Skip to main content

This is a new service - help us to improve it

Action plan for considering different curriculum models

Content

- Introduction 
- Who is it for? 
- How to use this resource
- Curriculum Models  
- Key Curriculum Design Features
- Example Year 1 Curriculum 
- Curriculum Planning Checklists  
- Worked example of a curriculum plan 

Introduction 

T Levels are new full-time technical qualifications for 16-19 year olds, lasting two years. They are designed by employers to meet their needs and industry standards. They aim to build students’ “occupational readiness”. By the end of the two years, students must demonstrate clearly defined levels of competence in specialist areas.   

To achieve this aim, T Levels present students with a challenging, progressive programme combining broad-based and sector-related core content. Students are given opportunities to develop and secure technical knowledge, skills and behaviours in authentic and challenging contexts. These contexts reflect genuine workplace demands and provide a firm foundation for rewarding future careers. 

T Levels are designed to be flexible so that providers, employers and students can shape them to meet particular needs.   

This flexibility means that evidence-based and responsive curriculum planning is essential. 

Who is it for? 

Senior management, heads of department, subject leaders, subject practitioners, industry placement staff, any staff involved in T Level quality and delivery. 

How to use this resource 

This resource has five sections: 

  1. Curriculum models – illustrates three different models: consecutive, concurrent and combined 
  2. Key curriculum design features – describes four design features which help to create effective models: linear/sequential, project-based/ integrated, specific/discrete, immersive/specialist 
  3. An example year 1 curriculum – a term by term breakdown of scheduled activities, development priorities, curriculum models and design features 
  4. Curriculum planning checklists – five checklists which focus on critical factors enabling you to design and implement appropriate curriculum models 
  5. A worked example of a curriculum plan in action – illustrates how decisions about the future shape of the curriculum can be made at a particular stage in the T Level programme, based on programme priorities and relevant evidence. 

Developing the T Level curriculum is new and complex. Spending time with this resource will help you begin to consider your own approach and build expertise in T Level curriculum design and planning. 

You can use this resource to: 

  • Consider various curriculum models and how, when and why you might use them 
  • Consider how these models relate to delivery of T Level components (e.g., core; occupational specialism/s; industry placements; English, maths and digital competencies) 
  • Review the example curriculum models and the accompanying rationales 
  • Plan, design, develop and deploy T Levels using appropriate curriculum models. 

Curriculum Models  

The T Level curriculum should enable students to develop and demonstrate relevant knowledge, skills and behaviours in varied, challenging, and authentic contexts. Whichever model you use, it must allow students to develop and evidence these coherent, integrated competencies and performance outcomes over time and in different settings, including an industry placement. You may decide to use different models for different T Levels.  

T Levels comprise of two main components: a core and occupational specialism(s):  

  •  The core is the foundational, broad-based knowledge, skills and behaviours relevant across the industry or sector. The knowledge, skills and behaviours in a T Level core are common to all the occupational specialisms. They provide a sound basis upon which to build a technical career.  
  •  Occupational specialisms cover more advanced, specialist knowledge, skills and behaviours which apply in occupationally specialist fields, areas of practice, technical projects and assignments. 

These two main components are supported by competencies in English, maths and digital skills, and by industry placements. Industry placements can be designed in different ways to meet student and employer needs, including day release, block or a mixed approach. They can also take place at various times within the two-year T Level programme.  

 The models on the following pages illustrate three different ways in which the components of the T Level might relate to each other: 

  • A consecutive model, in which components are delivered in sequence 
  • A concurrent model, in which components are delivered simultaneously 
  • A combined model, in which components are combined throughout the programme. 

The models shown here are purely illustrative. There are no correct or incorrect T Level curriculum models, although they should all reflect industry standards and practices and deliver successful outcomes.  As you develop your own curriculum, you may define different ways of combining T Level components effectively. 

Model 1: Consecutive 

Model_1.svg

 

In this example of a consecutive model, the two main components are delivered consecutively, with the core in Year 1 and occupational specialisms in Year 2. English, maths and digital competencies are delivered in both years. The industry placement also takes place in both years, with shorter blocks in Year 1 followed by a longer block in Year 2. 

