Year 11 Options

What are your options after GCSEs?


You have to stay in some form of education until your 18th birthday. This is partly because jobs and careers are increasingly requiring more qualifications than ever before. This page helps to explain those options.

If you are a Year 11 student, for the first time you will have a choice over where you will go and what you will study, and with a bit of careful thinking, you can make the right decisions and avoid making mistakes you later regret. Although the government requires that all young people stay in some sort of learning until age 18 this does not mean that you have to stay on at school. Any of the following options are open to you:

  • A place at college full time
  • A place at a school sixth form full time
  • An apprenticeship (paid job with training) of at least 30 hours per week
  • An unpaid traineeship for up to 6 months
  • Full-Time Employment. But you need to have some formal training attached to it to gain relevant qualifications


A Levels

The most common option is to continue your studies into A Levels. You can do this at Oxford Spires Academy or at another school with a sixth form or at a sixth form college. This provides you with the most popular route into university courses, although there are other ways.

To find out more about courses and entry requirements for Oxford Spires Sixth Form, have a look at our Sixth Form Prospectus here.

The learning style is predominantly academic and assessment is usually through examinations. You typically need at least 5 or more grades 9-5 at GCSE, and have the required grades for the specific subjects you wish to study.

In a few instances it is possible to study a BTEC Diploma at Sixth Form as part of your subjects. These are either the equivalent of 1 or 2 A levels. Learning through BTEC Diplomas is more vocational (i.e. related to a career or career area) and assessment is typically through coursework rather than exams.

If you want to go to university you need to take into account what you might want to study and what subjects will help you get there. You can go to UCAS for a database of all UK degree courses and their entry requirements. To see the 3 most popular A Level subjects for each individual degree course go to
Which? University. Another popular website is Sacu-Student. You will need to register first. It includes a tool to match A levels to potential degree courses.

What are facilitating subjects?

If you are looking to go to university, and especially if you might want to apply for the more competitive universities it is important to be aware of what is known as facilitating subjects. If you take at least two from the following list, you will have better opportunities for entry to these universities and/or degree courses generally. The facilitating subjects are: –

  • English Literature
  • Maths (including Further Maths)
  • Science (Biology, Chemistry and Physics)
  • Humanities (History and Geography)
  • Modern Foreign or Classical Languages

That said you should not take these subjects purely for this reason. For example, if you intend going into an art/design based degree, then you will need to take a subject such as art & design, likewise music if you intend taking a degree in this subject. Furthermore, and very importantly, you need to enjoy and think you will do well at the subjects you choose.

For this last reason, it is important you research your potential choice of A Level subjects. This is especially true if you are looking to study a new subject you have not studied before and know little about. You will be studying it at a higher level and in a lot of depth for another 2 years. Use the attached document to find some of the ways you can research A levels subjects:

The Importance of a Back Up Option: When applying to sixth form you need to consider whether you are likely to get the grades for sixth form and whether you need a back-up plan (i.e. college course). By also applying for a college course it means you have peace of mind in the event you do not obtain the grades you require for Sixth Form.


Applying to OSA Sixth Form

To join OSA Sixth Form, you need to have the necessary GCSEs to study the courses you wish to study (see our Sixth Form Prospectus for details), but equally importantly you need to want to study the courses. Commitment and a mature approach to your work will really pay off in Year 12 and 13.

You will have information from October of Year 11, and should talk to your teachers about subjects you are interested in. Talk, too, to Mr Bingham in your careers interview.

There is a formal Open Evening, with Sixth Form teaching staff and current students, in January, and this is time to firm up our choices before making your application. When it is live, the application form is available on our website.

After you apply, you will have a one-to-one interview with a member of Sixth Form staff (Dr Watson (Head of Sixth Form), Ms Harry (Deputy Head of Sixth Form) or Mr Loftus (Sixth Form Year Head). Your choices will then be given to senior staff to guide next year’s blocking and timetable.

After your GCSEs, you return to school for two days of Sixth Form Induction to find out more and to taste A level subjects. You will be able to make changes to your options at this point – and in the summer – but there will now be a set of timetable blocks that subjects must fit into.

You finally enrol on a course in the Sixth Form on GCSE Results Day, or soon after that, once you have your GCSEs.

