AS TEENAGERS pick up their GCSE results this week, a Principal from a leading college is advising them to take independent advice before considering their next step.
The age at which students are required to participate in some form of education or training has, for those completing year 11 this year, risen to 18. And Len Tildsley, Principal of Buxton & Leek College, says that parents and pupils alike are being confused by the way that everyone, including government officers, are referring to the new legislation as 'raising the school leaving age'.
Mr Tildsley said: "Referring to the policy in this way could not be more wrong because, at roughly the same time as it introduced this raising of the participation age, the government also introduced legislation which allowed pupils to move into colleges of further education at age 14.
"This means that instead of 'raising' the school leaving age, the government has effectively lowered it to 14.
"And the truth is that, whether you are a high flyer with the prospect of 10 plus GCSEs or you are struggling to scrape a pass in just one or two, there is a whole spectrum of options open to you at age 16 – only one of which is to stay on at school."
The new legislation means that 16 year-olds can stay in full-time education in either school or college, start an apprenticeship or traineeship or go into full-time employment or volunteering combined with part-time education or training.
Teenagers who simply want a job at age 16 still have that option and most colleges, including Buxton and Leek, will offer a part-time or evening course to allow the teenager to fulfil the new training requirement.
Len Tildsley feels that many teenagers should not be denied a choice by a lack of appropriate advice and guidance to ensure their chosen pathway is the right one for them. He said: "In recent years colleges of further education, including ours, have seen a significant rise in the number of young people enquiring in late September and October about the prospect of switching out of their school sixth form and into college.
"This year there has also been an increase in the number of students applying for vocational courses and apprenticeships at age 17 following year of A level study – another indication that they may have been poorly advised at 16.
"Each year, around 92 percent of our students progress either to employment or further study and those who go on to university frequently report back that they are coping much better with life in higher education than their school leaving peers.
"With a 'good' Ofsted inspection result this year and a pass rate for young people placing the College fifth highest in England, there has never been a better time to join Buxton & Leek College."
The college is hosting Open Days at Leek Campus on August 27 and Buxton Campus on August 28, both between 9am and 5pm, to provide information.