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Choices at 16 and beyond

You need to stay in education or training when you’re aged 16 to 18, but how you do this is up to you. You need to pick the right option for you that will lead to the future you want.

If you are in Year 10 or 11 and in care, you can talk to and get advice from a Progression Officer in Virtual School Kent (VSK) who will be able to help you make the decision about your future.

If you are over 16 and preparing to leave care, there are Post 16 advisers in VSK, who can help you make the choices best suited for you.

If you are over 18 and a care leaver, there is an adviser to support you too.

Talk to your Social Worker or Personal Adviser to find out who can help you.

Find out more about VSK here.

Find out more about your Education, Training and Employment options here.

Learning full-time – further education

Many young people choose to remain in full time education after Year 11 either in a Sixth Form at school or at a college. Sixth Forms tend to be smaller and offer an experience fairly similar to school. Colleges are larger and often offer a wider range of courses that aren’t available in schools. They tend to be more informal but will expect you to manage your own time and work effectively.

Often which you choose will depend on the subjects you want to study, qualifications you need for the future or job you are interested in pursuing as well as your own learning style and preferences. It is important to look at different schools and colleges and talk to the people there to find out which would best suit you. All colleges and sixth forms hold open days but you can also ask to visit during a normal day to find out more.  Find a list of Open Day dates by clicking here.

Find out more about colleges in Kent and Medway here.

Virtual college

Whilst you are in year 13 and 14, the Care Leavers 18+ Service will offer support to ensure that you are achieving to the best of your ability and will liaise with your education provider to access additional support where necessary.

The Virtual College has workers in place to assist you with your education and provide you with additional support.

They can support you by providing 1:1 private tuition for maths and English GCSE retakes and will discuss with you and your personal adviser to put this in place if required.

They will provide additional information to support you in your university applications and be on hand if you have concerns or worries.

Financial Support for Further Education

16 – 19 Bursary

For those studying a fully recognised qualification at either a school, college or training provider and aged between 16 and 19, you may be entitled to the 16 – 19 bursary from the education provider. The bursary is to support educational related costs. Each provider can administer the bursary how they wish. You will often meet with your education provider to discuss any course related costs (e.g. travel, kit and equipment) and agree how to use the bursary. In some cases, you may receive payments so will need a bank account in your own name. You will need to apply for the bursary from your student services adviser at college during the FIRST week of your studies.

Find out more here.

Discretionary Learner Support Fund

If you are aged 19 or over and are finding it difficult to access further education or training at your college, you may be able to apply to the Discretionary Learner Support Fund.

This fund is strictly to be used to help during financial hardship and may be used for:

  • Travel costs
  • Financial hardships and emergencies
  • Essential course equipment, materials and field trips
  • Child care costs

Find out more here.

Care to Learn

For young parents, aged 19 and under, there is government funding in place to assist with nursery and child minder costs.

Find out more here.

Apprenticeships and Training

If you already have a career in mind, an apprenticeship could be the best option for you. You work for a real employer but alongside your work, train and work towards an industry standard qualification. You also receive a salary. Apprenticeships can be found in many sectors such as catering, construction, hairdressing and beauty or administration. The Participation Team within VSK regularly appoints care leavers as apprentices. Contact us to find out if new apprentices are being employed!

Normally, to apply for an apprenticeship you will need to look for advertisements on job sites or in the newspaper or search for an employer or training provider yourself.

Young people in care and care leavers between the ages of 16 and 24 will also receive a one-off bursary of £1000 when they start their apprenticeship.  This can help you transition into the world of work.

If you get an apprenticeship or traineeship after the age of 18, the Care Leavers 18+ Service will provide you with travel money and assist you until you receive your first pay.

Find out more about apprenticeships at Kent County Council here.

Current apprenticeship vacancies at Kent County Council can be found here.

Volunteering and Work Experience

Volunteering, for example for a charity or at a local business, or completing organised work experience can help strengthen your CV, develop your skills and help you work out what you want to do in the future.

Many businesses and other organisations, such as schools, regularly allow young people to complete work experience with them. You may have a week set aside at school when you complete work experience but you can also contact employers directly allowing you to complete additional work experience during the holidays or if you are no longer in full time education or training. If you would like to find out about work experience opportunities at Kent County Council, please click here.

Find opportunities to volunteer here.

Your social worker/PA will support and encourage you to access work experience and volunteering opportunities.

University

Many Care Leavers go on to achieve amazing things at university.  If you decide to go to university, the Care Leavers 18+ Service will assist you with your housing during the holiday periods and provide you with extra financial support. Long-term funding for higher education will be agreed by our management team if necessary.

