An introduction to T Levels - what are they and are they right for my child?
T Levels are a new sixth form qualification introduced in 2020, so we’re digging deep and finding out what they’re all about and what kind of students they might suit. Read on to see whether T Levels could be the best choice for your teen or, if you’d like to know about all options after GCSE, check out The Parents’ Guide to Post 16 Options.
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What are T Levels?
T Levels, or Technical Level Qualifications, are a new government backed qualification introduced as of September 2020 and will be equivalent to 3 A Levels. These 2-year courses have been developed in collaboration with employers and businesses so that the content meets the needs of industry and prepares students for working life.
T Levels involve a mix of classroom learning (about 80% of the course time) and practical experience (about 20% of the course time) including a 45 day on-the-job placement in a genuine business. Afterwards, students may go on to university, alternative higher education, another job, an apprenticeship or they may be offered an opportunity with the company where they were placed.
T Levels are a vocational alternative to A levels (because they focus on industry) and include practical study as well as classroom learning. They differ from apprenticeships because the study and working time is reversed. Unlike BTECs, T Level courses were developed with businesses and offer an industry placement. It is likely BTECs will be phased out over the next five or so years.
T Levels are a level 3 qualification and provide an alternative to A levels, apprenticeships, IB, BTEC and other courses aimed at 16-19 year olds. Check out the table below!
What subject choices are there?
As of September 2021, there were ten T Level subjects available all relating directly to workplace careers:
Building Services Engineering for Construction
Design, Surveying and Planning for Construction
Digital Business Services
Digital Production, Design and Development
Digital Support Services
Education and Childcare
Six more subjects were added in September 2022:
Design and Development for Engineering and Manufacturing
Engineering, Manufacturing, Processing and Control
Maintenance, Installation and Repair for Engineering and Manufacturing
Management and Administration
And another seven from Sep 2023 onwards
Agriculture, Land Management and Production
Animal Care and Management
Craft and Design
Hairdressing, Barbering and Beauty Therapy
Media, Broadcast and Production
For detailed information on T Level subjects, including what your teen could study in each course and where it may lead to next, download our 'T Level subjects' table.
How does it work?
T Level courses consist of the following:
an approved technical qualification specific to the chosen industry area with compulsory elements and, in some cases, optional specialisms;
an industry placement in their chosen industry area (approximately 45 days), which might be offered as day release or as a concentrated block;
a minimum standard in English and maths (if this had not already been achieved).
Students receive a nationally recognised grade and a breakdown of their achievements on the course, including how they did on their work placement. If they don’t pass all elements of their T Level, they’ll receive a T Level statement of achievement outlining what has been completed.
How will my child be graded?
Your child will need to pass all the elements of their T Level to receive a nationally recognised certificate displaying their overall grade and a breakdown of what they have achieved on the course.
The T Level certificate will display:
an overall grade for the T Level (pass, merit, distinction, distinction*);
a grade for each occupational specialism (pass, merit or distinction);
a grade for the core component (A*-E);
grades / details showing that the minimum requirements for maths and English have been met (level 2 minimum); and
confirmation that the industry placement has been completed to a minimum standard
If your child does not pass all elements of their T Level, a T Level statement of achievement outlining the elements that have been completed will be provided instead.
Can my child apply to university after completing their T Level?
T Levels have been designed to provide students with the knowledge, skills and experience needed to progress onto a range of options including work, higher education or apprenticeships. UCAS tariff points have been allocated to T Levels for those wanting to go on to university.
UCAS Tariff points T Level grade ( A level equivalent)
168 - Distinction* (equivalent to A*A*A* at A level)
144 - Distinction (equivalent to AAA at A level)
120 - Merit (equivalent to BBB at A level)
96 - Pass - C or above on the core (equivalent to CCC at A level)
72 - Pass - D or E grade on the core (equivalent to DDD at A level)
Advantages of taking T Levels
T Levels broaden the study choices for 16 years olds. They can offer a clear path to employment although, should your teen start the course and realise that industry or specialism it is not for them, there are still plenty of options for them to continue higher education or get work in a different industry once the T Level is complete. They are ideal for students who enjoy learning through practical experience and real-life situations.
Qualifications needed to take T Levels
Individual courses need to be checked, but generally students need 5 GCSEs (graded 9-4) including English and maths.
For teens that don’t have the necessary skills to go straight to T Level, they can take the T Level Transition Programme – a one year course after GCSE to prepare them for the subject they would like to study.
Where can my teen study T Levels?
T Levels are currently only available in England. There are around 50 providers. Mostly these are colleges because of the technical nature of the studies and extra equipment needed. It’s worth remembering that whilst colleges are specialists in providing education tailored to sixth formers, students do needs to be comfortable with independent study to benefit from what’s on offer (unlike schools, where guided learning is more usual, even in sixth form).
T Levels are an exciting new option in sixth form education that provide a recognised qualification tailored to industry needs and skills. It’s a great choice for students that want to learn practical skills relevant to certain jobs, regardless of whether they want to go on to study for a degree, take alternative further education or go straight into the workplace after sixth form.
For more information on how you can support your child in making the right choices after their GCSEs, you may be interested in reading The Parents’ Guide to Post 16 options (full edition).
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