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Children and young people

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16 and over

16 and over

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. 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.

The options are:

  • full-time study in a school, college or with a training provider
  • full-time work or volunteering (20 hours or more) combined with part-time education or training
  • an apprenticeship or traineeship.

If you plan to stay in education and study for A levels, either in sixth form at school or college, you will generally need five GCSEs at grade C and above. Some schools or colleges may set higher entry levels. However, students with medical conditions can ask for reasonable adjustments to be made if you aren't able to achieve these entry requirements. 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 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 you will need to go to school/college and what support you might need.

If you're going to college, be sure to make an appointment to talk to its student disability team about the support they can offer.

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 state for high needs funding and are therefore available through each local authority and its Local Offer.

The National Extension College (Tel: 01222 400 200) offers over 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.