The benefits of this model are that it: 

  • Secures the fundamentals and foundations in Year 1 
  • Informs students’ choice of, and progress towards, the occupational      specialism in Year 2 
  • Allows students to apply, consolidate and extend their learning sequentially throughout the programme.  

However, this model could create artificial divisions between core and specialist knowledge, skills and behaviours, all of which must be drawn upon to operate safely, effectively and competently at work. Delivering the two main components separately may limit opportunities for students to develop deeper understanding and more advanced and integrated performance. 

 Model 2: Concurrent 

Model_2.svg

In this example of a concurrent model, the core and occupationally specific components are delivered simultaneously in both years, as are English, maths and digital competences and the industry placement. 

 The benefits of this model are that it: 

  • Allows related aspects of content to inform and support each other  
  • Reinforces connections between different aspects of content 
  • Provides plenty of opportunities to link theory and practice 
  • Links teaching and learning to specific performance standards and assessment methods. 

Model 3: Combined 

Model_3.svg

In this example of a combined model, core knowledge, skills and behaviours are ‘interwoven’ during both years with learning related to the occupational specialism. English, maths and digital competencies and the industry placement are also delivered in both years.  

 The benefits of this model are that it: 

  •  Integrates learning and performance in both main components 
  • Allows students to explore and apply different aspects of content in appropriate combinations 
  • Allows students to draw on their knowledge, skills and behaviours to solve problems, and produce industry standard outcomes 
  • Reinforces and consolidate progress.  

Key Curriculum Design Features

Whichever model (or models) you adopt, developing an effective T Level curriculum will require decisions about which of the following four design features to use in the model: 

  • Linear / sequential 
  • Project-based / integrated 
  • Specific / discrete 
  • Immersive /specialist. 

Linear / Sequential   

This is where content is introduced in a linear, incremental way. Elementary content areas are introduced first, often in isolation. Basic or foundational knowledge and skills are built up sequentially before students’ progress to more advanced, complex content which stretches their performance. 

This can be a useful approach in T Levels for establishing an initial understanding of new and unfamiliar content. For example, a linear approach would work well when: 

  •  Introducing students first to general industry contexts and how they work 
  • Moving on to sector-specific standards, processes and practices. 

This sequential approach builds confidence and gives students a firm foundation for more complex and / or self-directed learning. 

However, this approach doesn’t fully reflect the challenges and complexities students may face at work, where knowledge, skills and behaviours need to be applied in combination to be fully effective.   

Project-based / Integrated   

This is where content is introduced in a more integrated way from the start. For example, students may be given projects or assignments based on relatively complex employer briefs. These projects may include multi-dimensional tasks which could demand: 

  • Planning 
  • Problem-solving 
  • Independent analysis and decision-making  
  • Effective use of resources 
  • The production of high-quality outcomes. 

This approach is well suited to T Levels, which are designed to prepare students to be successful in technical employment by developing the knowledge, skills and behaviours to: 

  • Deal with complex workplace challenges 
  • Carry out multi-dimensional tasks  
  • Solve technical problems.  

Project-based and integrated models can support and enhance this type of performance, which must be evidenced in T Level summative assessments. Note, employer-set projects are not linked to projects carried out during industry placements for assessment purposes.  

Specific / Discrete  

This is where some aspects of content need focused attention. For example, it may be necessary or helpful to: 

  • Isolate specific aspects of content so they can be studied in depth and understood properly 
  • Disentangle particular skills and performance requirements so they can be fully mastered before being re-integrated and applied in context. 

In general, T Levels are about applying practical and experiential learning to improve comprehension and understanding. However, at times it may help to examine, clarify and reinforce specific content in isolation. This approach may be especially useful: 

  •  For revision before exams 
  • To address identified weaknesses in students’ knowledge, skills or behaviours 
  • To highlight links and connections between particular aspects of content 
  • To enhance and secure performance in particularly challenging or unfamiliar areas. 

