T levels: What are they and how will they work?

The new qualification is set to be introduced next year and has been heralded as the 'gold standard' of vocational education

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T levels are a new set of qualifications beginning in September 2020. 

They will follow GCSEs, and one course will be the equivalent to three A levels. They have been heralded as the "gold standard" of vocational education, and will offer students a mixture of classroom-based learning and on-the-job experience.


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This on-the-job experience will take place through an industry placement, which needs to last for at least 315 hours – approximately 45 days. Students will also be taught technical knowledge and practical skills relevant to their chosen industry, maths, English and digital skills, and common workplace skills. Depending on the T-level course they select, students may study one or two occupational specialisms.

The aim is that every student that undertakes a T level will have the knowledge, experience and skills that are needed to lead to skilled employment, further study or a higher apprenticeship. 

T levels will be based on the same standards as apprenticeships and will be designed by employers and approved by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education. Students will be expected to clock 1,800 hours over two years – and this includes the industry placement.

According to the DfE, T levels are suited to students who know what job they’d like to pursue, want to learn a wage and learn at the same time, and are ready to enter the workplace at 16.

Pupils who entered Year 10 and below in September 2018 will be able to study T levels. 

T levels: What can you study? 

  • Accountancy

  • Agriculture, land management and production

  • Animal care and management

  • Building services engineering

  • Catering

  • Craft and design

  • Cultural heritage and visitor attractions

  • Design, development and control

  • Design, surveying and planning

  • Digital business services

  • Digital production, design and development

  • Digital support and services

  • Education

  • Financial

  • Hair, beauty and aesthetics

  • Health

  • Healthcare science

  • Human resources

  • Legal

  • Maintenance, installation and repair

  • Management and administration

  • Manufacturing and process

  • Media, broadcast and production

  • Onsite construction

  • Science

But all of the above won't be available straight away. In 2020, just three will be offered:

  • Digital production, design and development

  • Design, surveying and planning

  • Education

And then from Autumn 2021, a further seven will be offered: 

  • Building services engineering
  • Digital business services
  • Digital support and services
  • Health
  • Healthcare science
  • Onsite construction
  • Science

T-level grading

When it comes to grading, students will be required to achieve all the required components of a T level to get an overall pass grade listed on their T-level certificate. On the certificate, there will be an overall pass grade (either a pass, merit or distinction), a separate grade for the occupational specialism (pass, merit or distinction), a separate grade for the core component (using A*-E), a grade for maths and English qualifications and the details of the industry placement.

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