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I’m currently a student at New College Stamford, Lincolnshire, studying a Level Three Extended Diploma in Business. Alongside my course, I’m also working as a Digital Marketing Apprentice at ‘Quibble Content’. This is where my T-Level placement is based. But what is a “T-Level” placement, I hear you ask.

What are T-Levels?

The government has been thinking about switching up vocational courses to involve more work experience and this is what T-Levels are. Normally with vocational courses, you have to complete a one-week stretch of work experience per academic year all in one block. T-Levels are measured in hours where you have to complete 315 hours of work over the course of a year. This can be done at any time during the holidays, term time and half term. I chose to complete my hours two days a week when I am not at college, which works perfectly for me. I really like the layout of my working week as it gives me time to do all my assignments and homework as well as working two days a week in an industry which I may want to pursue a career in the future. 

T-Level placements must be relevant to the course you are studying at college, for example, if you are studying animal care work experience at a vets, dog training company or working with wildlife would be ideal. 

How does it differ to A-Levels?

After studying A-Levels for six months I decided to leave for many reasons:

  1. I didn’t agree with the fact that I was being treated the same as other students in the school for example GCSE students - Being on the same campus and being taught by the same teachers as younger years really impacted on the way I was treated.
  2. I was not given the freedom to leave the premises in my free periods which is ridiculous. 
  3. I didn’t like the environment I was in, again because I was surrounded by Year 7 to 11 students as well as my own year group. Once you have finished secondary school, we all kinda hope that we don’t actually have to see any annoying year 7 and 8s ever again, this wasn’t the case for me sadly.
  4. I didn’t like the assessment structure either, learning out of textbooks is outdated, studying three 50 page textbooks for one exam is somewhat a joke and is testing your memory more than you knowledge as most people don’t think about the content of the subject after the exam. T-Levels - I can put my knowledge to use in real life! 

I feel as though due to the environment, teachers didn’t really know how to adapt to A-Level students as post 16 students should be allowed more independence and leniency instead of being under the constant eye of a teacher. I understand not all sixth form institutions are not like this, which is why it’s important to speak to other students from the sixth form before making a decision on how you’ll pursue further education. 

How do you find out what’s right for you?

It's all about communication, speak to your friends, family and teachers a lot about what they think is right for you, the most important thing is that you must be happy in what you are doing. Don’t get pressured into anything, as learning somewhere where you don’t feel comfortable could be one of the most depressing things, it was for me! I’m not going to lie, I genuinely enjoy going to college, the college way of life really fits my personality a lot more than A-Levels, not to say college is for everyone because it isn’t, different people are better suited to different things!

I left the sixth form and decided to get a full-time job so I was able to find myself and decide what I wanted to do in my future career. Honestly, this was one of the best decisions I ever made. In this period of leaving A-Levels, I got a full-time job at a service station then being promoted to supervisor after four months at the age of 17. I then realised that I had a really good understanding of how businesses work and decided I was going to study business at college, at the highest tier possible. Also, during my time at my full-time job, I passed my driving test which gave me a huge amount of independence at a time when I thought I’d messed up my life leaving A-Levels - It was a big confidence booster!

I started my course at college in September 2018. Towards the end of my first year, I was told that I had the opportunity to try out a new scheme called T-Levels. Currently, I am one of only a select few students who are trialling this scheme, which will officially come into place in September 2020. This is why I am writing this article, I want to explain to all students like me that A-Levels can somewhat be overrated, even if you want to go to university you can still study a vocational course at college and still get into university.

What do I want for the future?

I am constantly thinking about two choices, university or a higher apprenticeship. By doing this scheme alongside a level three qualification really opens up a lot of doors for me as it is the only level available post 16 which opens up doors to universities and higher education institutions. With these two choices available and appealing to me I have not finalised my decision yet, my grades which I am achieving at college will certainly allow me to get into university.

This is the beginning of a series of articles which I am going to write, explaining and demonstrating my career path and what I have chosen to do with myself over the next couple of years. It will help future students like me understand how complex and how many options there are post 16 and will help reduce the amount of stress students are going through. Don’t stress! There are so many people want to go to university but they feel like A-Levels are the only route to go down to end up at university, it isn’t, trust me!