Planning your next steps after GCSEs

As your approach the end of secondary school, you’ll need to start considering your options for what comes next. Having chosen your GCSE subjects, there’s now even more important decisions to make in Years 10 and 11 about where your future career may lead. To begin with, you need to consider whether an academic, vocational or combined study path is best for you.

Whilst it helps if you have a future career path in mind, many students and young people are still undecided at this stage. It’s therefore essential to learn about all the different options that are available – from what to study to where you can study it. Start researching different careers, including their entry requirements and career prospects. Embark of a period of self-reflection to consider what you enjoy, what you’re good at and where your interests lie.

Post 16 Prospectus Cover 2023
Resources for students

Digital College & Sixth Form Prospectus

A complete guide to your education and training options after secondary school, with an overview of local colleges, sixth forms and training providers in and around Stockport.

A-Levels and T-Levels

A-Levels are one of the more popular options to study at 16+. They are a widely recognized Level 3 qualification that open doors to top universities and promising career paths. They’re the ideal choice if you have a subject you enjoy, are likely to secure a good pass grade in and want to continue studying at a more in-depth level. Offering a structured timetable similar to a school-environment and largely assessed by exams, A-Levels prepare you well for higher education and equip you with valuable skills for the future.

T-Levels are a relatively new Level 3 qualification that sit halfway between A-Levels and Apprenticeships. They combine structured classroom learning with a 45 day industry placement, providing a unique blend of theoretical knowledge and practical skills linked directly to your future career path. Tailored to meet the demands of various industries, you choose one T-Level (equivalent to three A-Levels) which are now available in a wide range of subjects.


Apprenticeships combine practical on-the-job training with formal classroom teaching. They’ve been around for centuries and there are hundreds of different courses (or ‘standards’) on offer – from technology and healthcare to construction and childcare.

After finishing secondary school, you’ll likely start an apprenticeship at Level 2 (equivalent to GCSEs) if it’s something you’ve not studied before, or Level 3 (equivalent to A-Levels) if you have. You can start an apprenticeship at any age or stage in your career and work all the way up to Level 7 in some cases (equivalent to a Masters Degree)!

Apprenticeships are a great choice if you have a career in mind and prefer learning through doing. As well as gaining practical skills and accredited qualifications, you’ll also earn a wage. But there’s lots to consider – from how to find an apprenticeship and what course to choose, to juggling your studies and the demands of a job at the same time.

Resources for students

Student Advice & Wellbeing

Making decisions about your future and handling big life changes can feel overwhelming at times. Here in Stockport, there are a range of support services available to provide advice, support your wellbeing and help get your career on track.

Vocational Qualifications

Whether you have a specific career in mind or are exploring different options, vocational qualifications are available in a diverse range of subjects, from business and engineering to healthcare and creative arts. They allow you to delve into your passion while acquiring the practical skills necessary for success in today’s competitive job market.

If you’re keen to gain hands-on experience but still want a traditional education setting, vocational qualifications – such as BTECs or NVQs – could be the ideal choice. Unlike apprenticeships that are based in the workplace, vocational qualifications provide a structured curriculum and allow you to hone your skills in a college environment before entering the workforce.

BTECs and NVQs are available at Level 2 or 3 (and continue up to Level 5) and take 1 to 2 years to complete depending on the course. They offer a hands-on approach to learning, providing you with real-world expertise that is highly sought after by employers.

Stockport employer insights

Browse our range of employer videos to get inspired by local residents showcasing their careers in Stockport businesses.

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