T levels: next steps for providers

Information for post-16 institutions on the next steps towards delivery of T levels.


The government published the Post-16 Skills Plan in July 2016. The plan accepted all 34 recommendations from the Independent Panel on Technical Education. This included the introduction, for 16 to 19 year olds, of a new framework of 15 technical routes to skilled employment. The routes 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 (the other 4 routes are apprenticeship only).

This will be a new world class technical education system. T levels will have high standards and rigour and will have credibility with employers, and will prepare young people for skilled employment, supporting the aims of the Government’s Industrial Strategy.

The T level Action Plan was published on 11 October 2017 and sets out the implementation timetable for T levels. It confirmed that the first teaching of 3 T levels from 3 of the routes by a small number of institutions would start from September 2020, with a second wave delivered in September 2021 and all routes being available by 2022.

Having set out our intentions in the publications outlined above, we are now putting those plans into action to deliver.


The purpose of this guidance is to inform all post-16 providers about our plans over the next 6 months and 3 key surveys we will be asking you to respond to, to help support you to implement T levels.

T level consultation, consultation on occupational maps and stakeholder events

The Department for Education and the Institute for Apprenticeships issued consultations on the proposed T level programmes and on the Occupational Maps. Both consultations closed on 8 February 2018. We have also run 2 sets of events since October last year, to raise awareness about the reforms to technical education, and to socialise the consultation.

We are very grateful to those of you who took part in the events and for your views via the consultations; we are currently analysing all of the responses received. We expect to publish a response to the consultation on T levels in early May, and updated versions of the occupational maps will be published on the Institute’s website in the spring.

Expressions of interest to deliver T levels in the 2020 to 2021 academic year

The T level action plan, launched in October 2017, announced that some T levels from 3 technical routes will be delivered from September 2020. We have confirmed that those T levels are as follows:

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

We want to make sure the initial introduction of T levels goes well and we are looking for a small number of providers to deliver in the 2020 to 2021 academic year. We will make sure these providers have the support they need and will give them the opportunity to work with us to develop the new programmes.

On 16 January we published details of how to express an interest in becoming one of the providers to deliver the first T levels in the 2020 to 2021 academic year. The guidance set out the criteria requirements that providers had to meet to be considered for delivery in 2020. This expression of interest closed at noon on 28 February 2018.

Thank you to those providers who have submitted an expression of interest. We will write to you early in May confirming whether or not your expression of interest has been successful and will give details on next steps then.

Improving our understanding of post-16 education institutions

As the government looks to reform further education provision, more will be asked of the FE sector itself, and we want to work with you to understand how best we can support you in responding to these reforms.

To this end we will be undertaking the following 3 surveys over the coming months, which will each ask you different, but linked, questions about your current teachers and leaders, your current plans around T level delivery, and your views on a number of post-16 issues. We really appreciate your time and effort in responding to these surveys.

The 2018 FE college staff survey of teachers and leaders

To ensure that policies, and the support developed to implement them, are relevant and sensible, they must be based on high-quality accurate data. To achieve that, we need to ensure that our evidence is current, and sourced directly from individuals and institutions affected by the changes.

We have therefore launched a research programme to inform our work. A key element of this programme is the FE College Staff Survey 2018 aimed at teachers and leaders in general and specialist FE colleges, to help us to learn more about staff routes in and out of the sector.

All general and specialist FE colleges in England will be invited to take part in the College Staff Survey 2018 from April. Kantar Public and RCU are conducting this survey on behalf of the department. The survey will be short to minimise the time that it takes you and your teaching staff to complete it.

We will publish the findings of this work. The results will inform our work to develop the support FE teachers and leaders need to continue improving and getting the best results for learners.

Data collection on provider readiness to deliver T levels

We want to ensure we support you to deliver T levels. In the autumn 2017 budget, the government announced an investment of up to £20 million to help the teaching profession prepare for the implementation of T levels. We want to ensure this funding is spent in the way that best supports you to deliver successfully. We will be asking you to complete a short data collection survey about your plans to implement T levels in your organisation.

Questions will ask, for example:

  • which routes and pathways do you think you will deliver and to how many students?
  • what support do you think your teachers will need to get ready to deliver the new programmes?

We will also ask you about your equipment and facilities too. We recognise that all post-16 institutions will be at an early stage of their T level planning, and this return will give us an early snapshot of preparedness across the sector.

The survey will ask you to self-assess your institution to determine how ready you are for the delivery of T levels. We expect to re-run this aspect of the survey at intervals over the next few years to monitor progress.

The information will help us to plan a support programme for providers tailored to your needs. We plan to launch the survey in May. Responses will be due back at the end of June 2018. The Education and Skills Funding Agency will contact a sample of providers to follow up on the survey responses.

Post-16 omnibus survey

The Post-16 Institutions Omnibus Survey has run since 2015, and has recently moved from a bi-annual to an annual survey. The purpose of this survey is to gain a better understanding of post-16 institutions’ views on, and future plans for, post-16 education. Questions have recently covered:

  • reforms to A levels
  • introduction of new technical education courses (tech levels, technical certificates and applied general qualifications), apprenticeships
  • careers education, including the promotion of careers related mentoring to build links between students and employers

The survey allows us to gauge the scale of certain issues facing the sector. We value the time you take to respond to this survey.

We expect the next post-16 omnibus survey to run from spring 2018. It will start with independent learning providers and schools with sixth forms, and will move to general FE colleges from September.

Thank you

We acknowledge that asking you to engage in these activities will take up some valuable staff time. However, co-creating T levels with you and other key delivery partners is crucial to their success. We are incredibly grateful for your commitment to the reforms.


If you have any queries about anything in this update, do get in touch with us by using our online contact form:

ESFA enquiries

For all enquiries for the Education and Skills Funding Agency

Published 6 March 2018