Ofqual launch 52 question T-level consultation - but four week deadline a 'shame'

Ofqual has today launched a consultation about how it will regulate T-levels – but has only given the sector four weeks to respond.

The exams regulator is asking for views on how it should frame its rules, including on issues such as how assessments should be set and marked, when retakes can be taken, and certification requirements.

Its mammoth consultation document is 71 pages long with 52 questions, but in the latest piece of evidence that the new technical qualifications are being rushed, it is only offering up time for responses until August 6 – half the usual period it sets aside.

Ofqual itself recognised this was a short deadline and is recommending respondents only answer particular areas of interest, including setting and marking assessments, results and certification, and retakes.

“We recognise that given the scale of our proposals, respondents may not wish to respond to the whole consultation,” the regulator said.

Its consultation document gave an insight into why the time frame is so short.

It explains that the first three T-levels will be introduced for teaching in 2020, and the Department for Education plans to launch an invitation to tender in September 2018 for awarding organisations wishing to bid to offer them.

Following the completion of today’s consultation, the exams regulator has to announce its decisions about how it will police the technical qualifications in September alongside the launch of the invitation to tender.

It will follow this with a more detailed technical consultation, “seeking views on the exact wording of the conditions and guidance we propose to use to implement our approach”, which is expected to run for eight weeks from September.

Based on responses to this, Ofqual “intends to publish our final conditions and guidance for technical qualifications in December so that awarding organisations are clear, as they develop their technical qualifications, what conditions and guidance they will have to meet”.

Ofqual consultations are typically eight weeks long, and can stretch to 12 weeks for those of high-profile – such as its GCSE reform consultation in 2013.

FE Week has asked for more detailed comment on why the current T-levels consultation is so short.

Mark Dawe, boss of the AELP, wasn’t impressed with the four-week deadline.

“I appreciate that the DfE has a tight timescale, and at least this is four weeks rather than the four days from the Institute for Apprenticeships,” he said.

“It is a shame, that on the surface, it would appear that the DfE is not treating these ‘gold standard’ qualifications with the same care as they did with A-levels.”

This isn’t the first piece of evidence that T-levels are being rushed through.

In May, the IfA initially gave the sector just five working days to respond to its consultation on the draft content for the first three T-levels – and it was during half term. It only extended the feedback period following outrage from FE leaders.

This came just days after the education secretary Damian Hinds refused his own permanent secretary’s request to delay the initial rollout of T-levels until 2021.

Ofqual’s chief regulator, Sally Collier, has made it no secret that she believes the timescale to deliver T-levels is incredibly tight.

But speaking about the launch of today’s consultation, she said: “This consultation will help ensure that technical qualifications, and the T-levels of which they form a part, are set up to succeed.

“I would encourage anyone with an interest in these new qualifications to give us their views on the proposals we have set out.”

Three events to support the consultation are being run on July 23, 24 and 31. You can find out more here.