Recycling and rubbish collection days are also changing for some households in Mendip and South Somerset. Read about the changes and how they may affect you.

Why I need to make a decision?

You can leave school on the last Friday in June if you will be 16 by the end of the summer holidays but you are still required to remain in education or training until your 18th birthday. There are lots of options available to you and it should be appropriate to your needs.

  • You can stay in full-time education in school, sixth-form or college
  • An apprenticeship can support you to start learning and earning straight away
  • You can also start working or volunteering if you combine this with part-time education or training.

When you come to the end of Year 11, we need to know what you are going on to study in September. You can tell us what you are doing around Education and Employment which will help us to support you better.

What are GCSEs?

General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) are qualifications that are part of the national curriculum for students in Years 10 to 11 (aged 14 to 16).

  • You can normally take around 9 subjects and get to choose what GCSEs you want to study for in Year 9.
  • Maths, English and Science are the core subjects that everyone must take at GCSE in England and Wales. Science may be split into the three separate sciences (Biology, Chemistry and Physics) or into two Combined Science GCSEs.
  • Some schools may make other subjects compulsory, so check with your teachers to find out what rules your school has. The BBC has a page to help you with this GCSE options: Everything you need to know about choosing your GCSE subjects – BBC Bitesize
  • Information on other subjects available: GCSE – BBC Bitesize

GCSEs are graded 1 to 9, with 9 being the top mark and a 4 as a standard pass. This gives you enough skills for normal adult life tasks like budgeting, filling in forms, reading instruction manuals and calculating bills. It is also a requirement for most courses that you may want to go on to after you have finished Year 11.

Some sixth forms and most colleges offer a range of maths and English courses for students who need to retake English or maths after 16. Whether you go into an apprenticeship, sixth form or college you will need to continue to study maths and English alongside other things you are doing until you are 18 or achieve a grade 4.

You can also find more information on Careerpilot : Choosing your GCSEs

Work experience

You will be given the opportunity to do work experience at school, usually in year 10 and it will be organised by your school. They will help you find a one- or two-week placement. Sometimes you may have to seek out a placement yourself. This is good practice for applying for jobs. Lots of different employers offer work placements to students. Sometimes the work experience is in a workplace, sometimes it is online, and sometimes it will be partly online with some time in the workplace.

How to make the most of your work experience placement

Whether you are on year ten work experience or you have arranged a placement independently, our top tips will help you to make a good impression.

Placements are a great way to find out about different types of jobs and to identify your own preferences. They may help you find your ideal career, or simply to decide what is not for you. Whatever the case, there are a number of ways to make sure that you get the most you can from the experience.

Before you arrive

  • Make sure that you know what time to turn up, and plan your journey accordingly. Being on time – or even five minutes early – will immediately show how keen you are.
  • Find out where to report to in advance; some employers will give you specific directions to their department, while others will ask you to wait at reception. Knowing which to do will show initiative and organisation before you have even started work.

What to wear on work experience

  • Ask about dress code in advance; some workplaces will have more specific requirements than others. If you can’t find out, think about the environment you will be working in.
  • If your placement is at a garden centre or on a construction site, comfortable, hard-wearing clothes and sturdy shoes are ideal. If you will be in a professional office environment, it is best to keep it formal at first.
  • Don’t worry about buying a suit, but avoid jeans, t-shirts, trainers and revealing clothing. Smart trousers and a smart shirt or top are the safest options, or a dress or skirt that is at least knee-length.
  • If you arrive to find that everyone else dresses more casually, you can always dress down later.

