Closed: Invitation to express an interest to deliver T levels in 2020 to 2021 academic year

Information for post-16 institutions considering expressing an interest to deliver the first 3 T levels in 2020 to 2021 academic year.


Providers meeting the criteria are invited to express an interest to deliver T levels in 2020 to 2021 academic year. To do this, providers will be required to complete and submit a short survey to ESFA. The closing date for applications is midday on 28 February 2018 and providers who express an interest will need to:

  • currently deliver relevant qualifications to a minimum of 10 qualifying students
  • have an Ofsted rating of Good or Outstanding or be able to demonstrate that they have an equivalent standard of quality. Providers who hold a rating of Outstanding will be given priority during the selection process
  • have a current average attainment grade of ‘Merit’ or above for relevant current technical or vocational qualifications
  • have at least satisfactory financial health


The government’s Post-16 Skills Plan, published in July 2016, accepted all 34 recommendations from the Independent Panel on Technical Education. This included the introduction of a new framework of 15 technical routes to skilled employment for 16 to 19 year olds, which are either classroom-based (T levels) or work-based (apprenticeships). Eleven of these routes will be delivered as classroom or workshop based programmes called T levels.

In the T level action plan, published on 11 October 2017, the government set out the implementation timetable and made clear its intention for the first teaching of T levels from 3 of the routes by a small number of institutions to commence from September 2020, with a further 2 waves in September 2021 and September 2022, when all routes will be available.

The first 3 classroom based T levels will be available from the Digital, Construction, and Education and Childcare routes. Specific T levels from each of these 3 routes have been chosen for delivery in the 2020 to 2021 academic year, these are:

  • Digital route: Software applications design and development
  • Construction route: Building services engineering
  • Education and Childcare route: Education

Introducing the first T levels in the 2020 to 2021 academic year gives us the opportunity to work with post-16 institutions and employers to develop the capacity and capability they will need to deliver the requirements of T levels and, to design the system together. T levels will have credibility with employers and prepare young people for skilled jobs of the future, supporting the aims of the Government’s Industrial Strategy to boost productivity and earning power across the country.

The T level consultation, launched on 30 November 2017, sets out the proposals for T level programmes and the wider reformed technical education system and seeks views from employers, providers, learners and others on how best to implement technical education.

On 14 December the Institute for Apprenticeships issued a Consultation on the Occupational Maps for response by 25 January 2018. The consultation and draft maps can be found on the Institute for Apprenticeships website.


The Department for Education (DfE) is looking to identify a small number of providers to deliver T levels in the 2020 to 2021 academic year.

The purpose of this guidance is to:

  • detail the requirements of those providers wanting to deliver T levels in 2020 to 2021
  • specify the criteria providers must meet before expressing an interest in delivering T levels in 2020 to 2021
  • outline how we will make the final selection of providers
  • outline the funding implications of T levels
  • detail how providers can express an interest and the deadline for doing so

Reasons for providers to apply to deliver in 2020 to 2021

The government is committed to the principle of co-creating T levels. This means creating the T level programmes and the overall system in partnership with employers and providers. Providers delivering in 2020 to 2021 will have the opportunity to work closely with DfE to shape and influence this flagship reform programme, designing and testing the details of the programme and the best approaches for implementation. This will serve as a foundation for all other providers to learn from as they get ready to deliver in the following years. In return, we will support providers with the additional funding for increased learning hours, with marketing and communications activity to promote the new programmes, and with the professional development of the teachers who will be delivering T levels.

Providers delivering in September 2020 will see final qualifications materials for the first time in February 2020, rather than a full year in advance of teaching. However, they will have seen earlier versions during the development process and will have a clear idea of the content well before February 2020.

Requirements for delivery in the 2020 to 2021 academic year

Those providers expressing an interest to deliver in 2020 to 2021 are committing to:

  • work with DfE in advance of first delivery to help develop the best approach to implementation
  • comment on the content developed for the first T level routes for delivery in 2020 to 2021
  • identify and recruit a suitable cohort, with a minimum of 10 students aged 16 to 18 in each T level cohort
  • offer high quality T levels that will support progression for students into skilled employment or higher levels of education or training
  • ensure students achieving a T level will have the numeracy, literacy, digital and wider transferable skills, attitudes and behaviours needed to succeed in occupations relevant to their chosen routes and the wider workplace of the future
  • work collaboratively with employers to offer a substantial work placement with an employer, away from the students’ learning environment
  • act as champions of T levels by positively promoting them, to build momentum and maximise student take-up on roll out
  • help identify the issues that need to be addressed through the transition year if more young people are to progress to a T level
  • test our approach to delivery and the support available for providers
  • share learning from the first year and beyond to help develop the approach for providers who will deliver in future years

Conditions on providers for delivery in the 2020 to 2021 academic year

Only providers funded by the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) for 16 to 19 education with qualifying students are eligible to express an interest. This includes all types of schools, academies, colleges and independent learning providers who are funded by the ESFA.

In addition, providers will need to meet all of the requirements of the criteria below to be eligible to express an interest to deliver T levels in the 2020 to 2021 academic year. The criteria are that the provider:

  • currently delivers relevant qualifications to a minimum of 10 qualifying students
  • has an Ofsted rating of Good or Outstanding or be able to demonstrate that they have an equivalent standard of quality (see below for those providers who don’t have an Ofsted rating). Providers who hold a rating of Outstanding will be given priority during the selection process
  • have a current average attainment grade of ‘Merit’ or above for relevant current technical or vocational qualifications
  • has at least satisfactory financial health

We expect providers to be able to demonstrate excellent attainment in the relevant vocational qualifications for the T level pathways they wish to deliver. To assess this we will use the methodology published in the 16 to 18 Accountability Measures Technical Guide. The methodology is described in paragraphs 6.3 to 6.9 and Table 6.1.b of the guide. The benchmark we are looking for is an average grade of “Merit” or better. In summary, the methodology adds together the points achieved by students then divides by the number of entries to get the average score per entry. The same grading threshold is then used to turn them into an average grade.

Not all providers are included in the performance tables and not all qualifications use the same grading structure. Therefore these providers should refer to the published methodology, and follow this as closely as possible, to demonstrate an equivalent average grading. The data used and an outline of the methodology should be included with the survey return.

We reserve the right to exclude any provider where a Notice to Improve is in place, where a provider is at risk of financial difficulty or where there are any other known issues that could prevent or affect quality delivery.

Any provider wishing to express an interest that has not yet been inspected by Ofsted will need to provide details to demonstrate that they have outstanding or good quality standards to be considered for delivery.

Further conditions for selecting providers for the 2020 to 2021 academic year

Managing provider numbers

In the event that there is significant interest from providers, we will apply further criteria to help us reach a manageable number for the year. These will be applied in the following way:

  1. We will first give priority to providers with an Ofsted rating of Outstanding.
  2. If this does not reduce the number of providers far enough then we will rank providers by average attainment level.
  3. If we need to further reduce the numbers, we will then consider student numbers by increasing the minimum student number threshold criteria – for example, require a minimum of 20 students rather than 10.

Opportunity areas

In line with the DfE Social Mobility Action Plan we want to ensure that there are some providers in opportunity areas who will deliver T levels in 2020 to 2021. Once we have received applications, assessed them against our criteria and applied the additional criteria above to reach a short list, we will be able to see whether any providers from these areas have been selected. If there aren’t any/enough providers in this short list, we will re-assess all providers in opportunity areas, accepting a Good Ofsted grade as well as Outstanding and select them according to the core criteria and the additional criteria set out above.

This will allow students in opportunity areas to have a chance to access the new T levels as early as possible. Creating opportunities for students in these areas is a key priority for the DfE. Further information on opportunity areas is available on GOV.UK.

Delivering across the sector

We want to ensure that delivery happens across the sector and that our final list of providers will include a range of different provider types including: colleges; independent learning providers; schools; UTCs and National Colleges.

To ensure there is a sufficient range of different provider types in the final list it may be necessary to accept applications from a particular type of provider if they have an Ofsted rating of Good and meet the rest of the criteria. We may therefore accept applications from these providers if they have an Ofsted rating of Good and meet the rest of the criteria.

We recognise that Institutes of Technology (IoTs) will not be established in time to participate in this process over the next few months, so we will consider how IoTs can best meet the criteria once they are established. The competition to establish IoTs opened on 15 December – the IoT prospectus can be found on GOV.UK. We expect the first IoTs to open in 2019.

Qualifying students

To identify a proxy for students that might be in scope for a T level we have used 2016 to 2017 end-year data from the Individualised Learner Record (ILR) and the school census. Prospective providers should use these data sets to identify qualifying students. Students that meet all the following criteria are treated as qualifying students:

  • full-time, that is those with total planned hours recorded as above 540 if aged 16 or 17 and 450 hours for an 18 year old
  • students that have met the qualifying start period for their study programme
  • students aged 16, 17 and 18
  • students aged 19 to 24 with an education, health and care plan
  • students who are 19 years old at the beginning of their 2 year programme (who do not have an education, health and care plan) are not included
  • students who are enrolled on a level 3 programme, with a vocational core aim, which is relevant to the T levels planned for introduction in the 2020 to 2021 academic year

Relevant qualification types included in identification of qualifying students

Relevant qualifications are those that are:

  • at level 3 technical or vocational qualifications
  • at least 360glh (the size of an A level)
  • within the relevant sector subject area (SSA) according to section 96 and relevant to the T levels to be introduced in September 2020
  • categorised as either an Occupational Qualification, QCF Qualification or Vocationally-Related Qualification

The relevant SSAs are:

  • Software applications design and development – 6.1 ICT practitioners; 9.3 Media and communication
  • Building services engineering – 5.2 Building and construction; 4.1 Engineering
  • Education – 1.5 Child development and well-being; 13.2 Direct learning support

We will consider other qualifications which aren’t included in the SSAs above, it you can provide a justification.