Immersive / Specialist   

This is where students are immersed in specific situations, often relatively unfamiliar to them. These situations require students to select, combine and apply relevant knowledge, skills and behaviour. For example, they may have to: 

  •  Decide on what they believe to be the most appropriate response to the situation 
  • Ascertain or clarify the desired outcomes 
  • Assemble the necessary tools, equipment and resources to support their efforts 
  • Apply technical knowledge and skills 
  • Carry out processes and procedures to face and resolve complex problems and workplace challenges and achieve results. 

Situations such as these also require students to use a broader range of employability skills. For example, they may need to: 

  •  Transfer their knowledge, skills and behaviours to novel situations 
  • Use planning, analysis, interpretation, problem-solving, testing and review skills  
  • Identify and manage key risks and issues  
  • Evaluate, navigate and address potentially difficult interactions with others  
  • Demonstrate independent decision-making, professional behaviours and autonomy. 

T Levels are meant to give students experience of dealing with unfamiliar and unpredictable situations, in a range of authentic occupational and industry contexts. The immersive approach is therefore well suited to assignments based on employer briefs, and to projects carried out in industry placements. 

Example Year 1 Curriculum 

This section illustrates an example programme for Year 1 of a T Level. It uses a hybrid approach, starting with a mainly linear and consecutive model at first which gradually develops into a fully integrated and concurrent model by the third term. 

Term 1 

Scheduled activities  

  • Inductions 
  • Initial assessments 
  • Student profiles and learning plans established 
  • Introduction to T Level components 
  • Delivery of core content starts 

Student progress and development priorities 

Students’ collective priorities this term are to: 

  • Familiarise themselves with the fundamental concepts and principles of the technical area 
  • Gain a general understanding of the industry and relevant standards and practices 
  • Start to develop English, mathematics and digital competences to support and enhance their performance and outcomes  

Curriculum model and design features 

Predominantly linear and consecutive 

In this example, some foundational content is introduced gradually and incrementally. Key concepts and insights about the main content areas are separated into manageable components and delivered in a linear sequence. Links and connections between content areas are gradually established. 

Partly integrated and concurrent  

A small amount of foundational content is introduced in a more integrated way. Authentic employer case studies are used to: 

  • Capture students’ imaginations 
  • Make technical content real 
  • Build on initial assessments about student’s interests. 

Using this more integrated approach, even to a small extent, can give students valuable experience of engaging with technical content in real-life situations. The use of scenario-based activities can also improve students’: 

  • Comprehension of concepts 
  • Understanding of their relevance and purpose 
  • Overall motivation and engagement.  

Term 2 

Scheduled activities  

Mid-term progress check of students’: 

  • Core knowledge and understanding 
  • Core skills in practice
  • English, maths and digital competences
  • Employability skills and behaviours
  • Occupational specialism
  • Performance and progress  

Student progress and development priorities 

Students’ collective priorities this term are to: 

  • Develop an understanding of how different aspects of the T Level, and the relevant industry, relate to and reinforce each other 
  • Start demonstrating secure knowledge in key content areas  
  • Identify emerging practical skills proficiencies
  • Integrate knowledge, skills and behaviours in controlled, authentic situations through scenario activities based on employer briefs. These activities enable students to start developing skills in analysing situations, planning processes, making decisions, identifying connections, and applying knowledge, skills and behaviours to resolve problems and produce high-quality outcomes. 

Curriculum model and design features 

Project-integrated focus 

By the middle of the second term, students will be engaged in some self-directed scenario-based work. The aim is for students to demonstrate integrated and independent performance when carrying out realistic tasks based on employer briefs. Combining knowledge, skills and behaviours will also help students to: 

  • Prepare for their employer-set project assessment in Term 3 
  • Show initiative and autonomy when they start their industry placements. 

Specific / discrete support 

Some students will be able to carry out scenario-based activities successfully, while others may need more support. This may be because their understanding of some content areas is weak, or because of difficulties in working in a self-directed way. During this term, high-quality, targeted formative assessment and feedback is used to: 

  • Revisit and consolidate key content areas where needed 
  • Strengthen students’ abilities to work on self-directed activities 
  • Build the skills needed to apply and combine knowledge, skills and behaviours. 

