onto an apprenticeship programme which perhaps only requires GCSEs (or even no qualifications) and then progress onto a higher level apprenticeship. It is worth looking into whether the same firm offers apprenticeships at different levels.
When you are in education qualifications are at different levels. For example, GCSEs are Level 2 qualifications and A levels are Level 3. You shouldn’t worry too much about things like whether you should be doing an apprenticeship at the level above what you have already studied, for example, you might be thinking that if you have done you’re a levels then you should be doing an apprenticeship at level 4 or above. It is best not to get hung up on this given that in terms of getting your career started it’s not really that important.
The other thing to bear in mind of course is that if you are 15, soon to be 16 when you leave school and you start an apprenticeship in the September, aged 16 – you still cannot leave education and work full time until you are 18, hence you might want to progress from one level of apprenticeship to another.
Levels of legal apprenticeships
Apprenticeships in law are a good example of this. For example, you may do a paralegal apprenticeship, which is Level 3 and after this you may progress to doing the chartered legal executive, which is a Level 3 apprenticeship or / and maybe even the Level 7 solicitor apprenticeship.
Aren’t apprenticeships just for stupid people?
Quick answer – Are laboratory scientists, solicitors, accountants, actuarials, aerospace engineers, and dental technicians…okay the list could literally go on and on…stupid? Apprenticeships exist for all of these jobs and hundreds more, so no apprenticeships are not for the stupid.
Going to college
Many colleges offer many of the same qualifications as schools do, including A levels and probably all offer GCSEs. They tend also to offer higher education qualifications like HNCs, HNDs and Foundation Degrees. In addition to this colleges of FE often have specialist facilities such as workshops for carpentry, media suites and recording studios / TV studios, working kitchen and restaurant facilities for catering students, and large music or drama facilities and you might choose to move to a college to access these.
Independence at college
For lots of young people, the attraction of studying at college is the independent that it gives them. Although you will be monitored in terms of attendance, behaviour and achievement, many find that this is not as rigid as it is at school. Clothing rules are likely to be much less strict, no uniforms and if you have no classes in afternoon, chances are you will be free to go home (or use the library if you want).
Apprenticeships at college
Lots of colleges offer apprenticeship schemes themselves. They work with employers and arrange a work placement for you and then they deliver the training and / or qualification part of the apprenticeship.
Options for school leavers
Hopefully we have made you aware of the kinds of options for school leavers that exist. So, if you are planning on leaving school as soon as you can, do your homework and find the best possible option for you.