The occupational maps consultation was published on 14 December and is a useful source of reference to check the occupations and related qualifications that are covered by each pathway.

Additional funding for T levels

In March 2017, the government announced a funding package for T level delivery that will rise to over £500 million per year when T levels are fully rolled out. This reflects the fact that the new programmes are larger and more stretching than current study programmes. The funding will cover the increase in teaching hours to an average of around (or over) 900 per year (this might vary by T level) including the provision of a substantial work placement. We are still considering how this funding will be distributed and will provide more details in due course, after having considered and taken into account consultation responses.

The government has also confirmed that in the initial years up to £20 million of this funding will be specifically targeted at improving the quality of teaching for T levels.

Expressing an interest through this process does not guarantee any additional funding or agreement from DfE to deliver T levels in 2020 to 2021.

Support for delivery

We recognise that the introduction of T levels will be a significant change for the sector and government is committed to ensuring providers and employers have the support they need for successful introduction of T levels for 2020 and beyond.

We are engaging with providers early to raise their awareness of the reforms and to ensure they have the time to get ready to deliver the new T level programmes. In October and November 2017 we ran a series of regional events aimed at providers to engage them in the details of the reforms and understand their requirements. Further events are being delivered to allow for discussion of the proposals made in the consultation published on 30 November 2017. We will continue to engage with the sector regularly as T levels are further developed and implementation begins.

Critical to the success of T levels will be highly skilled teachers and leaders and we know that we need to do more to attract and retain the highly skilled professionals who are key to realising learners’ potential. From January 2018 we are planning to work with providers to understand the gap between the current capacity and capability of their teachers and leaders, and what they need in order to deliver T levels. This will help us, in conjunction with other partners, to devise and deliver the right support.

We will also undertake wider development work to enhance the image of the sector as an attractive career opportunity for high quality tutors and teachers with relevant skills and experience, increasing the number of experts from industry working in the sector.

How to express an interest to deliver T levels in 2020 to 2021

Providers that meet the criteria above are invited to express an interest in first delivery. To do this, all providers will be required to complete and submit a short survey to the ESFA. The questions in the survey are to assess whether providers meet the criteria requirements. Some questions will ask providers to demonstrate how they meet the criteria so that we are able to understand whether they meet the benchmarks overall. Separate guidance is available on how to complete the survey – see link below.

The survey will also ask providers to supply detailed information specifically:

  • on their current engagement and partnerships with local employers so that we can understand the existing employer networks they have across different occupations to deliver the T levels
  • on their strategy for maximising take-up and effects on other qualifications offered

The information from these 2 questions will not be used in the selection process.

The ESFA will write to institutions by 27 April confirming whether or not their expression of interest has been successful, and will give details of next steps. Successful providers will be required to complete a plan detailing the actions they will take to get ready to implement the T level effectively, by 29 June 2018.

You can now express an interest. Guidance on how to express an interest is available:

How to express an interest

Providers should note that without a completed submission, their expression of interest to deliver T levels in 2020 to 2021 will not be considered by the ESFA.

The deadline for submission is 12.00pm (midday) on 28 February 2018 and late submissions will not be considered.

Future roll out in 2021 to 2022 academic year

There will be an opportunity for more providers to deliver T levels from September 2021 when all T levels from the first 6 technical routes will be rolled out. We will re-visit our application process and qualifying criteria before confirming the process for providers to deliver T levels in 2021, learning lessons from the process for 2020. This will ensure that we have a robust and high quality group of providers that are to continue the successful delivery of T levels in 2021.


Any queries regarding the application process to deliver T levels in 2020 to 2021 should be made to:

ESFA enquiries

For all enquiries for the Education and Skills Funding Agency

Timescales for applications to deliver T levels in the 2020 to 2021 academic year

Date Action
16 January 2018 Guidance and survey published for providers to express an interest
28 February 2018 Deadline for surveys to be submitted by providers
27 April 2018 All successful providers to receive notification and confirm how many students will qualify for T level teaching from 2020 to 2021
29 June 2018 Implementation plans due to be submitted
Published 16 January 2018