Setting the scene for the new Education and Childcare T Level

Janet King, Sector Manager for Education and Childcare at CACHE (part of the NCFE Group)

In September this year, we will see the new Education and Childcare T Level rolled out to the first cohort of learners. The two-year long, college-based vocational programme of study at Level 3 is equivalent to three A-Levels and is one of the first three T Levels to launch.

Having been selected by Institute of Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) and the Department for Education (DfE) following a rigorous tender process to develop the technical qualification within the T-Level, we’re incredibly excited about this final, crucial step towards implementation and delivery.


Preparing learners to work in childcare and early years

The Education and Childcare T Level will provide the knowledge, skills and behaviours needed to progress into skilled employment, higher level training or further study in the education and childcare sector. There will be three specialisms within the new qualification: education and childcare, assisting teaching, and supporting and mentoring students in further and higher education. All consist of both classroom-based and practical learning experience.

Designed in conjunction with industry practitioners, as well as IfATE and the DfE to ensure that the qualification specification meets the Early Years Educator (EYE) criteria for those wishing to work in a Level 3 job role in an early years setting, the new T Level will be listed as full and relevant on their list of suitable qualifications. This is of critical importance for the sector and means students will be counted in ratio within early years settings on successful completion.


What does the qualification involve?

The core content of the T Level is arranged under 12 elements, which cover both education and childcare topics. Synoptic external assessment (testing of knowledge gained over several modules) is planned for the core part of the programme, and includes an examination and employer-set project (this is in reality a project set and marked by CACHE in conjunction with employers).

Students are able to take one of the three ‘occupational’ specialisms e.g. early years education and childcare, which has five performance outcomes. The assessment will be an opportunity for students to converge theory and practice through assignments, to demonstrate both their practical skills and theoretical understanding.

Students who do not have GCSE maths or English at grade 4 or above or an equivalent Functional Skills qualification in both subjects at Level 2 will also be able to work towards these qualifications during their programme of study.


How will the T Level be assessed?

When it comes to how the T Level programme will be assessed as  outlined in the table below. This has been developed to maximise knowledge, understanding and skills through both the core and occupational specialism.


Assessment Structure

Core Content

Occupational Specialism

Exam (Paper A and Paper B)

Themed assignment: Planning to meet the individual needs of children

Employer-Set Project (Controlled supervision, scenario -based)

Practical assessment of competences required for the EYE criteria

Themed assignment: Observation cycles


Exam papers A and B will be completed towards the end of the core component and will test the students’ knowledge and understanding across the 12 elements.

The employer-set project will consider an application of knowledge and understanding across the core content to allow students the opportunity to engage with work based situations that have been developed by NCFE and CACHE with employer input. Centres will be able to enter students for their external assessment at their discretion in line with published external assessment windows.

Towards the end of the occupational specialism, students will be required to complete three assignments:

  1. Themed assignment: Planning to meet the individual needs of children
  2. Practical assessment of competences required for the EYE criteria
  3. Themed assignment: Observation cycles


How will the industry placement work?

While the ongoing situation with COVID-19 has raised some concerns from providers, a core component of all of the T Level programmes is an industry placement with an employer which will help learners to develop the practical and technical skills required for employment in the sector.

This placement will last a minimum of 315 hours (approximately 45 days), but those students following the Early Years Education and Care occupational specialism will need to complete a greater number of hours,  similar to those under existing EYE qualifications (750), in relevant work experience in order to sufficiently meet the EYE criteria.

Employers can offer industry placements as a block, day release or a mix of these, and can discuss sharing part of the placement with another employer if necessary, and as appropriate in order to meet the requirements.


Who will be delivering the Education and Childcare T Level?

The Education and Childcare T Level will be delivered to the first cohort of students from September 2020 by 36 college and 6th form providers. T Levels will then be made available as part of a phased roll out with the second wave of eligible providers beginning delivery of T Levels from September 2021. It is expected that T Levels will be fully rolled out to all providers by September 2023.


How can childcare employers get involved in T Level design?

We are currently working with employers across the childcare sector to ensure the validity of the assessments and content of T Level technical qualifications.

If you are interested in finding out how your organisation could offer industry placements to T Level students visit:

We appreciate that with such ambitious plans for technical education it is important to provide information that offers a clear insight to the sector. We are committed to driving forward advancements in childcare and education which support providers in meeting the demand for a highly skilled and qualified workforce. 

For more information, visit: