T-levels are due to be introduced over the course of three years starting from the 2020/2021 academic year – they are expected to replace many of the vocational and technical education qualifications currently offered at level 3.

This guidance outlines the key information about T-levels that is relevant for schools and colleges, including what T-levels are, how they will be assessed, and how they will be funded.


What are T-levels?


T-levels are a new level 3 study programme, including a qualification, undertaken over two years. They will make up one of three options for students once they reach level three – the other two options are apprenticeships and A-levels.

Students will be offered college-based learning and ‘on the job’ experience in the following industries through T-levels:

  • Digital
  • Construction
  • Education and childcare
  • Engineering and manufacturing
  • Health and science
  • Legal, finance and accounting
  • Hair and beauty
  • Agriculture, environment and animal care
  • Business and administration
  • Catering and hospitality
  • Creative and design

T-levels aim to provide students with:

  • Practical skills and knowledge in their chosen industry.
  • At least 45 days’ work experience in their chosen industry.
  • Core English, maths and digital skills.
  • Transferable skills that can be used in the workplace.

Once completed, T-level students will have the option to move into a skilled occupation, higher or degree-level apprenticeships, or higher level technical study.


The difference between T-levels and apprenticeships


T-levels and apprenticeships will share the same standards for their relevant occupations (these standards will be approved by the Institute for Apprenticeships (IfA)); however, there are key differences between T-levels and apprenticeships.

The main difference is that T-levels will enable students to learn occupational skills both inside the workplace and in a classroom environment, whereas all apprenticeship learning is done ‘on the job’. T-levels will also be broader in content than apprenticeships.

The duration of T-levels compared to apprenticeships is also likely to be different. Currently, the total time expected to be spent completing a T-level is around 1,800 hours over two years; whereas apprenticeships can last between one and four years, depending on the level of the programme.


Development of T-levels


The DfE, IfA, education providers and employers are ‘co-designing’ the first T-levels, meaning that the DfE has set out the aims for T-levels and providers, whilst employers and the IfA are helping to develop the content.

The development plans are being tested with students, providers and employers, with plans being continually reviewed, refined and retested. Because of this approach, the DfE has warned that, in some cases, final details about how T-levels will work will be confirmed later than providers and employers are used to. 


Structure, assessment and grading


The DfE consulted on the structure, assessment and grading of T-level programmes in a consultation (which closed on 8 February 2018); therefore, details around these aspects are currently proposals only, final details will be confirmed in the consultation response which is expected in Spring 2018.


Structure – current proposals


The subject range of T-level programmes will be defined by the IfA’s occupational maps – the maps group together occupations that require similar knowledge, skills and behaviours.

Groups of employers will define the skills and requirements for programmes for each industry through T-level panels. The panels will also develop and outline the content for each qualification. Education providers will then decide how to structure the courses they offer.

The programmes will either cover an industry where students choose at least one occupational specialism during the course, or be based on an occupational specialism from the beginning.

There will be three mandatory elements of each study programme:

  • A ‘core’ set of underpinning theories, concepts and workplace skills. This will be split into two parts:
    • Developing underpinning skills and knowledge relevant to the industry – this involves understanding how the industry works, how occupational specialisms fit within the industry, and what working practices in the industry are like.
    • Developing employability – this would cover transferable skills within the industry, and maths, English and digital skills needed for the type of industry and occupation.
  • Specialist training – training in specialist skills will be based on the standards for apprenticeships and delivered in a classroom environment
  • Work placement – which will last for a minimum of 45 days


Assessment and grading – current proposals


Each part of the core element will be assessed separately, but scored using an average of the two. Students will be graded on a six-point scale from E to A* for the core element.

The specialist training element will be assessed based on the student showing they have reached a ‘threshold competence’ – a minimum level of capability for their chosen occupation. For this element, students can be awarded a pass, merit or distinction.

Work placements will not be externally assessed.


Important dates


Spring 2018

  • Response to the ‘Implementation of T level programmes’ consultation published
  • Response to the consultation on occupational maps published
  • Funding starts to be released for work placements during the 2018/2019 academic year
  • Providers selected to deliver T-levels in 2020/2021 announced

Autumn 2018

  • First work placements begin

Autumn 2020

  • First T-level programmes start for the following specific occupations:
    • Software application development (digital)
    • Building services engineering (construction)
    • Education (education and childcare)

Autumn 2021

  • Full range of T-level programmes start for the digital, construction, education and childcare, engineering and manufacturing, health and science, and legal finance and accounting industries

Autumn 2022

  • Full range of T-level programmes start for the hair and beauty, agriculture, environment and animal care, business and administration, catering and hospitality, and creative and design industries


What’s next?

The government will be running three surveys in Spring 2018 to help them understand more about the type of support providers need to introduce T-levels successfully – more information on the surveys can be found here.

Providers who expressed an interest in delivering the initial three T-level programmes in 2020/2021 will be contacted by letter in early May 2018, advising whether the application has been successful and next steps.  




DfE (2018) ‘Introduction of T levels: information for education providers’ <> [Accessed: 13 March 2018]