T Levels Research Study: How Are Providers Preparing for Delivery?

Suzanne Straw, David Sims, Tami McCrone and Eleanor Bradley

20 June 2019

A follow up report to this study was published in December 2019.

T Levels are a major part of the Government’s reforms to strengthen England’s skills system by improving vocational and technical education. These two-year technical programmes for young people aged 16 to 19 years will combine classroom theory, practical learning and an industry placement.

This NFER qualitative research provides an independent evidence-informed picture of how provider organisations are preparing to deliver the first three T Levels in Digital, Construction, and Education and Childcare, from September 2020.

The research involved in-depth, semi-structured interviews with senior/middle leaders with organisation-wide responsibility for T Levels in half (25) of the first 50 providers of the three T Levels. We additionally interviewed ten senior sector representatives with extensive knowledge of vocational and technical education.

Key Findings

  • Providers and sector representatives are broadly supportive of the move to introduce T Levels.
  • Providers are being kept well informed about overall T Level design but noted the tight timescale to fully develop their curriculum plans, which could impact on quality.
  • Most providers felt reasonably confident in securing the required placements for 2020 but they and sector representatives reported challenges in certain sectors and over the longer-term.
  • Providers are generally confident in their staff expertise and capacity for delivery in 2020 but cannot fully judge its sufficiency without the detailed qualification specifications.
  • While providers are fairly confident that they will recruit their target student numbers for 2020, they reported challenges around future student recruitment.
  • Providers expect to use existing support mechanisms to support post T Level decision making but noted a lack of clarity on progression routes.
  • Providers and sector representatives highlighted the need for continuing support and funding for new providers delivering T Levels in the future.