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Students learning on the job as part of T levelsT levels are new two-year courses that follow GCSEs and each one is equivalent to three A levels. They offer a mixture of classroom learning and ‘on-the-job’ experience in the workplace.

Why do T Levels?

Unlike A levels which are entirely classroom based, T levels involve 80 per cent classroom learning and 20 per cent industry placement. The ‘T’ stands for technical and the subjects are wide ranging, including agriculture, catering, engineering and science. The idea is that T levels will not only provide more choice around technical pathways, but that they will also be on a par academically with A levels. 

So, if by the time you reach the end of your GCSEs you have a good idea of what you want to do in your future career and are keen to get started in the workplace in a more practical, hands-on way, T levels could be your educational utopia.

What do they involve?

The government developed T levels in collaboration with employers and businesses so that the curriculum content meets industry needs. Students study for an average of 1,800 hours over two years, including a work placement. The content is based on the same standards as apprenticeships. The components are:

  • an approved technical qualification that provides technical knowledge and practical skills specific to a learner's chosen industry or occupation
  • A work placement of at least 45 days in the chosen industry or occupation
  • English, maths and digital requirements (English and maths at a minimum of level 2)
  • Transferable workplace skills

At the end of the course you get a nationally recognised certificate showing your overall grade – pass, merit, distinction or distinction*. The certificate will also give details of what you learned on the course to help you move into skilled employment or a higher apprenticeship.  

Where can I take them?

The first T levels started in September 2020 at selected schools and colleges across England. More T levels will be phased in over the next few years until more than 20 are available at a wider choice of schools and colleges.  See here for more details on subjects offered.   

Are there any downsides?

Some educationalists are concerned that T levels may lead to specialism at too early a stage in a young person’s life and ultimately reduce options such as accessing higher education. The DfE says it wants to enable HE access for those taking T levels, but some universities have already indicated very little enthusiasm for T-levels as entry qualifications.

Others feel that the government may have rushed the process of design, consultation and development and believe that T levels will only stand the test of time as a credible and high quality vocational route if there is enough focus on the foundation stage. Low level of employer buy-in understanding of T levels is a particular worry. Will employers really be willing to offer the huge commitment of work placement hours necessary? And who will ensure that this training is taught to a consistently high standard?  For more information, visit the UK government's T levels website.

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