Term 3 

Scheduled activities  

  • Summer assessment window (for students being entered for examinations, and employer-set project) 
  • First block industry placement  

 Student progress and development priorities  

Students’ collective priorities this term are to: 

  • Demonstrate greater independence, confidence, and autonomy when faced with real-life problems and situations 
  • Select and apply effective methods of working when faced with unfamiliar situations 
  • Show evidence of having acquired a sound foundation in the technical knowledge, skills, and behaviours 
  • Confirm their occupational specialism, or if already underway, start tackling advanced specialist tasks and assignments. 

Curriculum model and design features 

Concurrent delivery (core and occupational specialism) 

By now, students:  

  • Have developed a firm foundation in the T Level core content 
  • Can use English, mathematics and digital competences confidently to enhance performance 
  • Are well informed about sector standards and practices 
  • Have started to develop their interests in specialist areas that align with their career ambitions. 

This term is a perfect opportunity to steadily introduce occupationally specialist content alongside core content. Delivering the two components concurrently means they complement and reinforce one another. It also allows students to apply knowledge, skills and behaviours in more demanding situations.  

Tasks and projects which students carry out on industry placements can be designed with employers, to help students:

  • Make connections between the core and the specialism 
  • Develop confidence, skills proficiency, and independence.  

Immersive/specialist assignments 

At this stage, employers can very usefully help to devise authentic tasks, assignments and industry-based projects. These should allow students to: 

  • Encounter occupationally specialist content in a situationally-specific context 
  • Grapple independently with novel or unfamiliar situations  
  • Develop specialist knowledge, skills and behaviours including carrying out technical tasks, testing and evaluating 
  • Apply broader skills such as planning, analysing, communicating and collaborating to deliver high-quality outcomes.  

This more immersive and specialist approach is well suited to industry placements. Enough time must be given to confirm suitable placement models with employers and identify specific opportunities for students to develop in the workplace. 

The approach should provide valuable evidence of progress and performance. It will also help to shape curriculum models for Year 2, where students will be expected to: 

  • Demonstrate levels of competence in their occupational specialism 
  • Show that they can integrate knowledge, skills and behaviours 
  • Achieve levels of performance in their industry placements which show they are ready for demanding technical employment. 

Curriculum Planning Checklists  

This section consists of five checklists which focus on critical factors enabling you to design and implement appropriate curriculum models.  

There are five checklists: 

  1. Fully understand the T Level components 
  2. Establish inter-relationships between knowledge, skills and behaviours 
  3. Engage employers in the design of activities, projects  
  4. Design a flexible programme incorporating all components 
  5. Refine, adapt and continuously improve the curriculum. 

 The checklists should help you to create a T Level curriculum which: 

  • meets the needs of your students  
  • meets the needs of employers, involving them in the design process, and reflecting industry standards and practices 
  • relates to the T Level delivery stages and its specification 
  • aligns to the T Level performance and achievement requirements. 

 1. Fully understand the individual T Level components 

Curriculum Planning Objectives 

Steps to achieve these objectives  

Understand: 

  • core content                                - core knowledge and understanding 
    -
    core skills (both transferable and technical).                     
  • employability skills and professional behaviours 
  • English, mathematics and digital competencies 
  • occupational specialist technical content (technical skills; behaviours; underpinning knowledge). 

Identify how content areas are related, to enable you to make meaningful links across the curriculum. 

Evaluate and organise content by: 

  • level of demand and complexity 
  • purpose and function 
  • relevance and context 
  • process and outcome. 

Map out T Level components across the two years specifying:  

  • the teaching and learning programme 
  • the key performance and achievement requirements (with quality and progress checks) over the six terms, including industry placements and formal assessment. 

2. Establish inter-relationships between knowledge, skills and behaviours

Curriculum Planning Objectives 

Steps to achieve these objectives  

Identify: 

  • relationships and interdependencies between knowledge and skills development 
  • how students can demonstrate performance which integrates knowledge, skills and behaviours 
  • how to evidence specific standards across the different assessment methods 
  • how classroom-based and employment-based delivery and development opportunities can complement each other. 

