ESFA today (30 May) published information for post-16 providers considering expressing an interest to deliver the construction; design, surveying and planning T Level in 2020 to 2021 academic year. 

Providers meeting the criteria are invited to express an interest to deliver the construction; design, surveying and planning T Level in 2020 to 2021 academic year. To do this, providers will be required to complete and submit a short survey to ESFA. This process cannot be used to express an interest for any other T Level pathway. The closing date for applications is midnight on 29 June 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 providers to commence delivery from September 2020, when all routes will be available.

The initial 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; Construction: design, surveying and planning
  • Education and Childcare route; Education

Introducing the first T Levels in the 2020 to 2021 academic year gives ESFA the opportunity to work with post-16 providers 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.

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, ESFA 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 (or 19 to 24 with an education, health and care plan) 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 industry 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 ESFA’s 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) to deliver full time study programmes 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 (in academic year 2016 to 2017) 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
  • has a current average attainment grade of ‘Merit’ or above for relevant current technical or vocational qualifications
  • has at least satisfactory financial health

ESFA 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 ESFA 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 ESFA 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.

ESFA 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, ESFA will apply further criteria to help ESFA reach a manageable number for the year.

These will be applied in the following way:

  1. ESFA 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 ESFA will rank providers by average attainment level.
  3. If ESFA need to further reduce the numbers, ESFA 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 ESFA want to ensure that there are some providers in opportunity areas who will deliver T Levels in 2020 to 2021. Once ESFA have received applications, assessed them against ESFA’s criteria and applied the additional criteria above to reach a short list, ESFA 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, ESFA 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 the 12 opportunity areas is available.

Delivering across the sector

ESFA want to ensure that delivery happens across the sector and that ESFA’s 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. ESFA may therefore accept applications from these providers if they have an Ofsted rating of Good and meet the rest of the criteria.

ESFA recognise that Institutes of Technology (IoTs) will not be established in time to participate in this process over the next few months, so ESFA 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. ESFA 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 ESFA 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 this T Level
  • categorised as either an Occupational Qualification, QCF Qualification or Vocationally-Related Qualification

The relevant SSA is:

  • 2 Building and construction

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

The outline content for this T Level was published on 25 May 2018.

Additional £500 million 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 industry placement. ESFA 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.

How to express an interest to deliver a T Level 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 ESFA 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 ESFA 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 providers at the end of October 2018 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.

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 midnight on 29 June 2018 and late submissions will not be considered.

Any queries regarding the application process to deliver T Levels in 2020 to 2021 should be made to ESFA enquiries: Contact form

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