College's T-level delivery in jeopardy

The government is reviewing whether a large college group approved to start delivering T-levels from 2021 should be kicked off the programme after receiving a grade three from Ofsted.

United Colleges Group, which is lined up to offer the digital and construction courses, was told it ‘requires improvement’ in a report released this week.

The government wrote in its T-level action plan for 2018 it would only accept ‘outstanding’ or ‘good’ providers for the programme.

When asked by FE Week what will happen to United College Group’s ability to offer T-levels, a Department for Education spokesperson said they will work “closely” with the group to look at the issues raised by the report, and “will make a decision in due course”.

They informed providers when they were selected that the DfE “reserved the right to review a provider’s continued participation”.

Last February, London Design and Engineering UTC was stopped from delivering T-levels in 2020 after it received a grade three from Ofsted.

A DfE spokesperson said they will consider each case on its merits then decide whether the provider can continue to participate; and will discuss any changes with the provider before a decision is made to “ensure we are taking a fair and consistent approach, taking into account the needs of learners”.

The time invested by institutions and the work done to prepare students may also impact on the decision, as will the extent of any issues outlined in the Ofsted report.

If United Colleges Group is dropped from T-levels, it will be another blow to London’s access to the new qualifications, dealt barely two weeks after Richmond-upon-Thames College withdrew from provision.

FE Week analysis revealed no providers in the capital will be offering the construction course this year and, after Richmond’s departure, none south of the river will offer it from 2021.

Only United Colleges Group, Barking and Dagenham College and Newham Sixth Form College – all based north of the Thames – are scheduled to deliver.

A United Colleges spokesperson said they will be discussing their planned T-level provision with the DfE, but have made “huge progress” since being formed two years ago and welcomed the fact Ofsted recognised this.

“We are already seeing improvement and we’re confident that the steps we have taken will deal with the issues raised in the report.”

Inspectors at the group decided that since being formed from a merger of City and Westminster College and College of North West London, the group had failed to maintain those colleges’ grade two.

After that 2017 merger a significant number of senior staff have left, there has been disruption to courses and the management of those courses “is not yet effective enough”.

Teaching is also “not good enough for younger learners” and teachers do not consistently challenge them to extend their knowledge or apply it to new situations.

“Learners are confused about what they are learning and find it challenging to build on their knowledge and skills,” because teachers do not effectively assess gaps in learners’ knowledge and skills to understand what in the course needs reinforcing.

Too many learners and apprentices do not attend their taught sessions “frequently enough,” and not enough of their teachers challenge their poor punctuality.

The watchdog did report United Colleges Group’s governors took effective action to set up a new leadership team following the merger, and both they and the senior leaders evaluate the curriculum well.

Safeguarding was found to be effective as leaders and managers have implemented appropriate checks to ensure staff are safe to work with learners and staff are appropriately trained in both safeguarding and the ‘Prevent’ duty.