House of Commons Library

T Levels: Reforms to Technical Education

Published Friday, March 8, 2019

This House of Commons Library Briefing Paper provides an overview of proposals to reform the system of technical education in England through the introduction of new T Level qualifications.

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The Government is undertaking major reforms to the technical education system in England. The proposed reforms were first set out in the Post-16 Skills Plan, and the legislative framework for them was provided by the Technical and Further Education Act 2017. In November 2017, the Department for Education published a consultation on implementation, which it responded to in May 2018.

Under the reforms, a new technical education option will be created to sit alongside the academic option (e.g. A Levels and a degree). The technical option will comprise 15 routes based around occupations with shared training requirements. Some routes will be further sub-divided, with closely-related occupations grouped together into pathways.

The technical option will be delivered by a combination of college-based education and apprenticeships, with four of the 15 routes delivered primarily through apprenticeships.

New level 3 study programmes – T Levels – will be created to sit at the start of technical routes (apart from the four apprenticeship only routes), with a T Level for each pathway (i.e. some routes will have more than one T Level). They will be primarily aimed at 16 year olds. The Government intends to develop a ‘transition year’ for those students who are not ready to start a T Level at age 16, but who could achieve one by age 19.

T Levels will be equivalent to a 3 A Level programme and will, on average, consist of 1800 hours studied full-time over two years – around 50% more than the average 16-19 study programme at present. They will all follow the same broad framework and will consist of five components:

  • A technical qualification
  • An industry placement with an employer of between 45 and 60 days
  • Maths, English and digital requirements
  • Any other occupation-specific requirements/qualifications (e.g. a license to practise).
  • Any further employability, enrichment and pastoral provision.

Three T Levels within the construction, digital, and education and childcare routes will be delivered at small number of providers from September 2020. A further seven T Levels will be available from September 2021, with the reminder rolled out from September 2022 onwards. The Government’s current aim is for all T Levels to introduced by September 2023.

T Levels will not be available in all subjects where level 3 qualifications exist. The Government has stated that it will carry out a review of post-16 qualifications at level 3 and below (excluding A Levels and GCSEs), with the aim of simplifying the current qualification landscape.

Commons Briefing papers CBP-7951

Authors: David Foster; Andy Powell

Topics: Adult education, Further education, Students

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