How parents can support their school leavers on the next steps

08 May 2019 | Advice for Parents | Guest Author

Every good parent wants to support their child and there is no time more critical to do so than when they are leaving school.

Leaving school is a time of great change for your child, and although this is exciting, it can also feel like a daunting prospect for the school leaver as they contemplate their future and the path that they are going to take. Although your child will no doubt be glad that they are finally graduating from secondary school and moving into the adult world, they may also feel anxious about the upheaval.

Although 70% of young people trust their parents’ advice when it comes to their future, the changes that have taken place since the time you left school mean that this advice can be out of date. The last thing you want to do is to confuse your child with inaccurate information, adding to their potential anxiety about such a significant life change.

Here are some helpful tips on supporting and guiding your child through the process of leaving school and the options that are available to them.


University vs. apprenticeships

Many careers require a university degree. Although some careers, such as medicine and law, require a degree in that subject, pursuing a degree in a non-vocational subject will equip them for many potential career paths. This is ideal if your child has not chosen a career yet.

On the other hand, if your child does not want to pursue a career path that requires a degree, an apprenticeship may well be more suited to their talents and future career path than going to university. For many school leavers, an apprenticeship is a way to gain qualifications and skills that will equip them for the workplace in a way that does not accumulate large amounts of debt.


What are some accommodation options?

If your child will be leaving school and going to university, a key part of supporting them is helping them to find a place to live. The cost of student accommodation varies hugely. In some parts of the UK living in campus accommodation can be extremely expensive in comparison to the price of renting traditionally, whereas in large cities such as London universities may offer students accommodation at rates lower than a private landlord.


Financing career and further education choices

Few people can afford to pay for university or college fees upfront, but there are many funding options open to you. The source of loans for a university degree is of course Student Finance UK - which gives your child the option to take out and pay back a loan once they are earning over £21,000 per year - but there are also many resources available for financing a vocational course depending on the subject studied. Options include:


  1. Bursaries. A select few students many be eligible for a bursary from City and Guilds. A bursary is non-repayable but you must demonstrate that you would not be able to afford the course without one
  1. Start up loans. These are unsecured personal loans between £500 and £25,000/ A government start up loan is repayable at a rate of 6% and must be repaid within 1-5 years
  1. Local business enterprise start up loans. There may be a local business enterprise in your area that is prepared to offer a start up loan to SMEs. If your child is thinking of completing a vocational course for the purpose of starting a business this is an excellent option
  1. Credit cards. A low interest credit card may be sufficient to pay all or part of your child’s vocal course. This requires a credit search, which will be used to match your child to possible credit card loans
  1. Disabled Student Allowances (DSA). If your child has a disability they can apply to Disabled Student Allowances for additional income and/or a bursary. These are non-repayable. Your child will need to be assessed and funds of up to £20,000 may be granted to provide for specialist equipment, non-medical helpers and a general allowance
  1. The credit union. This could be unsecured or secured, with a fixed rate. Repayment is based on your child’s credit score and includes APR.


Alternative learning

After four years of intense studying for GCSEs and A Levels, it is not surprising if your child does not want to launch themselves into the world of university or apprenticeships just yet. If this is the case, a gap year might be the best option as it allows your child not only to rest and refresh their mind but also to make decisions about what they want to do next.

A gap year also offers your child vital life and work experience that is not possible in a classroom, making them a more attractive prospect for universities, colleges and future employers. They can travel independently or take up a voluntary position in a foreign country - this is especially beneficial if they intend to study a foreign language at university.


How can a gap year be funded?

Although there is a stigma attached to gap year travel funded by ‘the bank of Mum and Dad’, this does not have to be the case by any means. Your child can work for the majority of their gap year, gain some industry experience in a career of their choice, then use some of the money to fund a period of time travelling. This will stand them in excellent stead both for securing employment while at university and after they graduate.

Whatever decision your child makes regarding their education and career after leaving school, it’s important to enter into it well informed and optimistic about the future, confident that you can provide them with the guidance and support that they need.

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