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.

Download the full report T Levels: Reforms to Technical Education

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:

  1. 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.
  2. A work placement with an external employer lasting between 45 and 60 days.
  3. 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.
  4. Any other occupation-specific requirements/qualifications (e.g. a license to practise).
  5. 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.

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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 into how to extend technical education reforms to higher levels.

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