Year 13 Options

What are your options after Sixth Form?

At Oxford Spires Academy most students in Year 13 go onto university. However, there are other options which may be more suitable for some of you. Here are all the main options available after Year 13.


There are over 35,000 Higher Education courses available to apply for in the UK. Applications are completed via the Universities and Colleges Admission Service (UCAS).

If you want to get a degree there are a number of ways you can do this. For example:

  • Go to university to do a full-time degree
  • Go to university part-time. This will free up your time to work or volunteer
  • Take an Open University degree course. You study online in your own time
  • Take a degree or other Higher Education course at a Further Education colleges, such as City of Oxford College
  • Go to university abroad

Here are some links you can use:

Fulbright offers scholarships and exchange programmes to UK students wanting to study in the US.
Erasmus enables university students to study abroad as part of their degree.
AStarFuture and The Student World provide advice to UK students thinking of studying abroad

University courses can be defined in different ways. Some of the most common are described below:

  • Single Honours Degree – study one subject
  • Joint Honours Degree – study 2 subjects
  • Foundation Degree – the first 2 years of a degree. It is often vocational and can often be topped up to a full degree.
  • Batchelor of Science (BSc) – an undergraduate academic degree in a science or technical based subject
  • Batchelor of Arts (Arts) an undergraduate academic degree in humanities, social sciences or liberal arts
  • Degree with Foundation Year – Offers a route into degree level studying especially if you did not obtain the necessary entry requirements in terms of grades or required subjects
  • Year in Placement – (also known as a ‘sandwich’ course). Typically a year spent working whilst you are still studying for your degree. In most instances, this will be part of a four-year course, where the first two years will be spent studying (as in any conventional degree), but the third year will be spent working in the ‘real world’ before a final year at university.

Higher Education institutions usually ask for either specific grades or a combination of grades that attract a certain number of UCAS tariff points. For a breakdown of tariff points, you can earn for your A levels and BTEC Diplomas please see the attached document.

You will have guidance on making choices, and learn a lot more about university applications, in the Year 12 Careers and Higher Education Week.

Gap Year

Taking a year out can give you the opportunity to do all sorts of things such as learning a new language or volunteering to work with a community in Africa. A worthwhile gap year will teach you to be self-reliant, to manage your money and increase your maturity.

If you are a student and decide to take time out before university, check the application procedures. If you have already decided what course you want to do, you can apply for a deferred place. By applying in your final year of A levels (or equivalent studies), the process can be completed before your gap year. You need to outline well-thought-out plans to show admissions tutors that you intend to use the time constructively. Always check their views on gap years. Whether applying through UCAS, or directly, make it very clear that you are applying for deferred entry.

If you don’t want to commit yourself to a course before taking time out, apply to UCAS during your gap year through the normal procedures. Remember, however, that you will have to be contactable and able to attend interviews if necessary.

Benefits of taking a Gap Year

  • To gain experience related to your intended career. This can be helpful for entry to relevant courses or training and may be essential for certain programmes, such as social work. There are opportunities for work experience in a range of settings.
  • To earn money to support yourself through university. The average student will incur debts of over £50,000 through the course of a degree. Earning an income can help offset these costs.
  • To develop in maturity and build your confidence. Trying new experiences, taking responsibility for your own finances, organising your time, making new friends and meeting people from different backgrounds all help to develop your independence, confidence and maturity.
  • To fulfil some ambitions. Perhaps you have always wanted to travel, spend time on an environmental project or have a working holiday. You could develop your underused talents, undertake a new challenge, give something back to a community or just have an adventure.
  • To think things through. If you are unsure about your long-term goals, or undecided whether university is the right option you can try various types of voluntary or paid work to help you work things out.
  • To give yourself breathing space. You may want a break before settling into work or starting a course. Many people who have studied for years consider taking time out to ‘recharge their batteries’ and gain a new perspective on life.


Possible drawbacks of taking a Gap Year

  • Financial strain if you don’t find paid work. How do you support yourself without an income?
  • Losing the habit of studying. Some skills and knowledge, particularly those relating to maths and science, can get rusty.
  • Getting stuck in a rut. Staying at home through the year not doing anything constructive with your time


What a well-planned gap year can demonstrate to employers

  • A stronger CV
  • Perseverance, commitment, initiative and dedication
  • Transferable skills
  • Preparedness for the world of work
  • A greater awareness of what you want to do with your life.

Ultimately all of the above can help you stand out from the crowd.

Worthwhile Activities in a Gap Year


Voluntary Work

A period spent volunteering will benefit others and give you valuable experience of working with a variety of people. Voluntary work in social service settings is widely available, but there are also schemes relevant to careers such as archaeology, conservation etc. You could choose to volunteer in the UK, perhaps in your local area, or you could take part in a gap year scheme and volunteer abroad. Accommodation and pocket money may be provided, or you may have to pay your own way – and this can be expensive.

Some of the websites you can use include: volunteering guide for 14-24 year olds. Search and apply for opportunities
Youth Parliament opportunities for 11-18 year olds to use their elected voice to bring about social change through meaningful representation and campaigning
Oxon Volunteers Opportunities available specifically in Oxfordshire

To visit the official government website with links to various volunteering resourses and initiatives please click here


A Temporary Paid Job

Gaining temporary paid employment – in the UK or overseas – will earn you some money and may give you the chance to see whether a certain area of employment would suit you in the longer term.

