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A Levels, T Levels, BTECs and Apprenticeships – which route is right for your child?

If you have a child who is set to leave secondary school soon, you will likely be sifting through a mountain of information about the array of different options available to them after their GSCEs. College is a huge step in any young person’s life, and with new beginnings, come new friends, opportunities, and experiences. After finishing Year 11, young people have the chance to choose, for potentially the first time in their lives, to study a subject that they are genuinely passionate about and take some of the first steps in their future careers. Although this is an exciting time, the expanding range of available courses can make the decision-making process daunting and even overwhelming for parents guiding their children.

In addition to ensuring that they choose to study at a college that is going to best support them and their future aspirations, it is equally important to make sure that they also opt for a course that matches their interests, preferred learning style, and career goals. Warrington & Vale Royal College have pieced together this article to culminate all of your post-16 research into one by highlighting the key differences between each course type. If you are currently toying with the right route for your child, this article aims to bring you some clarity.

A Levels are traditional level 3 qualifications that usually focus on studying a mixture of three or four academic subjects at the same time. They are typically assessed via written work and exams – so they are a good choice if your child enjoys classroom-based learning and tends to perform well under pressure.

In comparison, BTEC courses are a combination of practical, skills-based, and theory-based learning that prepares students to be technically excellent in a specific industry or job area. This means that they are a great choice for those who have an idea of the career or sector they would like to work in. BTECs tend to be assessed through a mix of coursework, projects, and exams – equipping students with the skills for both university or employment. You will find that BTEC courses are offered at a range of levels, from entry-level to level 3 (A Level equivalent), and are becoming an increasingly popular choice, with more parents now preferring their child to gain a vocational qualification after leaving school instead of attending university (FE News, 2021).

T Levels are often recognised as being a good mixture of both A Level and BTEC courses as they combine academic, theory-based study in the classroom with a 45-day on-the-job placement with an employer, so students can gain practical experience in the workplace. T Levels are equivalent to 3 A Levels and have been developed in collaboration with employers and businesses so that the content meets the needs of industry and prepares students for working life.

Last but definitely not least is apprenticeships. These unique courses allow students to work and study at the same time, enabling them to earn a wage whilst gaining a nationally-recognised qualification. They will be employed full-time by a company and also enrol on a course at college, combining both hands-on learning in the workplace with theory-based study in the classroom. Most apprentices attend college one day per week on what is known as a ‘day release’ and are paid a national minimum wage of £5.28 per hour (as of October 2023), but this could be much higher depending on the employer and/or industry.

Attending college open events while your child is in Year 11 is crucial to further understanding the full spectrum of opportunities at their disposal. They also offer you the chance to find out about the application process, support for students, free transport and financial help during their time at college.

Throughout Year 11, Warrington & Vale Royal College offers prospective students and parents plenty of opportunities to learn about their huge range of technical courses (BTECs), T Levels, and apprenticeships. As an Ofsted good institution and the leading provider of technical education and training, the college supports thousands of students every year to turn a qualification into their dream career, while also guiding parents through the ever-changing process.

Click here register for our Open Evenings throughout October and November 2023