Full-time education

GCSE resits

If you did not do as well in your GCSEs as you were hoping, opting to resit will mean studying for at least a further year. This may seem a bit depressing – but taking the time now could be the best investment in your future. Core subjects, such as English and maths are often specifically requested for many training or further study options, so getting the grades you need will open more doors for you.

‘A’ and AS level

In order to get on an ‘A’ level course you will probably need a certain number of GCSE passes (usually five at grade C+). ‘A’ and AS levels are now broken down into units. An AS level is equivalent to half an ‘A’ level. It can be a standalone qualification, or count as the first half of the full ‘A’ level.

In year two of a full ‘A’ level, you take the A2 – this is the second half of the ‘A’ level. The A2 is designed to deepen the knowledge you gained during the AS level.


  • AS levels allow you to mix a number of subjects – and you can keep your options open a bit longer.
  • You have more options at the end of your first year. If you want a job or a year out, you cannot face more exams or you think a different type of qualification is the way forward for you, you will still have something to show for your work, rather than feeling you have wasted a year.
  • If you stay on into your A2 year, you can pay more attention to the subjects that you enjoy and need for the future.

You can choose to stay on at school or move to a sixth form/further education college to do your ‘A’ levels. Before choosing your subjects, find out which ones are useful for either specific courses in higher education or certain career paths. Use university prospectuses to find out course details.

Remember – if you are thinking of continuing your studies to higher education, check the number of ‘A’ levels required for entry onto the course.

The Diploma

The Diploma is a new qualification for 14 to 19 year olds. It offers a mix of classroom learning and hands-on experience – all designed to prepare you for whatever options you go on to next.

  • Three levels of Diploma:
  • The Foundation Diploma – starting in Year 10 or 12, equivalent to 5 GCSEs at grades D to G
  • The Higher Diploma – starting in Year 10 or 12, equivalent to 7 GCSEs at grades A* to C
  • The Advanced Diploma – starting in Year 12, equivalent to 3 and a half A levels
  • A Progression Diploma will also be available, which is equivalent to 2 and a half ‘A’ levels
  • Life skills: The Diploma aims to develop skills such as team working, creative thinking and self-management. The skills will be taught in a work-like context and will relate to your chosen employment sector, as well as teaching you new study techniques – so you will be prepared for both work and further learning.
  • Functional skills: Over the next couple of years functional skills will be an essential part of your learning in whatever you do. They are about using your English, maths and IT skills in everyday situations.