Amidst low take-up predictions DfE to give £30k per T-level and ‘tolerance’ for under-delivery

The first wave of T-level providers are expected to recruit half the amount of students the government predicts, research shared exclusively with FE Week has revealed.

It comes as plans for one-off payments of up to £90,000 for the early providers are unveiled by the Department for Education, as well as confirmation that a “tolerance” will be applied for under-delivery.

The National Foundation for Educational Research conducted interviews with half of the first 50 providers to deliver T-levels in 2020.

We intend to introduce additional one-off payments to providers

All but one said they were planning to recruit between 12 and 20 students in the first year, in “recognition of the challenges in setting up a new programme”.

The Department for Education previously projected the 2020/21 cohort would total 2,500 students, but then revised this down to 2,000.

If all of the 50 providers in wave one recruit 20 students each, then just 1,000 would be studying the new qualifications in that year.

To help the first wave of providers, in part to recruit more students, the DfE said today it would offer them one-off additional payments – as part of a £3.75 million package of financial support.

The plan was revealed in the DfE’s response to its T-levels funding consultation, which confirmed funding rates will range from £4,170 to £5,835 per year, depending on the size of the qualification, despite 62 per cent of respondents opposing the proposal.

In “recognition of the additional costs that are unique to the early T-level providers”, the department said the additional one-off payments will amount to £30,000 per provider for each new T-level introduced in 2020, and of £20,000 per provider introducing the Transition Framework in 2020.

“This is to recognise the costs associated with engaging in co-design of the qualifications and providers’ work with the department on T-level and Transition Framework policy development,” the consultation document added.

Sixteen of the first 50 will offer all three of the first T-levels, which will be taught in education, construction and digital, and will therefore benefit from one-off payments of £90,000.

The funding will be paid in 2019/20 and at the moment is only for the providers delivering in 2020/21.

Considerations are being made to also offer the payments to those set to deliver in 2021/22, but there is “no plan to extend beyond this”.

The consultation continued to say that officials “understand providers are concerned they will not be able to predict recruitment to T-levels far enough in advance to feed accurate student numbers into the allocations process”, and if recruitment “does not reflect the student numbers used for the allocation then this could lead to over or under funding”.

To ensure providers “invest in T-levels with confidence” the department is proposing to operate a “tolerance before making any funding adjustments”.

“We envisage a tolerance for under-delivery during the implementation phase which will be tightened as T-levels become more established,” the document stated.

“We will review actual enrolment against the first data return of the academic year. Any downward adjustment to funding would apply to the number of students outside of the tolerance.”

The full NFER report on T-levels will be published on Thursday.

Click here to see the full list of providers in the second wave of T-levels.