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The decisions young people make at 16 and 18 can be some of the most important in their lifetime. But many of them find it hard to separate fact from fiction when looking at the options available to them.

To coincide with more than 300,000 students receiving their A-Level results, The Careers & Enterprise Company is publishing a new report based on the data behind educational and careers choices that young people make at 16 and 18.

At the same time, a complementary ‘A level myth buster’ guide has been published, addressing some of the most popular misconceptions about post-16 education.

The report, aimed at careers advisers, teachers and parents, reveals some surprising truths about what young people are doing between the ages of 16 and 18 and what they then go on to do afterwards; these include:

‘Everyone stays in school until 18’

Less than half of young people (39%) go to a school-based Sixth Form, with virtually the same number (38%) going to a Further Education college. One in twenty (6%) go on to an apprenticeship.

‘STEM subjects are not popular at A-Levels’

STEM subjects are already very popular and are on the up: Maths is the most popular A Level subject (with 95,000 entries a year), with Chemistry and Biology also in the top five.

‘Only boys take STEM A-Levels’

Young men are still more likely to take a STEM subject, but over the last five years, the number of girls taking these subjects has increased by 5% (compared to 3.9% for boys).

‘Everyone goes to university’

Of those students that complete A levels or equivalent qualifications, only half (51%) go on to university. The other routes open include one in five (20%) going on to Further Education or an apprenticeship and one in four (23%) going on to employment.

Highlighting the importance of young people having the right information for their decision-making, Tristram Hooley, Director of Research at The Careers & Enterprise Company, said:

“It’s brilliant to celebrate the success of students gaining the top A Level results. But we also need to do more to reflect the full picture and the range of options available to all young people.

“We hope that this new report will be a useful resource for teachers, careers advisers and parents, helping them support young people when they are choosing A levels or deciding what to do after they finish.

“But there is a really important message for all young people: irrespective of what happens on results day, your A levels are just the beginning of a lifelong process of career building.”

Read report