House of Commons Library

T Levels: Reforms to Technical Education

Published Monday, December 16, 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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Major reforms are being made 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 (DfE) 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 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. A ‘transition year’ is being developed 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 at least 315 hours (around 45 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 a small number of providers from September 2020. A further seven T Levels will be available from September 2021, with another eight available from September 2023. It is aimed for the remaining T Levels to be introduced from September 2023, but this is to be confirmed.

T Levels will not be available in all subjects where level 3 qualifications currently exist. The DfE is in the process of reviewing post-16 level 3 qualifications with the aim of simplifying the current qualification landscape.

It is intended that the technical option will extend from T Levels up to higher skill levels. The DfE is currently reviewing technical qualifications at level four and five and launched a consultation on proposed reforms in July 2019.

Commons Briefing papers CBP-7951

Authors: David Foster; Andy Powell

Topics: Adult education, Further education, Students

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