T Levels…. what are they?

T Levels are new two-year, level 3 study programmes in England that will include a new, substantial level 3 technical qualification.

Intended for the 16-18-year-old market, they are aimed at enabling learners to secure skilled employment, by providing a mixture of:

  • • practical skills and knowledge specific to their chosen industry and occupation
  • • at least 45 days’ industry placement in their chosen industry or occupation
  • • English, maths and digital skills.

Available from 2020/21 academic year, T Levels will become one of three major options when a learner reaches level 3, alongside apprenticeships for learners who wish to study and train for a specific occupation ‘on the job’, and A levels for learners who wish to continue academic education.

Technical education has been categorised into fifteen different technical routes, according to occupational specialism. T Levels will be available across eleven of those routes, with occupations in the remaining four routes accessible through an apprenticeship only.

It is intended that there will be 1 license awarded per T Level qualification.  Interested Awarding Organisations will need to tender for the license contract(s).

Services to be provided by the successful Awarding Organisation will include:

  • • Developing the qualification specification and associated assessment materials;
  • • Provision of all materials associated with the administration and delivery of the qualification;
  • • Upskilling Providers (Training) – to ensure that providers understand the qualification specification, content, assessment and how to administer their qualification(s), including:
    • • clarifying what should be taught (content), what the content terminology means, and ensuring consistent interpretation of qualification specification requirements;
    • • exemplifying expected standards of performance (particularly important for practical occupational specialisms) so providers can design effective programmes and have a clear understanding of the quality and standards their learners need to achieve; and
    • • exams officer/admin training including key dates, how to use systems to upload materials, correct forms to complete, and claim completion of qualification;

56 Colleges have been named as the first to teach the first release of T Levels from 2020/21 academic year (Construction; Education and Childcare; and Digital Production, Design and Development – referred to as “Wave 1”).

The same standard created by employer-led Trailblazer groups will ne used for both apprenticeships, and as the basis for the respective outline T level content. So for example, in the case of the Dental Nurse Level 3 T Level, the standard for the Dental Nurse Level 3 Apprenticeship will apply.  This outline content produced by the T Level Panels will be used by the selected Awarding Organisation(s) to develop the full technical qualification specification.  Assessment methods will be determined (and dictated) by the respective outline content.

Each successful Awarding Organisation will be responsible for developing the Core Content and Occupational Specialisms elements for each of the T levels they had been awarded as well as any prescribed assessment method solutions (eg Knowledge Test, Work-Based Project outline/brief) including assessments through external examination, set and marked by the awarding organisation.

Each T Level will include a new, substantial technical qualification based on content devised by T Level panels and standards approved by the IfA. This qualification will be the largest component of the T Level and will provide the learner with technical knowledge and skills.

Core content will comprise of a knowledge-based exam and a separate employer set project:

  • Core Component – the underpinning knowledge is assessed through an external examination, set and marked by the successful licensed awarding organisation.
  • Core Employability Skills is assessed through practical employer-set projects.

Occupational Specialisms – learners demonstrate they have the skills to achieve competence through practical assignments, assessed synoptically through ‘rigorous practical assessments’.  It is presumed the practical assignments will also be devised by the successful licensed awarding organisation.

Each T Level will be Graded.  Grade boundaries for the Core will be E-A* with A* being the highest grade (below E = Ungraded).   Grading for the Occupational Specialisms will be classified as Pass/Merit/Distinction (with the median resulting in the final Occupational Specialism grade achieved).  Below Pass = Ungraded.  So, for example a learner could achieve a T level result of “B Merit”.

SFJ Awards have attended all consultation meetings held by the Department for Education, Ofqual and the Institute for Apprenticeships.  This has allowed us to keep informed, keep a watchful eye on developments, and contribute to the decision making process.