Beyond School

  • Once you reach school leaving age, which is 16 for most people, you don’t have to stay at school
  • You will have a number of options open to you once you are old enough to leave school
  • Even if you leave school, you are still protected by your ‘children’s rights’ until you are 18

You may be desperate to leave school – or you may want to stay at school or in some other kind of education for as long as possible. In this section, we talk about what could happen next, and your rights to stay in education beyond school in Wales.

What age can I leave school?

You can leave school in Wales once you reach the last Friday in June in the school year when you have your 16th birthday. So you can leave school as long as you’ll be 16 by the end of the school summer holidays.  This means that most people will already be 16 when they leave school. If your birthday is at the end of June or in July or August, you will still be 15 when you can officially leave school. You still have the right to education at this age. The Welsh Government has decided that you don’t have to go to school after this age.

Can I stay at school after I have reached school leaving age?

You can certainly stay in education if you want to once you have reached school leaving age. Your school may have a Sixth Form where you can study for A levels. You might prefer to go to a local college to study for A Levels or for other vocational qualifications such as BTecs or NVQs. You may find you have more freedom at a college compared to staying on at school.

Education at school isn’t compulsory beyond 16 in Wales, so school Sixth Forms and colleges may only allow you to study there if you have a minimum number of GCSEs (or an equivalent qualification).

What is an apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship is work-based training which still involve learning. You will learn practical skills and may also go to college. You are employed, so you have employment rights, and you will earn money while you learn. This is a good option if you want to carry on learning, while earning money at the same time. You can find out more about Apprenticeships here.

What about University?

You don’t have a ‘right’ to go to university, but university should be accessible to everyone who would like to go and study. You will usually have to have A Levels (or equivalent) to go to university, and you will have to pay fees to the university, as well as have enough money to live on while you are at university.

Can I start work when I leave school?

You can leave school and start work at 16 if you want to. There are rules in place to protect you from working in a place or in a job that could harm your health or development. If you start work at 16, you can’t work quite as many hours as you can once you are 18. Find out more on our ‘Leave School to Work’ page.