Advice for Parents

Making the right choice of organisation for study is critical. Whether it is to stay on at school, go to vocational college or sixth form college full-time; or whether to get an Apprenticeship and learn while earning. Getting a good start on the right course is essential, otherwise vital years can be wasted.

  • 16-18s have to stay in education, but not necessary at school
  • Look at all the options available
  • Take your son or daughter to open events at several institutions
  • Take any opportunity for taster events
  • Look online for advice and information

Choices for School Leavers

The two years in education when young people are aged 16 and 17 are a vital time in their lives. Students start to specialise, the direction of future study and work becomes clearer and the school uniform is left behind as students are supported to take the first steps as adults before their independence is forged.

Making the right choice of institution or organisation for study is critical and urgent, whether it is to go to school, vocational college or sixth form college full-time; or whether to get an apprenticeship and learn while earning. Getting a good start on the right course is essential.

Due to the raising of the participation age, young people have to be in learning or work with training until they are 17, shortly to rise to 18. Also, while there are still great opportunities for learning after ages 16-18, government funding is inevitably reducing for those over 18 and, unless supported while on unemployment benefit, older students will have to pay fees or take out student loans. So it is in the interest of every young person to make the best use of their educational time when they are 16-18 and get a great start to their academic and/or working life.

Young people, parents and guardians face complicated and important choices. Being informed, and considering the widest range of options is essential and every provider in the education sector should help and support you with information and guidance on the wide range of options available. With good quality education and training behind them, there are great opportunities for young people to find their place and success in the world.

Advice on Applications

  1. Apply early. It will give you more time to investigate where you are applying to, to make sure it is right for you.
  2. Applications can be made to several colleges and schools: there is no problem with going to interviews at several organisations. Young people should apply, go to interviews and assessments and explore their options to ensure they find the right course and place of study for them.
  3. When you go for an interview, you can ask questions too. For example: what will I do on the course? How is it assessed? What facilities and equipment will I use? What are the links of the tutors and the college or school with industry?
  4. If you have any questions, get in touch. All colleges will have staff on hand to give advice and guidance. They will be helpful and friendly.

What is a Vocational Course?

Vocational courses at ‘Level 3’ are equivalent to A-Levels; challenging, exciting and gains entry to university. They are mostly assessed by rigorous project work throughout the year, though tests and exams are part of assessment in some qualifications. For more practical university disciplines such as Media, Computing, Business or Engineering; vocational learning can be a better preparation for Higher Education study.

Our vocational qualifications are taught by staff with experience and skills from industry in high-quality environments, which house industry-standard equipment. Our students have lots of contact with the ‘real world’ of employers and business through work experience, talks, visits or real-life projects. Students may undertake activities that develop skills of enterprise and entrepreneurship and take part in competitions.

Vocational courses have a number of different names such as BTECs, NVQs (National Vocational Qualifications) and VRQs (Vocationally Related Qualifications) and are available at different educational levels, so it is appropriate for students as they develop their skills and abilities.

Vocational courses at Entry, Level 1 and Level 2 help students develop their skills and move towards work or higher level courses.

On all courses, our course and progression tutors help students by closely monitoring their targets, progress and achievements to ensure success. A very high attendance is essential, expected and monitored closely at all times.

Levels of Study Pathways 

Special Educational Needs or Disability (SEND)

Everyone deserves a fair start in life and our Colleges (Rotherham College, North Notts College and Dearne Valley College) are committed to giving every learner the opportunity to reach their full potential. Education plays a critical role in achieving this.

All Change for A-Levels

Taking A-Levels is probably the most well-known of the study routes young people have at age 16, and for many students, these courses will provide an effective route to university. Students currently take ‘AS’ Levels in year one of study, then the actual A Level (‘A2’) papers in their second year. Parents and young people should be aware though of two major changes which have happened.

Previously, AS and A-Level students have been able to take their exams in both January and May/June, often taking one of the papers that make up the qualification in each ‘exam window’. This spread out the revision burden and if things didn’t go well in a paper taken in January, it could be retaken in June to improve grades.

The January exams opportunity has been removed as a result of government reform. So all the exam papers have to be taken in the summer.

The second change is this. At present a student’s final A-Level grades, which determine ‘UCAS’ points and university entry, are made up of accumulated marks from both the AS and A-Level (A2) stages. For students starting their A-Level studies in autumn 2015 and thereafter, while AS levels will be retained, any marks gained will not count towards the final A-Level grade and university entry. Therefore most students will take two-year qualifications with everything depending on final exams at the end of year two.

For many young people, this will not prove a problem. However, young people and parents should at least consider how these changes might affect them and whether other qualification routes where everything doesn’t depend one sitting of exams, would suit them better.

Apprenticeships A Growing Opportunity

Both the current and previous government championed Apprenticeships as ways for young people to earn, enter the workforce and get good quality training. Most apprentices spend a day of their working week taking classes or workshops in college, or with a training provider.

The focus on Apprenticeships is going to increase further: in a recent policy paper, the government minister responsible stated he hoped that all young people would either study at university or complete an apprenticeship.

Apprenticeships are an exciting route for many young people who want to enter work rather than go to university at 18. Amazingly, in these difficult times for the employment of young people, there are often vacancies available for which no candidates apply. There are many providers offering the courses and young people and parents should ensure they feel happy with the training being offered and that, as most are, the employers involved are fully committed to the training and development of the young person.

The New GCSE Grades

New GCSE grades will be introduced for the first time for 2017 exam results on subjects which followed the new teaching specifications from 2015. By 2019, all GCSEs will be graded using the new system.

What are the new grades?

The new GCSEs will be graded 9–1, rather than A*–G, with grade 5 considered a good pass and grade 9 being the highest and set above the current A*.

The government’s definition of a ‘good pass’ will be set at grade 5 for reformed GCSEs. A grade 4 will continue to be a Level 2 achievement. The Department for Education does not expect employers, colleges or universities to raise the bar to a grade 5 if a grade 4 would meet their requirements.

How will this affect my place at Rotherham College?

All the courses within on our online course directory or within our course guide include entry requirements. Where we are asking for a GCSE grade C you will require a grade 4.

Here are some other examples from our course entry requirements:

  • Four GCSEs grades A-D = Four GCSEs grades 9-3
  • Five GCSEs grades A-C = Five GCSEs grades 9-4
A group of students sit working.
New Grading Structure Current Grading Structure

For further facts and a timetable of when the different subjects will change to the new GCSE grading structure visit:

Select a subject from the courses menu available at the top of this page or click the below buttons to find out more about: