Post-16 Options

As a result of legislation introduced in September 2013, the law now requires that young people continue in education, employment or training until the age of 18. The four main post-16 pathways that students can choose from are detailed in the sections below. Students can also choose to join the armed forces and each year there are typically between 1 and 3 KNBS students that choose this route. Information for the armyroyal navy and royal air force can be found here by clicking on the hyperlinked-name.


The term ‘UCAS’ is used in the text below and it is a something that a large proportion of our students will need to be familiar with in the future. UCAS stands for “Universities and Colleges Association”. UCAS tariff points translate your qualifications and grades into a numerical value e.g. an ‘A’ Level grade B is 40 UCAS tariff points. Many qualifications (but not all) have a UCAS tariff value, which will vary dependent on the qualification size and the grade you achieved. This numerical value is used by Higher Education course providers to assess whether you meet their entry requirements for a particular course. 

A Levels

What are they?

‘Advanced level qualifications’ (‘A’ Levels) are subject based qualifications that can progress onto the post-18 options of university course, higher apprenticeships or work. ‘A’ Levels are 2-year courses and students typically study three subjects.

‘A’ Levels are classed as level 3 qualifications.

Whre can I study them?

You can study ‘A’ Levels at sixth forms, sixth form colleges and colleges. The closest and most popular Post-16 providers for KNBS students are Kings Norton Girls’ School Sixth Form, Cadbury College, South and City College (which includes the Longbridge Campus) and Halesowen College. Most colleges and all sixth forms in the Birmingham and Solihull area offer ‘A’ Levels.

Who are ‘A’ Levels for?

‘A’ Level entry requirements are set by the Post-16 provider (i.e. the sixth form or college) but the grades needed are typically higher compared to other the grades needed for other post-16 qualifications. For example, to study an English Literature ‘A’ Level at Cadbury College, a minimum of 5 GCSEs are required at levels 4 and above, including maths, with at least English literature and English language both at level 6.

If you want to go to university or study a Higher Apprenticeship, ‘A’ Levels are suitable qualifications for these pathways. ‘A’ Levels should also be considered by people who do not yet know what they want to do as their future career as ‘A’ Levels will keep a range of options open for you.

What is it like studying ‘A’ Levels?

Different providers have different expectations of their students. Sixth forms operate like schools, expecting students to be on site each day and following a programme of attending lessons or studying in a designated location. Sixth form students will have a personal/form tutor whom they will interact with each day. Colleges provide students with more independence but less structure, requiring students to only attend their lessons/lectures. How the time is spent outside of these lessons/lectures is up to the student, but if assignments aren’t completed then students can have their place on the course terminated.

‘A’ Levels are mainly assessed through exams although some ‘A’ Levels have practical components (e.g. biology, chemistry and physics) or coursework (e.g. art and design) that need to be completed.

For a short video on ‘BTECS vs. A Levels”, click here.

T Levels

What are they?

‘Technical level qualifications’ (‘T’ Levels) are 2-year courses where students spend 80% of their course time in the classroom doing a combination of academic learning and practical-based work. The remaining 20% (315+ hours) of their time is spent on industry placements gaining on-the-job experience.

‘T’ Levels are classed as a level 3 qualification and were first launched in September 2020.

Wherecan I study them?

The range of T Levels courses is not yet as extensive as ‘A’ Level or BTEC courses but if you prefer a more practical approach to your work then it is worth exploring what ‘T’ Levels are on offer. Some colleges in Birmingham have started offering ‘T’ Levels including South and City College (which includes the Longbridge campus), Cadbury College and Bishop Challoner College Sixth Form.

Who are ‘T’ Levels for?

Post-16 providers (i.e. colleges) and employers have been working together, making practical courses that will provide students with experience and skills to advance in specific careers. If there is a ‘T’ Level in a particular industry that you want to progress into, that ‘T’ Level should equip you with the technical skills and knowledge to succeed in that industry.

‘T’ Levels have the gradings of Distinction*, Distinction, Merit and Pass. Each of these gradings has UCAS tariff points assigned to them, potentially allowing you to then apply for university courses. Apprenticeship providers also acknowledge the ‘T’ Level gradings and you apply for a relevant apprenticeship. Alternatively, you might get offered a job or pursue employment in your chosen ‘T’ Level field.

What is it like studying ‘T’ Levels?

