When students start thinking of higher education after secondary school, they are often uncertain about the options they have in regard to their studies. One of the options that were introduced recently for students to choose after GCSEs are T-Levels. These were introduced in September 2020 as an option post-GCSE. Many students likely have questions about this particular option, as it is quite a new choice. If you are thinking about T-Levels, then this article can give you a fairly comprehensive overview of how T-Levels work and what age you can take them.
T-Levels are available for 16 to 19-year-old students. They are also available to students up to the age of 24 who have an education, health, or care plan.
Whilst this may have given you a very brief summary of the age requirements for T-Levels, you should read on to find out more about the details of how T-Levels work.
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What are T-Levels?
T-Levels are an alternative option to post-GCSE education. They are equivalent to 3 A-Levels and combine traditional classroom learning with hands-on experience working in an industry placement. This placement will be for at least 315 hours, or approximately 45 days.
T-Levels were first introduced in September 2020. They are two-year courses designed to prepare students for further training, work, or study, with specialised skills to meet the needs of the industry. Students can learn the practical and technical aspects of working for an employer in an industrial setting. They are currently one of the main choices for students after GCSEs and offer a high-quality system that students can understand. The total time for a T-Level is around 1,800 hours over the two years, which includes the industry placement.
The course includes the core elements of an industry placement and a technical qualification that includes theory, concepts and skills for that particular industry, as well as specialised skills for that career.
Many schools and colleges around the UK now offer T-Levels as part of their post-16 options. T-Levels are becoming more and more requested and the T-Level options are increasing rapidly. While the range of subjects to choose from isn’t as broad as something like selecting different A-Levels, T-Levels give richer knowledge of a specific career and might be worthwhile to consider for students wanting to focus on their future careers. The grade requirements to continue with T-Levels are a minimum of 5 GCSEs at 9-4 including Maths and English Language GCSEs.
Check out this article on the government website to find out more about the introduction of T-Levels.
T-Levels vs Apprenticeships
Students may also wonder about the difference between T-Levels and apprenticeships, as schools offer that option post-GCSE as well. They are both similar as they are both career-based, but the specifics are quite different.
Apprenticeships have no upper age limit (16+) and so adults can take on apprenticeships. Apprenticeships also last around 12 months or more, whereas T-Levels have a fixed duration of 2 years (there is also an optional 1-year transitional programme).
The skills gained through T-Levels are industry recognised certification and workplace experience. An apprenticeship offers industry skills, knowledge and behaviour, as well as sector recognised certification. A significant difference is that T-Levels are unpaid, whereas students who take on apprenticeships get paid the minimum wage. The work experience is also different: T-Levels offer a minimum of 315 hours in an unpaid industry placement, whereas apprenticeships offer full time paid employment.
T-Levels vs BTECs
In July 2021, the government announced its decision to phase the BTEC qualification out of the public education funding scheme. T-Levels are set to replace BTECs. To find out more about the phasing out of BTECs, check out this Think Student article.
Students might also be questioning the difference between BTECs and T-Levels. Both are advanced Level 3 courses and equivalent to three A-Levels. However, T-Levels have a much longer industry placement period (around 45 days/315 hours minimum). BTECs have a period of around 2 weeks that are mainly focused on developing key skills during practical sessions in schools or colleges.
BTECs also have lower entry requirements: a minimum of 4 GCSEs at 9-4 including English Language or Maths, whereas T-Levels require a minimum of 5 GCSEs at 9-4 including English Language and Maths.
It might be helpful to check out the options for T-Levels. To look at the options available, click here to look at the government website.
Are T-Levels free?
In short, yes! It doesn’t cost any money to take T-Levels. T-Levels are completely free as an option, financially. Of course, time is spent working at an industry placement for at least 315 hours, or 45 days, but other than time put in, T-Levels do not cost anything.
As T-Levels provide an industry placement and two-year course that are suited for students who know what career they want, it might seem too good to be true. Students may find themselves wondering whether there are hidden strings attached and ask whether they need to pay to access this pathway. However, T-Levels are funded by the government to meet industry needs, and so are free for students to take. Eligible schools can apply for funding for training to prepare leaders and teachers, as well as funding for better facilities and equipment.
How do you apply for T-Levels?
T-Levels are available to take as a post-GCSE option. After a student’s GCSEs, they will be able to choose their post-GCSE education: A-Levels, apprenticeships, BTECs or T-Levels. Most schools and colleges in the UK are putting T-Levels out as options. With each passing year there are more options for T-Levels becoming available.
After GCSEs, it should be fairly straightforward to select the option to do T-Levels when presented with the options at school. There is no extra hassle in order to choose T-Levels, and no extra application process. As selections for post-GCSE pathways typically vary from school to school, even only slightly, it really is best to speak to a teacher if you’re unsure about a particular aspect of selecting T-Levels.
How many T-Levels can you take?
Simply put, only one T-Level can be taken. One T-Level is equal to 3 A-Levels, which is the usual number of A-Levels students take. The very maximum that can be taken is 5 A-Levels, click here to find out more.
As T-Levels are quite highly specialised, it would be very difficult to maintain more than one. Realistically, it isn’t possible to maintain more than one. As T-Levels are still new, students might get confused on why only one can be taken, unlike A-Levels. Each T-Level needs a lot of dedication and hard work to be put in. They are a mixture of hands-on work and classroom learning, unlike A-Levels, and so there is simply no time to do more than one.
Students might also be concerned about their grading and certification, as it is one course. Pupils who complete their T-Levels receive a grade overall for either a pass, merit, distinction, or distinction*. They also receive a nationally recognised certificate of that grade and its breakdown. The certificate will also include confirmation of the student’s industry placement, and other requirements.
How many UCAS points are T-Levels worth?
The table below can explain how many UCAS Tariff Points are allocated to each grade, as well as compare it to A-Level grades.
|UCAS Tariff points||T-Level grade||A-Level grades|
|168||Distinction*(A* on core and distinction in the occupational specialism)||AAA*|
|96||Pass (C or above on the core)||CCC|
|72||Pass (D or E on the core)||DDD|
If you want a more in depth look at why only one T-Level can be taken, this Think Student article could be a helpful guide.
Are there any limitations to taking T-Levels?
When making decisions and evaluating choices, one must consider the drawbacks as well as the positives. It is no different when considering whether or not to select T-Levels. Students may have trouble making decisions on what paths they will take after GCSEs. Therefore, it is important to consider both the positives and potential negatives with taking T-Levels.
As T-Levels are specialised for particular industries, the skills students will learn and knowledge they will receive will be mostly kept to that industry. The industry placement will give students experience for that specific career. Therefore, students must be sure of themselves and the T-Level they choose when selecting T-Levels as an option.
Because T-Levels are specific to a career and do not offer students a broad range of subjects, it could potentially limit the range of jobs a student could work in. This could potentially cause students to be at a disadvantage if they become disheartened with the career they chose.
However, the mixture of hands-on experience in industrial settings and classroom learning certainly give many benefits to those certain of their future and looking for experience in their desired career.