A major milestone was reached today (13 February) as contracts to develop, deliver and award the first three T Levels have been awarded by the Department for Education (DfE) and Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (the Institute).

T Levels will be the technical equivalent to A Levels, combining classroom theory, practical learning and an industry placement. Following a competitive bidding process, Awarding Organisation NCFE has been awarded a contract to deliver the Education and Childcare T Level, and Pearson has been awarded contracts to deliver T Levels in Design, Surveying and Planning as well Digital Production, Design and Development. Around 50 further education and post-16 providers will teach these T Level programmes from September 2020.

To protect the gold standard of T Levels and ensure they are a valued qualification recognisable by employers, one awarding body will have exclusive rights to deliver each T Level subject. This was a key recommendation made by Lord Sainsbury in his independent review of technical education in 2016.

Education Secretary Damian Hinds said:

This is a major step forward in our work to upgrade technical education in this country. T Levels are a once in a generation opportunity to create high-quality technical education courses on a par with the best in the world, so that young people gain the skills and experience they need to secure a good job, an apprenticeship or progress into further training.

We have made significant progress to implement these vital reforms which are on track for delivery from 2020. Working alongside the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education the Awarding Organisations will play a vital role ensuring T Levels are high-quality and deliver the skilled workforce employers need.

More than 200 businesses, including Fujitsu, Skanska, and GlaxoSmithKline as well as many small and medium sized firms, have helped design the course content so far to make sure young people taking T Levels are equipped with the knowledge and skills that employer’s value. On 31 January, the Institute assumed responsibility for approving the content and procurement for T Levels and will continue to work with industry and the Awarding Organisations as the T Level roll out continues.

Sir Gerry Berragan, CEO of the Institute, said:

I am really pleased at the pace the work has developed and the Institute will continue to build on the work of DfE. Technical Education offers a real and exciting alternative to A Levels for young people, with T Levels now sitting alongside apprenticeships. We remain committed to the pace of the roll out and look forward to working with these suppliers as they develop the first T Level qualifications.

Welcoming this announcement, Lord Sainsbury, Chair of the Independent Panel on Technical Education, said:

My panel recommended the single provider model for two reasons. Firstly, greater clarity. There are currently more than 3,000 Level 3 qualifications eligible for public funding for 16 to 18-year-olds, spread across more than 100 different awarding organisations. We cannot expect every employer in the land to know which of these qualifications are any good and actually deliver the knowledge and skills they are looking for in new recruits.

Secondly, we wanted to remove any possibility of a race-to-the-bottom on quality, where awarding organisations are incentivised to compete for market share on the basis not of rigour but instead on which qualifications are easiest to pass.

I am delighted that we have reached this milestone in the roll-out of the T Levels programme. With the first schools and colleges to offer T Levels in 2020 well advanced in their preparations, and now confirmation of these initial awarding organisations, I am confident that we remain on track to deliver the transformation to technical education that this country so desperately needs.

Rod Bristow, President of Pearson in the UK, said:

We are delighted to be delivering the first wave of T Level qualifications in Construction and Digital. The award of these licenses recognises our longstanding collaboration and partnership with employers of all sizes to design, develop and deliver world class qualifications in these industries.

T Levels represent a significant opportunity to strengthen the recognition and value of technical education in England. We look forward to continuing to work with the Government, employers, and providers to ensure their successful implementation, and to support learners as they begin their programmes of study from next September.

Stewart Foster, Managing Director, NCFE Awarding said:

At NCFE, we are committed to creating opportunities for learners to progress and succeed and we are therefore excited to be at the forefront of the implementation of T Levels. T Levels mark a revolution in technical education and the CACHE developed Technical Qualification will help ensure that learners entering the education and childcare workplace have been trained to the highest of standards. We would like to thank the sector for the huge amount of support offered to us throughout this process and look forward to continuing to work together.

In December 2018, the government announced the next 7 T Levels to be taught from 2021 as: Health; Healthcare Science; Science; Onsite Construction; Building Services Engineering; Digital Support and Services; and Digital Business Services. The procurement to deliver this next wave is expected to be launched in spring 2019.

To support the further education sector to deliver the new T Level programmes, the government will provide an additional half a billion pounds every year once they are all fully rolled out. The government is also investing £20 million to help prepare the sector for the introduction of T Levels. This includes the £5 million Taking Teaching Further programme, which aims to attract more industry experts to work in the sector, and the £8 million T Level Professional Development offer to help teachers and staff prepare for the roll-out of the new qualifications.

On Thursday 30 January 2019, eligible further education providers that will teach the first T Levels from 2020 were invited to bid for funding to refurbish their existing buildings or to build new spaces.

The T Level Capital Fund was announced by the Chancellor in the 2018 Budget. It is designed to make sure young people taking the new technical courses have access to industry standard equipment and high quality facilities so they gain the skills and knowledge employers demand. The fund will be delivered in two parts, with funding for specialist equipment such as digital and audio visual kit, allocated to all providers in spring 2020.