Over the duration of the 2-year course, students will complete a total of 1,800 hours of work, including an industry placement that will be over 315 hours (45 days) of work. Students attend each placement for a block of time (e.g. two weeks).

Students will be assessed on their classroom-based learning in the style of examinations and a verification of their industry placements.

For a short video to explain what T-Levels are, click here.


What are they?

“Business and Technology Council” qualifications (BTECs) are practical-based, vocational qualifications. BTECs were developed to provide greater hands-on learning.

BTECs can be a range of different levels, but you will find most colleges offer BTEC levels 2, 3 and 4.

Where can I study them?

The range of BTEC courses is wide and varied, from subjects like esports to enterprise and law, childcare to engineering and public and protective services to travel and tourism. All colleges across Birmingham and Solihull offer BTECs; they are a popular alternative to ‘A’ Levels. KNBS’ two biggest destinations for BTECs courses are Cadbury College and South and City College (which includes the Longbridge campus).

Who are BTECs for?

Level 1 and 2 BTECs are equivalent to GCSEs and have lower entry standards than level 3 BTECs, for example, they may ask you to complete a functional maths and English test. Level 3 BTECs are equivalent to ‘A’ Levels and can allow you access to some university degree pathways, relevant Higher Apprenticeships, further training pathways or some relevant jobs. BTECs are graded as Pass, Merit or Distinction, with Distinction carrying the most UCAS tariff points for Post-18 pathway options.

A sizeable proportion of KNBS leavers opt to undertake a BTEC, particularly in a skill/trade like plumbing, carpentry or bricklaying.

Most BTEC courses require 5 GCSEs, all at level 4, however, entry requirements can be higher or lower depending upon the standard and popularity of the course.

What is it like studying BTECs Levels?

BTECs classes are smaller than school classes so you will receive more attention from the teacher/lecturer but this will also mean that you will be expected to contribute more. You will also have fewer classes each week and so you will have more flexibility in your day-to-day routines, however, you will be expected to stay on top of your coursework during your ‘free’ time. Students who do not keep up to date with their work can have their place on the course terminated.

Colleges have experienced, trained lecturers and may invite a guest in from time-to-time to delivery an aspect of the course, however, your learning and practical experience will be gained at College. 

For a short video on ‘BTECS vs. A Levels”, click here.


What are they?

Apprenticeships combine practical, hands-on training with study (delivered by a provider, like a College). Apprentices will gain job-skills and experience in their chosen field and they will be paid, like an employee, including paid holiday time.

Who are Apprenticeships for?

If you are someone who desires to progress from a school environment into a working environment and you have a clear direction that you want your future to go in (i.e. you know the industry/field that you want to work in) then an Apprenticeship could be right for you. You will need to be organised, self-motivated, willing to listen and learn from others and ready to work between 30 and 40 hours a week.

What is it like applying for an Apprenticeship?

The exact qualification requirements for each Apprenticeship vary, however, most positions require you to have 5 GCSEs between levels 4 to 9, including Maths and English. It is important that you are aware that Apprenticeships have become the most competitive Post-16 pathway, with more applicants per position that any other option, therefore, the higher your GCSE levels – the more likely you are to make it through to interview.

Apprenticeships require candidates to complete an application form and the candidates are then short-listed for an interview. In recent years, the first interview has been by phone and a second short-listing is performed for a second, virtual or face-to-face interview. It is really important that you write you application carefully and thoughtfully and prepare/practice for an interview situation.

How do I find Apprenticeships?

Apprenticeship positions can start being advertised as early as the summer holidays at the end of Year 10. Most Apprenticeships are advertised between September and November in Year 11 but can be advertised up until April. Use the websites listed on the “Useful websites” page on the Careers section of the school website to search for Apprenticeships in the local area.

If you are ever in need of any help, please speak to the school’s Careers Leader, Mr Kirk.

What is it like undertaking an Apprenticeship?

Apprenticeships are designed to feel like you work for the business. You will be treated as an employee. However, because they are classed as a form of education and you are still under the age of 18 years, you spend 80% of your time at work and 20% of your time studying. For example, you may be at work from Monday to Thursday and spend Friday at home performing remote learning and coursework. An Intermediate (Level 2) Apprenticeship is equivalent to 5 GCSEs and an Advanced Apprenticeship (Level 3) is equivalent to 3 A Levels. Most Advanced Apprenticeships last 2 years.

For a short video about apprenticeships, click here.

Further information for any of the post-16 options can be found on the “Useful Websites” page.