Introducing T levels

Introducing T levels

With 2018 fast approaching, the need to assess the introduction of the T level qualification in 2020 and how the FE sector can adapt is in increasingly important. Sasha Pleasance,  teacher education lecturer, provides a breakdown of the T level so you can start preparing for its arrival.

Why ‘T levels’?

For a long time now, vocational education has lacked parity of esteem with academic education in the UK and T levels are being introduced to be as rigorous and respected as A levels. In addition, employers and bodies such as the CBI have repeatedly reported that young people are not work-ready when they enter employment and that there is a skills shortage in key industry sectors.

75% of UK businesses expect to increase the number of high-skilled roles over the coming years, but 61% fear that there will be a lack of sufficiently skilled people to fill them. (CBI/Pearson Education and Skills survey, 2017)

The introduction of the new ‘T level’ study programme for 16-19-year-olds is being developed to raise the status of the technical education and will sit alongside Apprenticeships within a reformed skills training system as a key part of UK's Industrial Strategy.

The primary intent of the ‘T level’ study programme is to offer a ‘world-class’ technical option at 16. When young people take their options at school they will now decide whether to take the ‘academic route’ or the ‘technical route’. The ‘T level’ standards and content will be designed by leading industry professionals from companies including Rolls Royce, Fuijitsu and EDF to prepare students for highly skilled employment and enable them to adapt to meet the skills needs of a post-Brexit future in the UK.

‘T levels’ are new technical study programmes The reforms are at the heart of a skills partnership between government, business and education and training providers – a partnership that will create the skills revolution needed to meet the needs of our economy. (Post-16 Skills Plan 2017:4)

The Sainsbury Review in 2016 concluded that the vocational education system was too complex and included too many qualifications, and did not equip young people with the necessary skills for employment. As a result of the introduction of ‘T levels’, approximately 13,000 qualifications currently delivered within vocational education will be replaced with 15.

What are ‘T levels’?

‘T levels’ will be a Level 3 programme and will generally be studied over 2 years.

A ‘T level’ programme will include a new technical qualification, which may be taught in a classroom, workshop or simulated work environment. The programme will include a substantial work placement of 3 months as well as English, maths and digital content.

The first subjects available will be Education and Childcare, Construction and Digital. These will be introduced in 2020, with the rest to be available by 2022. There will be 11 classroom-based routes and 4 routes delivered through apprenticeship only (T level routes, Post -16 Skills plan 2017:10).

The introduction of ‘T levels’ is probably the biggest reform to post-16 education since the announcement of the 14-19 Diplomas in 2004. Speaking on Thursday 30 November 2017 at the Department for Education’s inaugural Skills Summit, Secretary of State for Education Justine Greening said of ‘T levels’; “this is how we build a Britain that is fit for the future”.


CBI/Pearson (2017) Helping the UK thrive, the 2017 CBI/Pearson Education and Skills survey. London: Pearson.

DfE (2017) Post-16 technical education reforms T level action plan October 2017. London: DfE.

Greening, J. (2017) Justine Greening: Speech at DfE Skills Summit[ online] Available at:

Back to listing