New T Levels – everything you need to know

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What did you want to be when you grew up?

Maybe you had a clear idea and knew exactly the path to follow, or perhaps you didn’t have much of a clue or felt uninspired by the choices available to you post-16?

Here’s me, still thinking about it. 42 isn’t too old right? There’s still time to decide? (Fingers crossed.)

T Levels

When I was making my choices post GCSE I didn’t really feel like it WAS much of a choice to be honest, you just picked the three A Levels that you thought you might enjoy the most and got on with it – French, German and maths in my case. I didn’t choose my A Levels with a particular career in mind and they didn’t offer me any opportunities to gain any real world experience or practical skills that employers might need, unless I was looking for a job where I had to give a three minute presentation about Francois Mitterrand, which seems unlikely.

At the time though it felt like A Levels were the only option.

Not any more.

Teenagers finishing their GCSEs nowadays have more options than ever before, (something I’m not sure I appreciated when Bee was 16, which I wrote about here), from more and more A Level subjects through to apprenticeships and vocational qualifications. As of this September there’s a brand new kid on campus too – T Levels.

If you have a child currently studying for GCSEs then you’re going to want to know about T Levels, so I’m here to answer some of your questions.

What are T Levels?

An excellent place to start! T Levels are a new technical qualification created for students finishing GCSEs and wanting to take a slightly different route to A Levels. T Levels have a more vocational focus, but are still academic. They’re a sort of middle way between other post-16 options like A Levels and apprenticeships, allowing students to carry on studying at the same time as offering a valuable work placement.

This feels like such a useful option to me. I was always very academic at school and although I would have loved to have been able to take a slightly more practical route after school, it just wasn’t an option without feeling I would have to sacrifice the academic route. That wasn’t a sacrifice I felt I could make – you don’t put yourself through five years of being called a square at secondary school for nothing right? I had to get those A level grades to make it feel worthwhile!

How do T Levels compare to A Levels?

T Levels and A Levels are both two year courses aimed at students who’ve just finished GCSEs. One T Level is the equivalent of three A Levels and counts as UCAS points in just the same way, meaning your options are always open. Once you’re done you can choose to go straight into work, go on to university or into an apprenticeship.

You will be awarded an overall grade for your T Level – a pass, merit, distinction or distinction*. A distinction* gives you the same UCAS points as three A Levels at grade A* – that’s 168 points. A distinction gets you 144 points, the same as three As at A Level, and so on.

The UCAS points are really worth stressing – T Levels are NOT an easy option or any less of an achievement than A levels. I have to confess that even when my eldest daughter was considering her post-16 options, I encouraged her away from the more vocational routes because somehow they didn’t feel as worthy. I was a complete snob about it basically, and I wish I’d had more of an open mind and listened more to her.

How much work experience will I get?

T Levels are split between 80% classroom work and 20% work experience, meaning 45 days of your course will be spent on a work placement. That’s nine full weeks over the length of your course getting down to the practical stuff.

Take it from someone who gave up a paper round literally half way through, on her very first day – work experience is valuable. There’s a difference between learning about an industry in theory and actually being able to learn skills on the job, from experienced people.

(Honestly, the paper round thing, it’s one of my most shameful moments. I got about half way round the route, which happened to be my Gran and Grandad’s house, and I gave up. My Grandad had to call the newsagent and take the rest of the newspapers back. It’s worse even than the job I had in the pub for about four weeks until I walked out one lunchtime, paying myself out of the till, and stopping on the way home for a celebratory Magnum. There is a reason I’m self-employed.)

What are the benefits of T Levels?

More than 200 businesses – including Fujitsu and Skanska – have been involved in developing T Levels, so they are designed to equip you with just the right skills to give you an edge in the workplace. The work placement not only gives employers a chance to get to see your skills and talents but you get the opportunity too to get a taste for working life and your chosen industry.

How cool would it be to be able to actually try on a career for size before committing yourself? I would have loved to have been able to do that at aged 16. If I’d been allowed to just try a paper round for five minutes or so it could have saved a lot of embarrassment.

What subjects can I do T Levels in?

T Levels launched this September in three subject areas:

More subjects are going to be rolling out over the next few years until there are 24 in total. In 2021 seven more subjects are being added, including Building Services Engineering for Construction, Healthcare Science and Onsite Construction.

Loads of college across the country have introduced T Levels this September, including several near me. Bridgwater and Taunton college, which is pretty much on my doorstep, has launched with all three of the initial subjects this September and is planning on adding another three in 2021. Strode, Yeovil and Weston Colleges all have T Levels on offer for students currently thinking about what they want to do in September next year.

Where can I find out more about T Levels?

I’m so glad you asked! You can find out everything you need to know about T Levels on the T Levels website. You can use the website to do a postcode search to find out which colleges near you are introducing T Levels.

Help your teenager get a head start with T Levels.


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