Have you heard the news travelling across sixth forms and colleges classrooms up and down the UK? The British government are introducing the new T-levels to help British students get on par with their peers overseas – who in recent years, seem to have eclipsed most British pupils in terms of their school performance. But what are T-levels, and how do they differ from the existing vocational and A-level courses currently on offer to college kids?
We’ve put together a quick Q&A for any teens looking to take advantage of the new qualifications, and for parents who might feel baffled by the plethora of options available to their children.
What Are T-levels?
The idea is that T-levels will offer the best of both worlds for students in terms of practical, hands-on experience, with the addition of more standardised classroom and theory learning. The courses are designed to last 2 years, and once passed will be the equivalent of 3 A-levels – which is great news for pupils who might not like to carry on their studies at university.
They’re regarded as the stepping stone between further education and offering a foot-in-the-door to skilled employment once they leave college. At a glance, they might sound relatively similar to an apprenticeship – however, the key difference is that an apprenticeship mostly consists of 80% on-the-job learning with a wage, whereas the T-levels focus more on classroom theory with a smaller percentage of career experience.
When Are T-Levels Coming In?
Starting from September 2020, teens up and down the country will have the option to study a T-level instead of an A-level, which have been commonplace across British 6th forms and colleges.
Initially, students will be able to study for a T-level in a set number of colleges across the UK across a certain number of disciplines, which will then be rolled out as a standard across the UK in 2021. This means that the first pupils to be able to study T-levels will be students who are in year 10 now. Lucky things!
What T-levels Will Be Available For Study?
Given the logistical nightmare of introducing such large reforms to the British education system, there will be limits to the new T-levels while they are rolled out nationwide. That means that at first, the new qualifications be available for:
· Digital production, design and development.
· Design, surveying and planning.
Over time, more courses will be introduced from a wide variety of industries; think accounting, catering, human resources and on-site construction. Think the kind of skilled industries that often take years of experience to climb the ladder, where most are likely to enter the job with little to no experience to begin with. The T-levels are there to help progress young people through these careers quicker.
Are T-levels Replacing A-levels?
In short, no. A-levels will still be available, as will apprenticeships. Students still have the opportunity to take an apprenticeship if they prefer, or study a vocational course. Each offer their peaks and troughs, which is completely dependent on where the pupil sees their career going.
For example, A-levels might not be all that useful to someone who has no interest in studying at university. And an apprenticeship might not suit someone who doesn’t quite feel ready to enter the workforce at the tender age of 16, whereas a BTEC, Applied General or Cambridge Technical is a great option for someone looking to jump straight into a career. T-levels aim to plug this gap between the existing options.
How Will T-levels Be Assessed?
While a lot is still up in the air in terms of how the T-levels will work, but the general guidance around the way assessments will work is as follows;
· Similarly to other college courses, the T-level will be graded with either a pass, merit or distinction will form the overall pass grade.
· There will be a separate grade known as “occupational specialism” – this will also be graded with a pass, merit or distinction.
· A separate grade for what will be known as the “core component”. This will be graded on the already familiar A* to E grading system.
· Details of their industry placement.
On top on the above, the T-level will also see to it that any student who passes will also be equipped with a qualification in Maths and English if they have not already achieved them.
Will Universities Accept T-levels?
This one is still largely undecided. Generally, universities have control over who they do and do not accept to study with them, based on the type of A-levels they have and the grades that they achieved, and works on a UCAS points system. BUT, it has been reported by TES that four universities have agreed that they would be willing to take T-level students on for further study.
The Department for Education has said that it will continue to work to integrate the new T-levels into the university infrastructure by working the qualification in with the current UCAS system – so there’s hope yet that T-level students will be able to get a degree in the future!