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Course Types & Levels

Course types explained

Making sure you choose the right type of course is really important and there are lots of options. Here’s a quick guide to what they all mean.

If after reading this information you are still unsure about what choice is best for you, don’t panic! There are many ways that you can contact us for information, advice, and guidance. You can come to one of our upcoming Advice Evenings or Open Days or arrange a visit and meet with our tutors or guidance staff.

At Buxton & Leek College we specialise in Vocational qualifications and Apprenticeships.


A vocational qualification offers a more practical hands-on and ‘real-world’ approach to studying. They will provide you with the skills and qualifications to enter the world of work, or to progress into higher education. We offer several types of vocational qualifications:

  • BTEC – these are career-based qualifications designed to give students the skills they need to move on to higher education or go straight into employment. More employers and higher education institutions than ever before are choosing BTEC qualified candidates for their academic and practical knowledge and skills. You can take a look at our vocational subject areas here.
  • NVQ – these are designed by employers to ensure that students acquire the skills they know employers are looking for. You will be assessed on work related tasks.
  • CACHE – these are qualifications awarded by the Council for Awards in Care, Health and Education – the UK’s leading provider of vocational qualifications for those working in the care and education sectors.
  • Explore & Discover  – If you didn’t achieve the GCSE results you were expecting or have become disengaged with school, our Explore & Discover programmes give you the confidence and ability to move into work or go on to further study through vocational learning.
  • Working Towards Independence and Independence & Living Skills – Designed for young people and adults with additional support needs. These courses help people develop personal skills, become more independent, learn skills to help with jobs or training, and get involved in the community.
  • T Levels are a new FE vocational course, equivalent to 3 A-levels. They have been developed in collaboration with employers and businesses, ensuring content meets the needs of industry and prepares students for work, further training, or study. Lasting 2 years, T Levels offer students a mixture of classroom learning and ‘on-the-job’ experience. Buxton & Leek College has 5 exciting T Level pathways available in Digital, Education & Early Years, Health, Digital, Engineering, and Carpentry & Joinery.
  • Apprenticeships – An Apprenticeship combines the best of both worlds; as an Apprentice you’ll learn job specific skills and gain a recognised industry qualification while at the same time being employed and earning a salary.
  • Traineeships – A Traineeship will prepare you for your future career by helping you to become work ready and compete successfully for job vacancies or Apprenticeships.
  • Access to Higher Education – A qualification suitable for adults who have been away from education for a while, it prepares people without traditional qualifications for progression to study at University.
  • University Courses – We offer a variety of University Level courses including Higher National Certificates and Diplomas, Foundation Degrees, Year Zero, BA (Hons), Top-Up, and the Certificate and Post Graduate Certificate of Education. Having these flexible and convenient courses on your doorstep means you don’t have to travel far or study full time to gain a University Level qualification. All of our University Level qualifications are validated through the University of Derby, of which Buxton & Leek College is part of!
maths & english

All young people up to the age of 18 must continue to study towards a maths and/or English qualification if they did not achieve at least a Grade 4 at school – this will either be a GCSE or Functional Skills qualification and will be discussed at enrolment.

As an adult, if you didn’t do well first time around, you can study GCSE or Functional Skills Maths and English without paying any fees if you didn’t achieve Grade 4 or above. Adults who have not achieved Grade A*-C can come to adult night classes without having to pay any fees.

recreational courses
  • Learning for Leisure – Friendly and informal recreational courses for adults which help you to learn new skills and meet new people. These are usually 6 to 12 weeks long.

Course levels for 14 to 18 year olds


It’s not only important to choose the right course for you, it’s also important to get the right level to match your ability and preferred way of learning.

Entry Level 1-3

What to expect – For students who find learning difficult or who have become disengaged with education. You will be given the support you need in an all-inclusive learning environment.
Entry Requirements – No formal entry requirements. You will be offered a place based on a successful interview and short assessment to ensure you are on the right course for your ability.


What to expect – Learn vocational subjects and improve your maths, English and ICT skills. Learn basic skills related to a job you’d like to do.
Entry Requirements – GCSE English at grade D plus 3 GCSEs at grade E or above. For some courses you may not need any entry requirements.


What to expect – Build skills and knowledge in your subject area, which link to a job you’d like to do.
Entry Requirements – 4 GCSEs grade D or above including maths and English. Science or ICT may be required for specific subjects or a Level 1 qualification.


What to expect – Learn and apply more detailed knowledge and skills in your subject area, which link to a job you’d like to do.
Entry Requirements – 5 GCSEs grade C or above including maths and English. Science or ICT may be required for specific subjects or a Level 2 qualification.


Progress onto a University Level qualification such as a Higher Apprenticeship, Foundation Degree or Honours Degree. Buxton & Leek College is part of the University of Derby, and we are able to offer a range of University Level courses at our Buxton and Leek courses.

View our courses now:

To view our current courses visit our subject areas page and select those that you are interested in. On each of our subject area pages, you will find detailed information about all the industries our courses can help you to progress into, including progression routes, jobs available in the sector and average earnings.

You can also check out our apprenticeship vacancies which are available now!

View our all new adult course guide here!