T-levels: What you need to know about England's technical qualifications

Students receive results as the qualification ends its second year

Students in England and Wales received their A-level and T-level results on Thursday. PA
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In the second year since T-level qualifications were introduced, students in England on Thursday received their results.

The qualifications are designed to be on par with three A-levels.

Of the 3,448 students assessed, 90.5 per cent passed.

The breakdown shows that 69.2 per cent achieved a merit or higher, 22.1 per cent attained distinction or above, while only 0.3 per cent achieved the peak grade of distinction.

Notably, about a third dropped out before completing their course.

In the qualification's debut year, 991 students received T-level results, with 85.8 per cent of boys and 94.9 per cent of girls passing.

But what exactly are T-levels? And why have they been introduced?

What are T-levels?

T-levels are technical qualifications developed in England to furnish students with the essential skills and knowledge they need for the workforce, continued training, or advanced education.

Students commit two years to complete a T-level, which is comparable to three A levels.

Grounded in the principles that underpin apprenticeships, they blend classroom learning and real-world experience.

Specifically, students devote 80 per cent of their time in educational settings and the remaining 20 per cent in a 45-day industry-specific role.

These qualifications were introduced in September 2020.

At present there are 15 subjects available. These include accounting, engineering, health, science, agriculture, land management, finance, legal services and hospitality.

More subjects will be introduced in future, including animal care and management, catering, craft and design, hairdressing, beauty therapy, media, broadcast and production.

An essential element of T-level courses is accessibility.

They are open to all students who have secured at least five GCSEs at grade 4 or higher, inclusive of English and maths.

They are government funded, which means no tuition fees.

The perks

The government says the T-level pathway comes with advantages such as the opportunity to:

– gain industry-specific skills and knowledge.

– experience hands-on learning through industry placement.

– gather support from employers and industry specialists.

– qualify for government financial assistance.

– pave the way to additional training, apprenticeships, or tertiary education.

The significance of T-levels

T-levels represent more than just another qualification, the government says.

They are a way for young people to acquire the skills required by the job market. They act as a clear bridge to employment, further studies, or university.

With employers playing a pivotal role in their design and delivery, T-levels ensure their relevance in the dynamic workplace, providing students with sought-after skills.

The government, in its quest to refine what education offers, has big plans for T-levels.

Moreover, the government says it is focused on enhancing T-level quality, ensuring they are rigorous and align with employer demands.

The current landscape

The scope of T-levels expanded this year, encompassing seven additional courses.

The data provides a bright picture with 94.9 per cent completing their industry placements and 98.7 per cent securing an E grade or higher in their central component.

The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, Ucas, reported that of the 1,830 students with predicted T-levels applying to universities this year, 97 per cent had received at least one acceptance offer.

Stakeholder insights

Jennifer Coupland, who heads the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education, shared her perspectives on the scheme. She said: “It's not uncommon for students to change course when they start a course, it happens with A-level students as well. So the thing we need to do now is to really understand the reasons for that.”

Robert Halfon, minister for skills, apprenticeships, and higher education, expressed his conviction in T-levels emerging as a global benchmark in vocational technical education.

“I think as more and more students do T-levels, as more and more T-levels come on board, they'll be offered by more and more universities,” he said.

Lisa Morrison Coulthard, representing the National Foundation for Educational Research, highlighted the need for in-depth studies into the high drop-out rate of T-level students.

She also said that “it will also be important to evaluate the progress of T-level students to higher education and employment, as well as how valuable they are perceived to be by industry and higher education”.

Updated: August 18, 2023, 9:47 AM