Your first day on Work Experience

  • Your manager will probably introduce you to everyone you will be working with, but if they don’t, try to introduce yourself. First impressions are important, so greet your co-workers with a friendly smile and a firm handshake.
  • Get into the habit of ‘active listening’ whenever somebody speaks to you. This can involve giving verbal responses as they talk, such as ‘yes’, ‘I see’, or even ‘mm-hmm.’ You should also pay attention to your body language; avoid defensive or lazy-looking positions, for example crossing your arms or slouching. Instead, smile, maintain eye contact and if you are sitting down, lean forward. This helps to show that you understand and are interested in what they are saying.
  • The first day may be more of an orientation day where you largely observe others and familiarise yourself with the workplace. However, you may get stuck in straight away – be prepared for either scenario.
  • Remember to say goodbye at the end of the day, and thank anyone who has helped to show you the ropes.

How to get the most out of your Work Experience

  • Don’t be afraid to ask colleagues how they got into their profession – they will appreciate your interest, and their tips may come in handy. You could also ask questions about the organisation and what they expect from employees, just in case you want to go back there (or a vacancy opens up) at a later date.
  • Keep a record of what you have worked on and who you have worked with. For instance, if your placement is at a law firm, you may have the opportunity to sit in on a court hearing. In this situation, note down the name of the court, the lawyer you went with, and the details of the case. This will help when you come to talk about it in future job or university interviews.

At the end of your placement

  • Send a thank-you note after you finish your placement; it’s usually best to do this by email or post, rather than on social media. This shows courtesy, and will help to make sure that you are remembered.
  • Providing your school and workplace allow it, you might want to consider keeping in touch with your employer. Your manager or colleagues may have useful advice or even contacts and opportunities to pass along to you in the future. Before you leave, ask for their preferred method of keeping in touch.
  • If you do not enjoy your placement, you may decide against keeping in contact or pursuing that career. However, this doesn’t make the experience a waste of time. Every experience in a work environment looks great on a CV, so take some time to reflect. Identify any transferable skills you have picked up, and make sure you can illustrate them with specific examples. Perhaps you showed that you are a quick learner by familiarising yourself with a new software package. Be sure to make a note of any acquired skills during or soon after the placement so you don’t forget the details.

Health and Safety

As work placement students you have a duty to take care of your own health and safety, and that of others who may be affected by your actions. This includes listening carefully, following instructions, using any safety equipment that has been provided and taking part in relevant training. If you have any concerns about your health and safety, raise them with your placement provider or organiser and tell them about any accidents or illness which you think may be work related.

Workplace health and safety representatives can play a valuable role early on, by:

  • Introducing you to the workplace
  • Helping you raise any particular concerns

Find out more on the Health and Safety Executive website

Your choices before 16

Secondary Schools

Learning is a huge part of all young people’s lives, you will spend most of your time at school (apart from home) and schools are also places where you can take part in activities like sports, arts and more. You can find more information on Somerset schools in the Children, families and education section of this website.

Alternative Provision

School is the best place to learn for the majority of children and young people in Somerset. Alternative Provision (or ‘AP’ for short) refers to education for pupils experiencing difficulty accessing education as a result of their mental or physical health, permanent exclusion or special educational needs. Learn more about this on the Alternative Provision Directory page.

Home education

All school-aged children in the United Kingdom have the right to a full-time education that is appropriate to their age, development and level of need.

All children between the ages of five and 16 have to be in education. Between 16 to 18 you should be in education, employment, or training. Not all children receive their education at school. Some parents or carers choose to teach their children at home. This is called Elective Home Education.

While most children go to school, a growing proportion of parents are taking on the responsibility for their children’s learning themselves and choosing to home educate. Children who are home educated should receive as much high-quality education as those who attend school. A normal school year is 22 to 25 hours a week for 38 weeks of the year. A home curriculum should give you just as much learning, but there are no rules about timetables or a set curriculum. How learning is delivered is entirely up to your parents. You can still take examinations, and are encouraged to do so. Most employers will want you to have qualifications like GCSEs when applying for jobs.

We are committed to supporting and working positively with families that home educate to ensure children are safe and receiving the best education possible.

You can find out more on the Elective home education page

Last reviewed: February 8, 2024 by Jenny

Next review due: August 8, 2024

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