How to prepare your child for leaving school

Are you wondering how to prepare your child for leaving school at 16 or 18? Leaving school is a major milestone in your child’s life which can be both exciting and daunting. Here we share some practical ways you can help them.

1. Talk about the choices available to them

Children who turn 16 years old by the end of the school summer holiday can leave school on the last Friday of June that year. However, until they are 18, they must do one of the following:

  • Continue full-time education in sixth form or college.
  • Begin a traineeship or apprenticeship.
  • Start part-time education or training, and at the same time spend at least 20 hours a week either in paid or voluntary work.

The National Careers Service webpage gives more information about these options.

At the age of 18 young people have two additional choices: they can take a gap year or apply for a job.

2. Help your child to live independently

Even if your child is only 16 years old it is still a good idea to start preparing them to live independently.

You can help by supporting them with:

Money management

Consider involving your child in planning the family budget. For example, they could help with food shopping and choosing the best deals. Share with them how you manage your monthly bills and plan your money.

Understanding money will prevent your child from developing a ‘pay day millionaire’ mindset. This is where they spend most of their wages or student loan as soon as they receive it. Please see our blog post, Going to university? 10 top tips for managing your finances.

Time management

This is an important life skill whatever your child’s future plans. Our blog post about time management is full of tips.

Cleaning and laundry

Make your child responsible for their own cleaning and laundry. By doing so you save their future housemates from mouldy towels in the bathroom and dirty dishes left in the sink!

You could talk about eco-friendly washing (washing at low temperatures, air drying rather than using the tumble drier etc.) and explain that supermarket brand cleaners are just as effective as named brands and less expensive. In fact, there is nothing better for scrubbing sinks than good, old-fashioned cream cleaner.


Asking your child to plan and cook family meals for the week is great practice but may be a little ambitious. Instead, you could buy them a student cookbook or another simple cookbook so they can make a range of healthy lunches and dinners for themselves.

Making new friends

Making friends can be a big worry for any teenager leaving home for the first time. Reassure your child that they have made friends before and so it is a skill they already have.

At university everybody is in the same boat, so it is a little bit easier to make friends than entering the world of work where everyone knows each other. For some easy tips we recommend 20 proven ways to make friends at work.

Keeping safe

As well as teaching your child about internet safety it is important to make sure they know how to stay safe when they are out and about. Here are some strategies to share with them:

  • Make sure you are always aware of what is going on around you. Do not wear headphones when you are walking about.
  • Make sure you have the phone numbers of emergency contacts (friends and/or family members) to hand when you are out as well as your mobile phone.
  • If you are walking at night keep to busy well-lit streets. Avoid short cuts down lanes and across fields.
  • Choose bus stops on busy roads rather than secluded spots.
  • If you think someone is following you, immediately go somewhere that is busier like a shop or busy street.
  • Carry a whistle or alarm around your neck as a deterrent.
  • Keep valuables out of sight. For example, do not put a purse or mobile phone in the back pocket of a backpack or carry it in your hand.
  • Do not fight if someone tries to steal something from you as they might have a knife.
  • Always tell somebody if you think you are in danger or if you are being bullied. Never suffer in silence.
  • Remember to lock doors when you’re in and when you’re out. Close windows before you go out.

Your child could also download a personal safety app such as HollyGuard. For more safety tips, please see Brighton & Hove BHSCP webpage.

3. Organise college/university visits, volunteering or work experience

College/university visits

Colleges and universities organise open days and tours. Some offer masterclasses and taster sessions so potential students can sample courses for themselves. It is a good idea for your child to visit a college so they can get a real feel for it. There is only so much they can find out from brochures and websites.

If your child has missed an open day do not worry. Colleges and universities are usually happy to arrange tours and visits at other times.


Volunteering is a great idea if your child is unsure of their next step. As well as being a confidence booster, it is a brilliant way to gain transferrable skills that will enhance their employment prospects. Working as a team with people of different ages, backgrounds and interests; communication skills; problem solving skills and learning to organise tasks are some of the skills your child could gain.

Find volunteering opportunities through the volunteering website.

Work experience

Work experience can be arranged by asking your child’s school whether they have links with relevant employers. Your child could also apply speculatively to an employer of their choice.

4. Support your child to write their CV

An outstanding CV and covering letter are vital, especially when employers receive hundreds of CVs every day. The Barclays Life Skills website has some brilliant tips and tools to help your child.

It is important to tailor a covering letter and CV to an individual employer. Although this takes effort it makes an enormous difference. Encourage your child to carefully analyse the job description and find out more about the employer through their website. Your child should make sure the employer knows they have the skills and personal qualities they are looking for.

How to prepare your child for leaving school – further tips

We recommend the following websites:

My World of Work:

Career options for school leavers:

The National Careers Service helpline for teenagers:

Is your child sitting exams next year? TutorMyKids can help to prepare your child by supporting them through their GCSEs, A Levels or A/S Levels. Please contact us on 01223 858 421 or