House of Commons Library

T Levels: Reforms to Technical Education

Published Wednesday, May 30, 2018

This House of Commons Library Briefing Paper provides an overview of proposals to reform the system of technical education in England, including the introduction of T Levels.

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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 it responded to in May 2018.

There have been some refinements made to the plans originally set out in the Post-16 Skills Plan. Under the plans as they currently stand, a technical education option will sit alongside the academic option (e.g. A Levels) at age 16. Under the technical option, occupations with shared training requirements will be grouped together into 15 technical education routes.

New level 3 classroom-based technical study programmes (referred to as 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. Additional funding for this increase will amount 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.

52 providers will deliver T Levels within the construction, digital, and education & childcare routes from September 2020. Full T Level routes are intended to be rolled out between September 2021 and September 2023.

The Government wants to develop a “transition year” for learners who are not ready to start a technical option at age 16, and intends to gather evidence of good practice. It is additionally looking at how T Levels could be made appropriate for adult learners but has stated that there will not be a ‘one size fits all’ approach that will work for all.

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

Commons Briefing papers CBP-7951

Authors: David Foster; Andy Powell

Topics: Adult education, Further education, Students

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