House of Commons Library

Reforms to Technical Education

Published Monday, January 8, 2018

This House of Commons Library Briefing Paper provides an overview of proposals to reform the system of technical education in England, as set out in the 2015 Government's Post-16 Skills Plan and provided for by the Technical and Further Education Act 2017.

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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. More recently, in November 2017 the Department for Education published a consultation on implementation, which closes in February 2018.

Under the proposals, there will be two education routes from age 16: a technical option and an academic option. The technical option will group together occupations with shared training requirements into 15 technical education routes, which will continue to be delivered by a combination of college-based education and apprenticeships.

New level 3 classroom-based technical study programmes – T levels – will be created for each occupation or cluster of occupations within a route (4 of the 15 routes will be delivered primarily through apprenticeships). T level panels, appointed by the Institute for Apprenticeships and made up of employers, professional bodies and education providers, will be responsible for developing the content for T levels, which will be based on the same employer-set standards as apprenticeships.

T level programmes are likely to be equivalent in size to a 3 A level programme and will generally be studied full time over two years by 16-19 year olds. It is expected, on average, that they will consist of 1,800 hours in total – 50% more than the current average 16-19 study programme. The March 2017 Budget announced additional funding for this increase, amounting to £500 million a year once T levels are fully rolled out.

T levels will consist of five components:

  • A technical qualification, which will include core content common to the T level, including maths, English and digital skills, followed by specialisation on occupationally specific skills.
  • A work placement with an external employer lasting between 45 and 60 days.
  • Maths, English and digital requirements. Students will have to achieve a minimum of level 2 maths and English in order to achieve a T level.
  • Any other occupation-specific requirements/qualifications (e.g. a license to practise).
  • Any further employability, enrichment and pastoral provision.

Under current plans, a small number of providers will deliver T levels in some pathways from September 2020, with full T level routes introduced in two waves in September 2021 and September 2022.

The Government is seeking views on the development of a “transition year” for learners who are not ready to start a technical option at age 16 but who could progress to a T level with the right support. In addition, it is looking at how T levels, which are primarily aimed at 16-19 year olds, could be made appropriate for adult learners wanting to retrain or upskill.

Technical routes will extend up to higher skill levels, with the Institute for Apprenticeships maintaining a register of technical qualifications at levels 4 and 5 which are eligible for Government-backed loans. In October 2017, the Government announced a review of higher level technical education, which it stated is intended to look at “how technical qualifications at this level can better address the needs of learners and employers”, including that learners can progress from T levels into the workplace.

Commons Briefing papers CBP-7951

Authors: David Foster; Andy Powell

Topics: Adult education, Further education, Students

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