Casual work may be available with some hotels, retailers, warehouses, pubs and tourist attractions; this kind of employment is often seasonal. Other ‘temp’ jobs can be found in offices, contact/call centres, factories etc. If you intend to work abroad, depending on where you go, check whether you can get the necessary work permit.

You may find the following websites useful:

Studentjob part-time jobs and internships
Thebigchoice part-time/temp/summer/seasonal jobs for students
E4S part-time, holiday, seasonal, temporary, festival and gap year jobs at home and abroad
Just Student Jobs part-time, holiday, seasonal, temporary, festival and gap year jobs at home and abroad


Travel Abroad

A period spent travelling will help you to understand different cultures, improve your language skills and gain confidence. Travelling doesn’t have to be really expensive. You may be able to pick up paid casual work – although, as mentioned above, check whether you need a work permit.

Education and Training

Taking a course will develop your knowledge and help you gain new skills. You could use your time to follow a programme in an area you have always been interested in, such as cookery, business or a foreign language. Some courses, such as learning to teach English, may help you earn money at a later stage.

There are many organisations and agencies that offer to organise gap year programmes and placements and these can be expensive. If you use one of these agencies check carefully what you will get for your money and if the scheme is approved by a reputable organisation, such as the Year Out Group (listed in further information) or ABTA.

Apprenticeships and School Leaver Programmes

You may wish to investigate taking an apprenticeship when you leave Oxford Spires Academy. Apprenticeships provide the chance to get started in the workplace, and earn some money while you continue learning. It is becoming an increasingly viable and attractive option in the light of the increasing cost of studying at university.

Even though they are open to people with GCSEs or equivalent, with level 3 qualifications you can gain entry to a career through an Advanced Apprenticeship. These are available in a wide range of occupational areas. They offer the opportunity to undertake structured training with an employer and lead to work-related qualifications at level 3.

An apprentice will typically attend college or university either one day a week (day release) or for a week or more at a time (block release). The cost of an apprenticeship – and any tuition fees – will be entirely covered by an employer and the government.

Employers don’t tend to guarantee that there will be a job at the end of it but in practice they are typically keen to keep employees on. Schemes lengths vary; the higher the qualification involved, the longer the scheme will be. Higher and degree apprenticeships typically last between 3 and 5 years.

Higher or Degree Apprenticeships are also available in a growing number of career areas. Training leads to qualifications at levels 4-6 in relevant professional qualification, HNC/D or foundation degree of full degrees. For entry to a Higher or a Degree Apprenticeship, employers may expect you to hold a level 3 qualification or have appropriate experience, e.g. gained through an Advanced Apprenticeship.

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


School Leaver Programmes

School leaver programmes are normally aimed at those with A Levels or equivalent. Unlike an apprenticeship, a school leaver programme doesn’t need to fit a set framework, so the term can be used to describe a broad range of programmes that combine earning and learning, with tuition fees covered by the employer. However some employers may call their scheme a school leaver programme when it is technically an apprenticeship.

Full-time Employment

Going to university is a popular choice, but it’s not for everyone. You may choose to look for work because you:

  • feel ready to enter the workplace and like the idea of earning while continuing to learn (which can include studying for higher education qualifications)
  • want to avoid running up a student debt
  • have followed a work-related course, know exactly what you want to do, and are keen to start working
  • have selected a career that you can train for while in employment
  • missed out on an HE place (or started HE and then dropped out)
  • want an early start on the career ladder
  • simply don’t like the thought of another few years in full-time education.

Finding Employment:

  • You can contact your local Jobcentre Plus, and use the ‘Find a job’ service at the Official Government website
  • Many jobs are advertised on the internet and you can often apply online. There are numerous job vacancy sites to choose from; some are listed in How to find a job
  • Jobs can also be found through recruitment agencies – to find one in your area, or an agency specialising in a particular type of work, see AgencyCentralOrganisations often list vacancies on their own website; some employers also provide advice on how to apply and about selection and interview methods, or encourage you to email your CV, take an aptitude test etc.
    • Look for vacancies advertised in national as well as local newspapers and in specialist magazines.
    • Professional bodies may have vacancy information on their websites.


    General Advice to Find Work:

    • To register your interest for any upcoming vacancies, send your CV and a speculative email with covering letter to any organisations that interest you.
    • Consider gaining work experience to improve your employment prospects. This could be through part-time work, voluntary work, work shadowing etc.
    • If you feel ready, think about working away from home, if necessary for your career. Large cities can offer a greater range of opportunities than small towns, and big firms may offer assistance with finding accommodation.
    • Depending on where you live, you can get advice through the National Careers Service

    Labour Market Information (LMI):

    Labour Market Information (LMI) provides you with an overview of what’s happening in the world of work. It can tell you which careers are in demand, where the jobs are more likely to be found and even how much you can expect to earn.

    To find this information there are different resources available. Here are some:

    • Use the Labour Market Information found for each career on the eCLIPS database through the Adviza Portal.
    • Visit the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (OxLEP) website for information and links to up-to-date labour market information for Oxfordshire. Please click here