As the school holidays draw to a close, our thoughts naturally turn to what is in store for the younger members of our community over the coming 12 months. In particular, those who face the challenges the final year of secondary school. It is easy to think that, for those 15 and 16-year-olds, and their families, the next big challenge lies in the examinations which next summer will bring. The truth, however, is that there is a more pressing issue, that of decisions about post 16 education. Before the applications can be made, there comes the reading of prospectuses; the seeking advice of families, teachers and friends and the visits to the post 16 providers’ ‘open evenings’.
Here in East Cambridgeshire, we are lucky that there is an array of choice. Although this can sometimes be bewildering, each school has staff with the expertise to be able to guide and inform. For some, the choice will be easy; they will be clear about which subjects they wish to study, and the grades they are expected to achieve next summer.
These factors alone may give them a shortlist of 2 or 3 providers. For others, the range of possibilities will be much broader. Travel is an important consideration; in East Cambridgeshire many of our young people can travel up to 90 minutes each way to reach their post 16 provision, with the costs, not just financial, but also time and in some cases wellbeing, soon mounting up.
That said, some courses will only be found at providers some distance from home, and the daily commute provides an opportunity to experience the ‘real world’; an opportunity some young people truly relish. If you’re a family embarking on this journey, some good advice would be this: visit lots of providers, take advantage of as many opportunities as you can to see and hear for yourself what providers offer.
Speak to the current students, ask them their honest opinion about what the course is like, what else is on offer, and what support there is if things start to go wrong. Adam Steels leads Bishop Laney Sixth Form at Ely College. Bishop Laney Sixth Form’s Open Evening is taking place on Thursday 1st November 2018 from 6:30pm