Students know Christmas is the time to start thinking about big decisions on their futures

With Christmas approaching, schools across Mansfield and Ashfield are buzzing with the energy and excitement that the festive season brings, writes Stephanie Hoult, learner engager manager at West Nottinghamshire College.

For year 11 pupils, in arguably their most crucial school year, they are also starting to make some big decisions about their future.

Stephanie Hoult, learner engager manager at West Nottinghamshire College

Stephanie Hoult, learner engager manager at West Nottinghamshire College

In 2015, the Government raised the age that young people must remain in compulsory education or training to 18-years-old.

With three main options available – staying on at a school’s sixth-form, attending a college, or doing an apprenticeship or traineeship – you’d think it was a relatively straightforward choice.

However, the reality is that it’s a confusing time for pupils and parents alike.

And these decisions have a major bearing on a young person’s future.

But don’t worry because there is a lot of help available.

I’ve spoken to thousands of young people and parents about those all-important next steps during my 13 years at West Nottinghamshire College and here are my top tips.

1. If your child isn’t sure what they want to do, arrange for them to talk to their school careers advisor or visit

2. Research providers online – most schools and colleges have an online prospectus.

3. Don’t just consider A-levels as the only route to university. Level three BTECs – work-related qualifications assessed primarily through coursework – are equivalent to A-levels and most universities accept these.

4. Attend as many open evenings or events as possible – at schools and colleges, and careers fairs.

5. Work backwards. If your child knows the career they’re interested in, search for vacancies online and look at job descriptions.

These will guide you on the qualifications required;

6. Secure a place early.

Applications are being accepted now at all colleges and sixth-forms.

Your child can then concentrate on revising for their GCSEs.

7. Apply for a course at more than one provide.

Then, on GCSE results day, your child can make the best decision for them, armed with all the facts.

8. If seeking an apprenticeship with a major employer such as E.ON, Rolls-Royce or Boots, start researching these now.

To find apprenticeship vacancies visit – and secure a full-time course at college or sixth-form as a back-up;

9. Ask questions that are important to you, from course entry requirements and pass rates, to next steps and career opportunities.

At West Nottinghamshire College, we help young people to make these important decisions by holding open days and evenings, running taster sessions, arranging tours of our facilities, offering extensive support for those with additional learning needs, and providing unbiased careers advice sessions for free.

If you’d like to find out more about the college visit the website at or call 0808 1003626.