Identify opportunities to develop and deliver knowledge, skills and behaviours, relevant to stage and context. 

Evaluate how T Level components, stages, performance standards, evidence and required outcomes can be combined to support attainment.  

 3. Engage employers in the design of activities, projects  

Curriculum Planning Objectives 

Steps to achieve these objectives  

Explore: 

  • content 
  • standards of performance 
  • styles of delivery 
  • curriculum models 
  • quality and performance measures 
  • outcomes. 

Agree: 

  • overall strategy 
  • key stages 
  • standards 
  • outputs 
  • progress checks 
  • timeframes. 

Work with local and regional employer to devise rich and authentic activities, assignments and projects, which reflect the demands of the industry.  

Link the activities, assignments and projects to expected levels of competence and proficiency, and to industry standards and practices. 

Check that performance standards, evidence, and outcomes meet employers’ specific expectations and the expectations of the industry more generally. 

4. Design a flexible programme incorporating all components 

Curriculum Planning Objectives 

Steps to achieve these objectives  

Design: 

  • a curriculum which assembles all components around real-life situations and tasks that students can understand and resolve using a combination of knowledge, skills and behaviours 
  • a clear learning and development journey for students which builds occupational readiness and provides evidence of performance to defined levels of competence 
  • differentiate the curriculum and learner journey, depending upon students’ progress and readiness. 

 

Recognise the specific demands of each component:  

  • performance and achievement requirements for the core and occupational specialism/s 
  • measurements of performance and grading 
  • types of evidence 
  • quality of outcomes (e.g., examinable content) 
  • core skills in practice 
  • outcomes and levels of competence in occupational specialist areas. 

Plan how to measure and support progress and performance, using:  

  • high-quality formative assessment  
  • students’ evidence and outputs 
  • student and colleague feedback 
  • employer feedback, including from industry placements. 

Flex the curriculum to: 

  • stretch, inspire and challenge students  
  • support them where necessary 
  • differentiate development needs and support based on performance and progress 
  • make the best use of opportunities to learn and apply knowledge, skills and behaviours in industry placements. 

Prepare students for key challenges, reflecting: 

  • formal assessment requirements 
  • industry placements 
  • opportunities to improve performance and accelerate progress. 

5. Refine, adapt and continuously improve the curriculum 

Curriculum Planning Objectives 

Steps to achieve these objectives  

Monitor: 

  • students’ levels of engagement, interest and understanding 
  • progress and performance of students individually and at a cohort level 
  • employer feedback in relation to students’ meeting expectations and standards on their industry placements 
  • ideas for innovation and quality improvement. 

Refine: 

  • links and connections between programme component, reinforcing an integrated approach 
  • how content is delivered to provide support and produce high performance  
  • how standards of performance and outcomes are evidenced across the different assessment methods. 

Evaluate the effectiveness of your curriculum model(s). 

Adapt, combine and flex models, to deliver improvements. 

Use evidence of student progress against defined standards and performance outcomes to be achieved at specific points in each T Level. 

 

Worked example of a curriculum plan 

Introduction 

This worked example shows how decisions about the future shape of the curriculum can be made at a particular stage in the T Level programme, based on programme priorities and relevant evidence. 

In the example, staff have reviewed the curriculum model being used, based on evidence from the mid-term progress review in Year 1, Term 2. Staff have looked at the cohort’s performance and progress, and considered how best to adapt the curriculum in relation to: 

  • The stage of the programme  
  • Priorities for the coming term and Year 2 
  • Evidence of students’ learning and performance to date. 

As a result of these considerations, a decision has been made to: 

  • Focus on preparing students for exams an industry placements taking place in the next term 
  • Shift the balance of the curriculum from discrete areas of content and skills to performance, using a problem-based approach.  

 1. Stage of programme (Year 1, Term 2) 

  • Students have started to understand some of the fundamentals of the technical area and industry (core content), familiarising themselves with key contexts, concepts, theories and principles 
  • Students have started to develop some core skills which can be applied in real-work situations, including analysis, planning, selecting and using appropriate skills for a situation, evaluating and quality assuring, and presenting and communicating technical outcomes 
  • Students are developing key English, Maths and Digital competencies to support and enhance performance across their programmes 
  • Students are confirming the occupational specialism/s they wish to pursue.  

