16 and over

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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 (visit www.apprenticeships.org.uk

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./CFS will only take one, others may study over a period of three to four years.

Participation of young people in education, employment or training

Statutory guidance for local authorities, September 2014
Local authorities have a responsibility to encourage, enable and assist young people to participate in education or training. 

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Supporting pupils at school with medical conditions 

Parents of children with medical conditions are often concerned that their child's health will deteriorate when they attend school. This is because pupils with long-term and complex medical conditions may require ongoing support, medicines or care while at school to help them manage their condition and keep them well. Others may require monitoring and interventions in emergency circumstances. Children's health needs may also change over time, sometimes resulting in extended absences.

So it's important that parents feel confident that schools will provide effective support for their child's medical condition and that pupils feel safe. When making decisions about the support they provide, schools should establish relationships with relevant local health services to help them. It is crucial that schools receive and fully consider advice from healthcare professionals and listen to and value the views of parents and pupils.

In addition to the educational impacts, there are social and emotional implications associated with medical conditions. Children may be self-conscious about their condition and some may be bullied or develop emotional disorders such as anxiety or depression around their medical condition. In particular, long-term absences due to health problems affect children's educational attainment, impact on their ability to integrate with their peers and affect their general wellbeing and emotional health. Reintegration back into school should be properly supported so that children with medical conditions fully engage with learning and don't fall behind when they are unable to attend. Short-term and frequent absences, including those for appointments connected with a pupil's medical condition, (which can often be lengthy), also need to be effectively managed; and appropriate support put in place to limit the impact on the child's educational attainment and emotional and general wellbeing. 

Some children with medical conditions may be disabled. Where this is the case governing bodies must comply with their duties under the Equality Act 2010. Some may also have special educational needs (SEN) and may have a statement, or Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan which brings together health and social care needs, as well as their special educational provision. For children with SEN, this guidance should be read in conjunction with the SEN code of practice 

Key points: 

  • Pupils at school with medical conditions should be properly supported so that they have full access to education, including school trips and physical education.
  • Governing bodies must ensure that arrangements are in place in schools to support pupils at school with medical conditions.
  • Governing bodies should ensure that school leaders consult health and social care professionals, pupils and parents to ensure that the needs of children with medical conditions are properly understood and effectively supported.

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Education Health Care Plans

An education, health and care (EHC) plan is for children and young people aged up to 25 who need more support than is available through special educational needs support. EHC plans identify educational, health and social needs and set out the additional support to meet those needs. 

Alternative options to learning

For young people with M.E./CFS 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.

Online learning options 
Here is a list of online learning providers that it may be helpful to contact - it's  by no means a complete list, and we (AYME) don't recommend one institution over another:.

Academy 21
(01438) 535001

Cloud Learn 
(0330) 111 4006

ISC Learn
(0808) 231 8269

National Extension College
(0800) 389 2839

(0208) 424 8475 

Oxford Learning College 
(01865) 95263

UK Open College
(0121) 288 0181


Connexions is no longer a national service, but each local authority does have its own Connexions-type service (perhaps with a different name). Connexions is a useful agency to contact as it can help with education and careers advice.

This guide applies to people living in England, and there may be differences in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For more information, please contact:
The Scottish Further Education Funding Council 
0131313 6500

English (0300) 06303300
Welsh (0300) 0604400

Department of Education (N. Ireland)

Top tips

  • Be realistic – if you have had home teaching for your GCSEs – think about how you will manage to get to school/college and support you might need
  • If your child is going to college, make an appointment to talk to its disability team about what support they will need to continue their education
  • Talk to your school/college about making reasonable adjustments for your child to continue their education in school/college
  • Arrange exam adjustments early – either through your school Examinations Officer or college disability team

If you need more information or support, please call our helpline on 0330 2211223 or email helpline@ayme.org.uk

The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA)

The DDA makes it unlawful to discriminate, without justification, against disabled pupils and prospective pupils. The Code of Practice gives guidance on how the two main duties apply to schools and colleges: the duty not to treat people less favourably, and the duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled students. Since September 2005, physical adjustments to premises must also be made if disabled people are at a substantial disadvantage.

For Codes of Practice for schools and colleges under the DDA, call 0845 604 6610 or visit

Education fact sheet

AYME's National Support Workers have collaborated with professionals across the country to produce a fact sheet for schools and their staff. Please download this fact sheet, along with a covering letter, and get circulating!

You can approach your local primary and secondary schools with the letter and fact sheet, the former of which talks about the need to raise awareness of M.E./CFS in children and young people, and explains a little bit about AYME.

"Thank you so much for all this fantastic information. The Education Fact Sheet was perfect to pass on to our son's teacher this morning. It explains our son's symptoms almost exactly!"

You can ask the school to tie the fact sheet into its annual programme: perhaps as part of an assembly, a feature in a newsletter or their website, a discussion point during PSHE classes, or crucial information for the school nurse. Please do let us know if you have used the factsheet in your school and how you got on.

Download Education Fact Sheet