What next? The big post-GCSE decision...

Whether you opt to stay in education or get a job, there's a wealth of opportunities out there, says Russ Thorne

Anyone who has made it through their GCSEs may never want to look full-time study in the eye ever again. But as well as A-levels, further education comes in many forms. It can include courses with a focus on work-based learning – and there's always the option of actually starting work, too.

First, reflect on your exams. If they haven't gone as planned, you still have options. You can go through the Enquire About Results (Ear) process to make sure your paper was marked properly, or resit some units/subjects. Resits might take place at your own school or at a further eduction or independent college. Subjects, timetables and fees (where appropriate) vary; start by speaking to teachers and advisers.

Once you've digested your results, there are many routes open to you. Many students go on to take A-levels but other qualifications such as advanced apprenticeships and National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) can also secure degree course places if university is your goal.

You might take A-levels at your current school or a sixth form college. The process is split over two years and students take up to four AS levels first, then "upgrade" them to full A-levels in the final year, with the option of dropping one subject at this stage. Subjects include English, maths and sciences, and it's worth thinking about your choices carefully as they'll determine what you can study at university. "You must choose subjects you enjoy and are suited to, and ensure the combination leaves you with three strong subjects for the end of Year 12." says Mark Woodward, head of careers at Bablake School in Coventry. "Don't take subjects purely as a means to an end."

If you'd like to gain a qualification that contains a work-based element, consider an advanced diploma. These can lead to employment or higher education; there are 14 diploma courses offered throughout the UK. Subjects include construction and the built environment, hospitality and engineering. All can be studied alongside A-levels.

There are several other options that could help you develop practical skills and prepare you for work. You can choose NVQs in a range of areas such as retail, hair and beauty or engineering. Courses are modular (so there are no exams) and can be studied at different levels; once you've completed a course you might go into employment or on to higher education. An even more hands-on option is an apprenticeship (apprenticeships.org.uk), which combines study with work-based training.

Over 200 apprenticeships ranging from accountancy to electric vehicle engineering are designed by colleges and employers nationwide. They're paid, too: the average weekly wage is £170. "Apprenticeships provide huge benefits to young people and businesses," says Simon Waugh, chief executive of the National Apprenticeship Service. "They give employers access to a pool of talent that can improve productivity and bring young people a step closer to their dream career."

If you already have a job in mind, it's not compulsory to gain any further qualifications after GCSEs. Some students prefer to focus on starting their careers. You can search your local Job Centre, sign up to employment websites or apply directly to employers. Sites such as Monster.co.uk are very helpful.

Regardless of the path you choose, communication is vital. Discuss options with friends, family, teachers or careers advisers – they can help you chose subjects and write a CV or application. The Young People section of direct.gov.uk also has plenty of useful links.

Whatever your results have been, and no matter what you plan to do next, life after GCSEs is full of possibilities, says Woodward; you can enjoy it and allow yourself a moment to catch your breath. "Step back a day and remember how much you have already achieved," he says. "You're not a different person because of a sheet of paper with your results. Don't panic!"

News
scienceExcitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
Sport
sport
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
News
Jermain Defoe got loads of custard
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Nursery Nurse

£40 per day: Randstad Education Manchester: Nursery Nurse needed in salfordI a...

Nursery Nurse

£25 per day: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery nurse needed in th...

Supply Teaching jobs in Thetford

£21588 - £31566 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education ar...

KS1 teachers needed in Peterborough

£110 - £125 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education are ur...

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed