Guide to Your Child’s Qualifications

Treviglas Community College offers a wide range of qualifications to meet the needs of learners of all ages and abilities. The following is a guide to today’s education system and the different types of qualifications and subjects on offer.

For example:

  • How qualifications compare, and what employers, colleges and universities will be looking for
  • Some of the new practical, vocational equivalents to GCSEs and A Levels

What types of qualifications are there?

There’s now a much wider choice of qualifications and many of the definitions of year groups, exams and coursework have changed over the years. For instance, what you may have known as the ‘first year’ when you went into ‘secondary education’ is now known as Year 7. And options in the ‘third year’ – now known as Year 9 – are far more varied. For example, in some subjects your son or daughter will start their GCSE courses in Year 9, when they are 13-14 years old.

Here you can see how qualifications and the different stages of education have changed, and how they relate to what you already know.

Student age Old school years Old test/qualifications School year as currently known Test/qualifications Key Stage (KS)
11-12 1st 7 3
12-13 2nd 8 3
13-14 3rd 9 KS3 teacher assessments 3
14-15 4th 10 Level 2 qualifications:

  • NVQ
  • BTEC First
  • OCR Nationals
15-16 5th CSE
O Levels
11 Level 2 qualifications:

  • GCSE
  • Applied GCSE
  • OCR Nationals
  • BTEC First
  • NVQ
  • Diploma
16-17 Lower 6th First year of
A Level
12 Level 3 qualifications

  • AS/A Level
  • OCR Nationals
  • BTEC Nationals
17-18 Upper 6th Second year of
A Level
13 Level 3 qualifications

  • AS/A2/A Level
  • OCR Nationals
  • BTEC Nationals
18 up HNC/HND
Higher Education Level 4 qualifications

  • Foundation Degree
  • Degree
  • Masters/Phd

Curriculum planning

Key Stages were introduced to the UK education system in 1988, to ensure that all children cover specific content during these particular stages of their college career.  For each subject, teachers guide their students through the requirements of the National Curriculum, in preparation for Teacher assessments (TAs) at the end of Key Stage 3. GCSEs and equivalent qualifications are traditionally taken at the end of Key Stage 4, although in some cases they are sat sooner or later than Year 11. The Core subjects are English, Mathematics and Science, which are taken throughout Key Stages 3 and 4. In addition, the following National Curriculum subjects are available to study at KS3:

  • Information and Communication Technology (ICT)
  • Citizenship studies (Religious Studies, Citizenship, PHSE, Geography and History)
  • Art and Design Technology (Catering, Graphics, Resistant Materials and Art)
  • Music and Drama
  • Physical Education (PE)
  • Modern Foreign Languages

The student entitlement at KS4 is:

  • English
  • Mathematics
  • Science
  • ICT
  • Physical Education and Sport
  • Religious Studies-Including Citizenship and PHSE

To complete the KS4 curriculum your child makes their own subject choices. The different types of qualifications that a student in Years 10 and 11 (and in some cases Year 9) can choose are explained below:

General qualifications in KS4

These are often two-year courses, studied through Years 10 and 11, with either final exams at the end as in GCSEs or continuously assessed as in an OCR National. At Treviglas, the qualifications offered at Level 2 include the following:

  • GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education).

The GCSE is an exam-based course, and covers a wide range of subjects. Your child will take the ‘Core’ subjects, such as English and Maths, and their own choice of optional subjects, for example- Art and Design, Drama, DT-Catering, DT-Graphics, DT-Resistant Materials, Geography, History, Media, Modern Foreign Language, Music, Philosophy and Ethics etc.
Most students study GCSE Core Science in Year 10 and progress to either GCSE Additional Science or GCSE Additional Applied Science in Year 11. Some students will be offered the opportunity of following a Triple Science course, leading to 3 GCSEs (in Biology, Chemistry and Physics).

  • Applied GCSE

These are highly vocational courses which have ‘an equivalence’ to one or more GCSEs-for example the GCSE Double Award Applied Science has an equivalence of two GCSE qualifications.

  • Vocational and work-related qualifications

These include BTEC First Awards, NVQs, OCR Nationals and Diplomas. Learners following these qualifications are assessed on the work they produce throughout the course. These qualifications offer a practical, hands-on approach to learning and are available at different levels. They are alternatives to GCSEs for those who prefer a different approach to learning and assessment.

OCR Nationals are exam-free alternatives to GCSEs that have an engaging and practical approach to learning and assessment. Students are interested and engaged by OCR Nationals, particularly by the ‘real work’ style and the optional units. These are available to students in the following subjects-ICT, Travel and Tourism, Business and Health and Social Care. In some cases an OCR National is equivalent to more than one GCSE, for example the final qualification in Health and Social Care is equivalent to four GCSEs and Business has an equivalence of two.

Here’s how OCR Nationals at Levels 1 and 2 compare with GCSE grades in terms of size and level:

Level 1 First Award = 1 GCSE (grades D-G)
Award = 3 GCSEs (grades D-G)
Certificate = 4 GCSEs (grades D-G) or a foundation GNVQ
Level 2 Award = 2 GCSEs (grades C and above)
Certificate = 4 GCSEs (grades C and above)

The BTEC Nationals (Business & Technician Education Council) are available at various levels:

BTEC First Diploma provides your child with specialist and practical knowledge on a particular industry they have chosen as their career path. In KS4 at Treviglas we offer the BTEC First Diploma in Sport and Public Services (both lead to 4 GCSE equivalents).

Level 2 BTEC First Certificate = 2 GCSEs at A*-C grades
BTEC First Diploma = 4 GCSEs at A*-C grades

NVQs (National Vocational Qualifications) are designed to recognise your child’s knowledge and skills in relation to a specific job. They cover different occupational areas, each one reflecting the abilities your child will need to get started in a specific career. Assessment is portfolio based and completed during the course. We offer the NVQ in Food Preparation and Cooking and Hair and Beauty, both equivalent to two GCSEs. Those students opting for the NVQ at Treviglas also follow a BTEC First Award in Customer Care which is equivalent to an additional two GCSEs.

Diplomas are reasonably new qualifications, introduced to recognise achievements at ages 14–19. They have been developed with employers and cover a broad vocational area. Diplomas give your child an opportunity to gain qualifications that are equivalent to GCSEs or A Levels, with a more practical approach to developing the skills they’ll need for careers or advanced studies. They allow learners to show their knowledge, skills and understanding of a work-related environment. Diplomas are recognised as equivalents to 7 GCSEs at A*-C grade. There are currently three lines of learning (subjects), available at Treviglas:

  • Business, Administration and Finance
  • Hospitality and catering
  • Hair and beauty Studies

Functional Skills are new qualifications which are being introduced to address employers’ concerns about young people not knowing the essentials in English, Maths and ICT. The Functional skills qualifications offer your child the practical skills they’ll need to get the most out of their education, future employment and everyday life. For example, they can learn how to give presentations using computer software, express ideas to work colleagues or potential employers, or use online banking.

Functional skills have been incorporated into the revised GCSE specifications for English, Maths and ICT. For learners, a pass in Functional Skills at Level 2 is likely to be a requirement for achieving a GCSE in English, Mathematics or ICT at grade C or above.

Moving up from GCSEs to A Levels

A Levels adopt a subject approach, with exams at the end of the course. They usually take two years’ full-time education in Years 12 and 13. Your son or daughter can choose from a wide range of academic and vocational subjects.

An A Level consists of two stages: AS (first year) and A2 (second year), each making up 50% of the overall grade. After completing AS Level, your son or daughter can continue to the second year and go for the full A Level. If your son or daughter wants to study A Levels, they may need to have specific subjects or grades at GCSE, including good grades in English and Maths. And to take some A Level subjects, your child may need specific GCSE subjects at specific grades, often at grade B or above. For example, we require anyone taking sciences at A Level to have achieved a good Maths GCSE in addition to good GCSE Science grades.

A Level subjects available at Treviglas include:

  • Accountancy
  • Art and Design
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Economics
  • English Literature
  • French
  • Geography
  • German
  • History
  • Mathematics
  • Further Mathematics
  • Music
  • Music Technology
  • Performing Arts (Applied)
  • Photography
  • Philosophy and Ethics
  • Physics
  • Product Design
  • Science (Applied)

UCAS points provide a nationally recognised single tariff for Higher Education Institutions to help them offer the appropriate courses based on the qualifications your son or daughter have gained at Treviglas. A grade A at A Level is worth 120 UCAS points and an E is worth 40 points. AS Levels are worth half of the A Level points; for example an A grade at AS Level is worth 60 UCAS points. If you would like to find out more about UCAS points, please visit

UCAS Points AS Level A Level
120 A
100 B
80 C
60 A D
50 B
40 C E
30 D
20 E

At Level 3, OCR Nationals can also gain your child UCAS points for getting into Higher Education and can be compared with A levels. Grades are awarded at Distinction, Merit and Pass levels for the OCR National Certificate, National Diploma and National Extended Diploma.

Level 3 Certificate = 1 A Level
Diploma = 2 A Levels
Extended Diploma = 3 A Levels
OCR National Certificate OCR National Diploma OCR National Extended Diploma UCAS Points
D 360
D M 240
M 160
D P 120
M P 80
P 40

These Level 3 qualifications are ideal if your 16–19-year-old son or daughter is staying in education, and has identified a specific job or career path. These are offered in ICT, Business, Health and Social care and Travel and Tourism at the college.

BTEC Nationals also gain UCAS points and have equivalence to A levels and are available in Sport and Public Services in Treviglas:

  • The BTEC National Award provides your child with specialist and practical knowledge on a particular industry they have chosen as their career path
  • BTEC National Certificate provides your child with expertise and knowledge within a specific industry they have chosen
  • BTEC National Diploma will aid your child to progress to university
BTEC National Award OCR National Certificate OCR National Diploma UCAS Points
D 360
D M 240
M 160
D P 120
M P 80
P 40
Level 3 BTEC National Award = 1 A Level
BTEC National Certificate = 2 A Levels
BTEC National Diploma = 3 A Levels

We do hope that this guide has given you a better understanding of today’s qualifications to help you support your child through their education. Please do not hesitate to contact us at Treviglas Community College for further explanations of the qualifications available to your son or daughter throughout their education with us.