bringing out the best in boys

Qualification Options for My Son

The world of qualifications can be overwhelming for students and even more so for parents. With the advent of higher apprenticeship, degree apprenticeships and now T-levels, it can seem like another new option comes along every year.

This parent section has been designed to give you all the information you require to help you provide the support your child needs as they navigate their choices at age 16 and 18. 

A Parent's Guide to Apprenticeships


You’ve almost certainly heard about apprenticeships by now. But if you think they’re second best to a university degree, you’ve been misinformed! Apprenticeships can be a pathway to a degree – paid for in full by the employer while your child earns a wage.

In this section, we define apprenticeships, go through the different types, compare them to university, explore some of the programmes available, look at how much your child can expect to earn and explain how to help your child find an apprenticeship.

Types of Apprenticeships

There are four levels of apprenticeship:

*  Intermediate – level 2 – equivalent to 5 GCSEs.

*  Advanced – level 3 – equivalent to 2 A-levels.

*  Higher – level 4-7 – equivalent to a certificate of higher education or foundation degree right the way up to a master’s degree (mostly give a bachelor’s degree).

*  Degree – level 6-7 – guarantees a bachelor’s or master’s degree on successful completion.

National Apprenticeship Service Parent Pack

To see the National Apprenticeship Service's Monthly Parent Packs, please visit here. Please see a sample copy:

Apprenticeship Parent Pack April 2023

Apprenticeships versus University

This video summarises the varying benefits of university and apprenticeship pathways:

For more information on Career pathways and apprenticeships please follow the resource links:

Success at School Careers Zones

Amazing Apprenticeships

GMACS Apprenticeships

Prospects Apprenticeships 

A Parent’s Guide to A Levels 

A Level qualifications provide a solid foundation upon which your son can strengthen their future career prospects. Respectable A-Level results can mean acceptance into high quality universities, as well as increasing your child’s overall job prospects after full time education. Therefore, the following guide has been created in order for you to help your child to achieve the A Levels results they deserve.

A-Levels is the broad term given to Advanced Level and Advanced Subsidiary (AS) Level Qualifications. These qualifications are also referred to as General Certificates of Education (GCE) and are usually studied by students aged between 16 and 19 after they have completed their GCSE qualifications.

A levels are subject-based qualifications that can lead to university, further study, training, or work. Students normally study three or more A levels over two years. They’re usually assessed by a series of examinations. 

In order to study A levels your son would normally need:

*  at least five GCSEs at grades 9 to 4/A* to C

*  at least grade B in the specific subject(s) you want to study

However, the specific requirements needed to study A levels will vary across schools and colleges. It's important to check what your son will need with the school or college he is looking to study at. Your son may also study AS levels or vocational courses at the same. 

What is the difference between an AS and A2?

AS levels are basically half an A-level – they give a broad understanding of a subject but not in as much detail.

Until recently, they counted towards a full A-level. So you’d get the AS level at the end of Year 12 and the A2 (the full A-level) at the end of Year 13.

But this has now changed.

From 2015 (2016/2017 for some subjects), AS levels are standalone courses, taken alongside – rather than as part of – A-levels.

This means that they won’t form part of an overall A-level grade. So you’ll only take your AS exams at the end of your first year and you’ll need to take all the exams for your A-levels at the end of the two-year course.

For more information on A levels please follow this Success at School link 

Parent's Guide to Vocational Courses

What is the difference between A levels and Vocational courses?

One of the main differences between a BTEC and A Levels is the way students learn and are tested. A Levels mainly involve two years of study with exams at the end, whereas BTECs are assessed throughout the two years through a combination of tests, coursework and practical projects.

Vocational Courses

Level 2 

The entry requirements for Level 2 BTEC courses vary from college to college. Generally, Level 2 applicants are expected to have at least 3 GCSEs at grade 3.

Level 3

As with A Levels, students generally need at least five GCSEs at grade 4 or above, to include English and Maths, to study a Level 3 BTEC.


Plenty of universities and higher education colleges will offer places onto degree and degree-level courses to students with 18 unit BTECs. If you opt for a 12 unit BTEC, most higher education courses will require you to have an A Level or AS Level as well. It’s all down to the individual institution and course, so it’s worth checking what level and combination of qualifications you might need if you already have an idea of what you want to study after Level 3.

For more information on vocational courses please follow this Success at School link. 

To read more about how you can support your son please read the following publications for some really insightful and informative information. 

Paths to Professional Careers

Making the Right Choices

Parent's Guide to T-levels

As parents of teenagers at secondary school, you may have already heard about the government's proposal to change the current vocational education system and introduce new T-level qualifications from 2020. You may also be wondering why the change was recommended and what impact it will have on your son or daughter when they go to a further education college?

In our handy guide for parents, we explain everything you need to know about the new qualifications and how they aim to increase your child's skills and employability. 

What are T-levels?

Alongside apprenticeships and A-levels, T-levels will become one of the three main options for school leavers. T-levels are being introduced in the 2020/2021 academic year, and are designed to replace many of the vocational qualifications currently offered at level 3.

In a new two-year, level 3 technical study programme, T-levels will offer students:

*  Specific practical skills and knowledge in a chosen industry or occupation

*  45 days' work placement at a relevant employer

*  Core English, Maths and digital skills

Within the programmes, students can choose the occupational specialisms they wish to focus on either from the onset or during their course, for example Early Years Educator specialism within Childcare and Education T-level. After completing a T-level programme, students will have transferable skills to use in the workplace, they may also continue their education at university or through an apprenticeship with an employer.

T-level qualifications will be offered in the following sector areas: agriculture, environmental and animal care, business and administration, catering and hospitality, childcare and education, construction, creative and design, digital, engineering and manufacturing, hair and beauty, health and science, legal, finance and accounting, protective services, sales, marketing and procurement, social care and transport and logistics.

How did they come about?

The reforms were announced by the Department for Education and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills in 2016 following an independent review of the further education market. Led by Lord Sainsbury, it became known as the Sainsbury Review'.

In the review, the current system was deemed outdated and confusing' and the radical overhaul of post-16 technical education began. In the autumn budget of 2017 the government announced an additional £20m to help colleges prepare for the change. This is on top of the annual £500m investment announced at the previous budget in March.

How are the qualifications being developed? 

The qualifications are being co-designed' by the Department for Education, Institute for Apprenticeships, education providers and employers. The aims are set out by the Department for Education, and the content developed by the other three parties.

The structure of the new qualifications will be different from the current system. The number of hours a student will study increases significantly from the average 540 hours offered now to approximately 1,800 hours over the two years (including the work placement).

The work placement element increases to 45 days, but can last up to 60 working days, making it much more meaningful to the student and employer. The timing of the work placement may be different depending on the qualification, some may opt for a continuous block, and others will distribute the work placement across the programme.

The core qualifications will be graded on a 6-point scale from E to A*, with A* being the highest. Occupational specialisms are awarded on a pass, merit or distinction basis.

Need more information?

The government's website,, has a more in-depth article about T-levels for those looking to know more, click here for details.

Further reading

Sainsbury review: what changes are on the way for post-16 education?

Schools Week - What are T Levels?


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