A new vocational qualification, the T-level, is to be introduced in England in September 2020.
But what are they, who are they meant for, and why are they being introduced?
What are T-levels?
Aimed at 16 to 19-year-olds, they will focus on practical, rather than academic subjects.
Courses will be introduced from September 2020 and last two years. They will include a mixture of classroom learning and on-the-job experience, with a work placement of at least 315 hours – about nine weeks.
Vocational students can currently choose between thousands of different courses and qualifications. The government says T-levels will make things less confusing for students and employers.
T-level students will have a range of subjects to choose from, including accountancy, catering, finance, hair and beauty and manufacturing.
Those who successfully complete their course will be awarded one of four overall grades, ranging from a distinction* to a pass. They will receive a nationally recognised certificate showing their overall grade and listing what they have achieved.
T-levels are being introduced in England only. For the rest of the UK, Btecs (available across the UK), NVQs (available in England, Wales and Northern Ireland) and other vocational courses like Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQs) will continue to apply.
Who will study T-levels?
T-levels are aimed at students seeking an alternative to A-levels.
They are also targeted at those who do not wish to take an apprenticeship, which usually requires 80% of a student’s time to be spent with an employer.
Instead, T-levels will offer a mix of classroom study and technical training, and subjects, such as maths, English and digital skills.
At present, about half of qualifications awarded to 16 to 18-year-olds in England are for vocational courses, like Btecs and City & Guilds.
Estimated number of A-Level or vocational course students
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What do they replace?
There are currently more than 12,000 vocational qualifications at all levels, offered by more than 150 awarding bodies, says Ofqual, which oversees qualifications.
Some courses are studied by just a few students or none at all. There are also many different qualifications to choose from for certain skills, with more than 30 for plumbing.
The Department for Education is to stop funding about 40% of these qualifications as it introduces T-levels.
What will a T-level be worth?
Students who successfully complete a T-level will have a qualification which compares to having studied three A-levels, the government says.
And those who achieve the very top grade will have the equivalent of three A*s at A-level.
For those hoping to go on to university, admissions service Ucas says a starred distinction will be worth 168 Ucas points - the same as three A*s.
Those who are awarded a merit will have the equivalent of three Bs at A-level.
Why were they introduced?
T-levels were announced in 2017 as one outcome of a government review of education after the age of 16. The aim was to have teenagers "work-fit" in a number of key industries.
Former Prime Minister Theresa May had previously announced plans to slash the number of vocational courses available. At the time, the government said this would help avoid confusion for students and employers.
But some organisations are questioning why a large number of vocational courses will no longer be funded by the government, when there has been no major review of the more than 50,000 degree courses available in the UK.