They will support you for a maximum of 4 years of university study:

  • You will be eligible to apply for a student loan
  • They will support you to visit universities prior to acceptance
  • They will assist you with the initial costs of moving to and from university up to £200

You may also be entitled to additional support from the university who often have additional funds and grants for care leavers.  Some examples of scholarships can be found here but you should contact your chosen university to discuss what is available. 

If you are thinking about applying to university, please speak to your personal adviser or social worker, as they will be able to help you with applying for your personal student loan and support you throughout the process.  

You can visit universities informally or on specially arranged Open Days to help you make the decision about which university is right for you.  Find out how to visit  local Kent universities here.  In December, Greenwich University offers 1-2-1 sessions with students who are interested for applying for an undergraduate course.   A staff member can guide you through the university application process and provide tips on writing an effective personal statement.  Find out more and register for this year’s dates here.  They have also created lots of resources to help you write your personal statement.

The Propel website is also a fantastic resource offering advice and  information about how different institutions support Care Leavers.

University Support for Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Young People

You may study at university if you are an unaccompanied asylum-seeking young person. However, you may not be entitled to pay home fees and you may not be eligible for student finance.

Some universities use their discretionary powers to allow unaccompanied asylum seeking young people to study as home students.

Discretional leave to remain

You may be entitled to university support if

  • You live in England
  • You have lived in England for 3 years
  • You are under 18 or have lived in England for 7 years.

Indefinite leave to remain

You may be entitled to home fees and student finance.

Additional Education Payments

Once you are 18 and a care leaver, the Care Leavers 18+ Service can also offer the following financial support:

  • They will pay the registration and/or exam fees for your agreed course.
  • They will support you with essential equipment and books as agreed on an individual basis.
  • You will receive a financial reward every time you complete a qualification from ESOL/GCSE level to degree level. This will be £25.  If you complete your undergraduate degree, we will reward you with £100. You will need to provide images of certificates as proof.  

Travel costs

If you are a care leaver living in Kent, the Care Leavers 18+ Service will provide you with a 16+ travel card which you can use up until the age of 21 years.

Consideration will be given to additional payment if you have to travel outside of Kent. This will need to be agreed to by a team manager.

If you are a care leaver and in full time education, training and living and learning in London, you are entitled to one of the following:

  • 16+ student oyster card- this offers free travel on buses and trams across London;
  • 18+ student oyster card – this offers 30% off the cost of adult travel fare.
  • If you are under 19 and in full-time education, please apply for the 16+ oyster card (not 18+) as you are eligible for free travel.
  • They will pay a £10 administration cost for you to get an oyster card or equivalent for the area you live in.

Please click here for further information.

Studying away from home

Funding may be available for care leavers who would like to access specialist courses outside of the local area.

This would have to be agreed by the Care Leavers 18+ Service team manager. The two main types of funding are:

  • Residential bursaries from the college
  • Residential support schemes

Finding Work

Once you are a care leaver, your personal adviser or support worker will be able to help you prepare your CV and personal statement, apply for jobs or get ready for a job interview.

They will provide you with a one-time offer of £50 to purchase clothes for an interview and assist you to buy a young person’s bus pass or travel card so you can get to work.

The Job Centre Plus will be able to support you to look for and apply for work if you are not in education or employment. 

Useful Links

Not sure where to start and feeling confused about the choices available? Begin researching using the websites listed below but remember there are lots of people in Virtual School Kent or the Care Leavers 18+ Service who can help you too. Ask your Social Worker or Personal Adviser to put you in touch with right person.

Ready To Work is run by Kent County Council Skills and Employability service. It is a directory of training providers for young people in Kent.

Find an Apprenticeship is a good place to start looking for apprenticeships.

The National Careers Service provides information, advice and guidance to help young people make decisions about learning, training and work.

Apprentice Kent is a good place to find Information about apprenticeships in Kent.

The Prince’s Trust is a youth charity that helps young people aged 11 to 30 get into jobs, education and training.

Skills Plus Kent has information about taking English, Maths, IT and ESOL courses. It is part of the Adult Education service.

Mainstream Group has information about training courses for young people aged 16-24.

Kent Training and Apprenticeships is a useful place to find Information about apprenticeships, traineeships and study programmes for young people.

Runway Training has information about training courses for young people 16-24.

The RBLI helps young people get into jobs, education and training.

Links2Work supports young people into employment and runs traineeships, functional skills courses in Maths and English, and short vocational courses such as construction, hospitality and customer service. Courses are available in Folkestone, Medway and Thanet.

Use the UCAS website to research different options, including going to university, post 16.

Propel is brought to you by Become, the charity for children in care and young care leavers. It provides help, support and advice to young people in care and care leavers who are interested in attending university.