Applying to FE Colleges

Further Education colleges offer a wide-range of mostly practical subjects and qualifications known as BTEC Diplomas, which can lead to university or employment. Learning is typically ‘hands on’ and assessment is mostly through coursework rather than exams.

*Typical entry requirements for Levels of study are:

Level 1 – 4 GCSEs below grade 3 including English and Maths
Level 2 – 4 GCSEs at grade 3 including English and Maths
Level 3 – 5 GCSEs at grade 4 or above including English and Maths (a Level 3 Extended Diploma is the equivalent of 3 A Levels)

*Guideline only. Please note these can vary depending on the course.

Possible career routes could include Health and Social Care, Construction, Sport, Hair and Beauty, Media, Public Services, Motor Vehicle Repair and more.

To find out more about college courses you can look for course specific information on their respective websites. For a list of local colleges click on each one of the following logos to go to their respective websites. Note that Activate Learning is a group of colleges that includes City of Oxford College, Banbury College, Bicester College and Reading College.

In addition to looking on their websites, they have open events where you can visit the college and speak to tutors for the different courses. Sometimes they will also have taster sessions you can try. To make the most of any trip to a college event we recommend asking questions to find out more about courses of interest. See the below document for some example questions.

City of Oxford Banbury and Bicester Reading



Applying for apprenticeships

If you like the idea of getting qualified whilst earning a wage in your chosen profession, an apprenticeship may be for you. You obtain an accredited qualification recognised within that industry. This means if you get a qualification in let’s say IT, it will be recognised by IT companies across the country as it demonstrates you have met a certain industry standard.

Traineeships, on the other hand, are typically for those people who are not ready for an apprenticeship. They last up to 6 months and are unpaid.

To find local vacancies there are 3 main ways to do so. They are as follows:

1. Advertised vacancies. Visit websites that are advertising for apprentices. They include the following:

2. Go to specialist training providers. They can offer, or give you guidance on, finding apprenticeships in their chosen area. These include the local colleges, who often have a dedicated apprenticeship team for a number of different types of apprenticeships. There are other local training providers who specialise in one or two career areas such as Oxfordshire Energy Academy (plumbing), IntroTrain (Hairdressing and Beauty Therapy) and The Engineering Trust (Engineering).
3. Approach employers. For larger companies they might have a dedicated apprenticeship section on their websites. For example, you can find the latest apprenticeship vacancies on the websites for the NHS or Oxford University. For smaller companies, without information on their websites, you might want to contact them direct.

To find out your rights when looking for an apprenticeship click here (includes an interactive guide)

T Levels

As of Sept 2020 the government are introducing a new qualification set to rival A levels. They are known as Technical Levels, or T Levels for short. They are equivalent to 3 A Levels and have been developed in conjunction with employers and businesses so that the content meets the needs of industry and prepares students for work.

T Levels will offer students a mixture of classroom learning and ‘on the job’ experience during and industry placement of at least 315 hours (approximately 45 days). They will provide the knowledge and experience needed to open the door into skilled employment, further study or a higher apprenticeship. They are deemed more suited to those who know what occupation they want to pursue, want to earn a wage and learn at the same time and are ready to enter the workforce at age 16.

Students will be able to take a T Level in the following subject areas:

  • accountancy
  • agriculture, land management and production
  • animal care and management
  • building services engineering
  • catering
  • craft and design
  • cultural heritage and visitor attractions
  • design, development and control
  • design, surveying and planning
  • digital business services
  • digital production, design and development
  • digital support and services
  • education
  • financial
  • hair, beauty and aesthetics
  • health
  • healthcare science
  • human resources
  • legal
  • maintenance, installation and repair
  • management and administration
  • manufacturing and process
  • media, broadcast and production
  • onsite construction
  • science

However please note that the first courses will only be rolled out in 3 of these areas in 2020 (1. digital production, design and development, 2. design, surveying and planning and 3. Education) and only in select providers. None of these providers are located in Oxfordshire. They will be introduced by Activate Learning in Oxfordshire (includes City of Oxford College), in 2021, in healthcare and science and digital, design and production.

This information has been taken from the Government website. For more information click here