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Children and young people

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Leaving school at 16?

Leaving school at 16?

You can leave school at the end of the school year you turn 16 (normally the end of year 11), but this doesn't mean the end of education. England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland all have slightly different rules about when you can leave school. All young people are now expected to stay in some kind of education or training until they are 18. This can be combined with paid or voluntary work.

Most young people with an Education, Health and Care Plan complete their further education by the age of 19 years of age. We have a free downloadable factsheet about Education Health and Care Plans that you and your parents may find helpful.

Students with medical conditions can ask for reasonable adjustments to be made if you aren't able to achieve the stated entry requirements – usually five GCSEs. Most schools/colleges will encourage students to take up to four A Levels, but this is not compulsory, and you may wish to negotiate with the school or college to study fewer subjects – some young people with M.E. will only take one, others may continue their study over a period of three to four years.

It's important to be realistic – if you have had home-teaching for your GCSEs, think about what support you will need in place to go to school/college. You may wish to consider continuing your education at home; however, if you don’t have an Education Health Care Plan this is unlikely to be funded by the local authority. In instances where an EHCP is in place, then it may be that Education Other Than at School (EOTAS) is named but only if this is deemed most appropriate option by the local authority.

If you're going to college, be sure to make an appointment to talk to the Student Disability Team about the support they can offer. The things that may have helped you at school may also be useful when you are studying later. You might want to also think about some options that could help you, such as:

  • recording lessons so that if you do realise you’ve missed parts you can listen to them later
  • taking it in turns to take notes with a friend, then taking a picture of their notes to share later.


Online learning options

For young people with M.E. who are unable to attend school or college, there are a number of organisations to help them complete their education. These organisations can provide live online classes taught by qualified subject-specific teachers for students who struggle due to physical, emotional or learning-related barriers, from Key Stage 3 to A-Level. Many of these providers are approved by the Secretary of States for high-needs funding and are therefore available through each local authority and its local offer.

The Local Offer is a guide to the services in each local authority that are available for children and young people with special educational needs (SEN) and disabilities.

The National Extension College (Freephone UK: 0800 389 2839 or Overseas/from a mobile: +44 (0)1223 400200) offers more than 100 home study courses, including GCSEs. You can do as few or as many subjects as you like, but each course has to be completed within two years. Other than that, you can pace yourself, and even stop working for a while if you are going through a bad patch. Each student is provided with a tutor who is available to give guidance or explain any parts of the course they have trouble with. Assignments are sent back to the tutor, who marks them and returns them with comments and advice. You can keep in touch with your tutor by post, telephone, or email.

Here is a further list of online learning providers that it may be helpful to contact - it's by no means a complete list, and Action for M.E. doesn't recommend one institution over another.

Please get in touch for information and support: we are here to help. We have also listed some potentially useful organisations in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland on our Useful contacts page.