 2. Priorities

Forthcoming summer assessment window including:

  • first entry for both examinations Core A and B 
  • first entry for employer-set project.

Preparations for industry placement including: 

  • confirmation of placement models for all students in the cohort 
  • students’ readiness for placement development opportunities and he contributions they can make in the workplace

Shift in the balance between foundational, core programme content and the delivery of more advanced, integrated, occupational specialist knowledge, skills and behaviours. This involves combining: 

  • an emphasis in the core on knowledge, understanding, sector insights, and core skills 
  • an emphasis on occupational specialisms in complex contexts, demonstrating genuine workplace demands. 

Need to focus students on developing technical knowledge and skills, ready to demonstrate defined levels of competence and readiness for rewarding technical careers in their second year. 

 3. Evidence 

A range of evidence has been used to: 

  • evaluate progress and performance 
  • identify strengths, weaknesses and development needs 
  • evaluate the appropriateness and impact of different curriculum models. 

Evidence has been considered based on students’: 

  • acquisition of relevant knowledge and skills 
  • application and use of technical, transferable skills and critical skills in complex contexts 
  • confidence levels when faced with more self-directed tasks, projects, and assignments, which demand initiative, independent decision-making, and autonomy. 

Based on this evidence, the emphasis will now be on presenting students with authentic problems and challenges which aim to: 

  • increase levels of motivation and engagement 
  • provide valuable industry insights 
  • help students to solve real-work problems and grapple with unfamiliar situations 
  • give them opportunities to combine knowledge, skills and behaviours in performance-based situations.  

This problem-based approach can also intimidate and challenge students because of their unfamiliarity, complexity, and unsupported structure, so students need to have the right tools to: 

  • break down a problem or complex task into manageable elements 
  • make sound decisions about the viability of options, and the quality and effectiveness of key resources, processes and outcomes. 

This is an example of a student progress check (for a Digital T Level, in this case), based upon various formative assessments, which uses a Red; Amber; Green rating to confirm a student’s progress against the Core content areas of this T Level qualification (which are numbered in the example).

Screenshot_2021-09-24_142556.png

Student and cohort profiles evidence 

  • 35% of cohort: demonstrating several topic area weaknesses across the Core 
  • 65% of cohort: achieving targeted performance across the Core 
  • Close to 50% still require high levels of guidance and support with self-directed projects (e.g., identifying problems, processes and resources; planning and using resources effectively; making key decisions; following project methodologies; evaluating process and quality) 

 

25% - 30% are demonstrating high levels of autonomy and independence 

  • Our assessment is that students will respond well to the shift in emphasis and balance, provided that they are given enough help to make the journey from incremental, supported learning to independent, problem-solving professional practice. 

4. Actions  

Preparation for assessments 

The forthcoming formal assessments in Term 3 (summer term) mean that students will focus on developing project-based core skills and becoming more confident and effective with using professional methodologies, including: 

  • planning 
  • analysing 
  • performing complex tasks 
  • evaluation and testing 
  • communicating key technical details  
  • producing outcomes in response to authentic employer briefs. 

Some students will need targeted support in defined areas of knowledge and understanding within the T Level core, which underpins broader technical expertise, practical skills proficiency, and effective professional behaviours. 

Preparation for industry placements 

The planned industry placements in Term 3 will be tailored as much as possible to meet student and employer needs. For example, students currently in the lower 50% might plan to start placements 2 days per week for an initial 2-3 weeks to reinforce confidence with ongoing instruction and support from our staff. This initial, 2-day a week model can then be developed into project-based, block industry placements with 4 days per week in the workplace for the following 4 weeks. 

 All placements should include tasks and projects which will help students to: 

  • make good progress in applying their knowledge 
  • use their skills proficiently 
  • recognise behaviours appropriate to the situation  
  • gain in confidence through the placement experience.  

Was this page helpful? Yes this article was useful No this article wasn't useful

You have 500 characters remaining