T-level wobble as another four providers cancel September launch plans

Four providers due to teach the first T-levels in just three months’ time have announced they will delay delivery for at least a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It means the number of colleges, schools and other providers in England in wave one of the rollout of the new post-16 technical qualifications has fallen below 50, to just 46.

The providers pulling their plans are Access Creative College, Durham Sixth Form Centre, Salesian School and University College Birmingham.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We have always taken a gradual approach to rolling out T-levels to ensure we get the new high-quality qualifications right from the outset.

“Four of the 50 providers for 2020 are delaying delivery until 2021 in light of the current circumstances, but they remain fully committed to T-levels and we will continue to work closely with them.”

Another provider, York College, has also announced it will now only offer one T-level route – construction – this year instead of all three they had planned for.

Skills minister Gillian Keegan confirmed in April that the government would drive forward with plans to launch the first T-levels from September 2020 despite the disruption being caused by the Covid-19 outbreak.

She said that while providers have “rightly raised some issues” with delivery, “most wanted to continue to deliver the first T-levels this year” and “we owe it to these young people to find ways to continue to deliver the courses that they have chosen and that will offer them great progression opportunities”.

The initial rollout of T-levels will see providers teach three routes: digital, construction, and education and childcare. Health and science will be added in 2021.

This isn’t the first time providers have pulled out of or delayed T-level delivery. In October, education secretary Gavin Williamson’s old college, Scarborough Sixth Form, pulled out of offering construction and digital pathways from 2020 because of a lack of opportunities for the T-levels’ mandatory 315-hour work placements locally, and a shortage of good-quality teachers.

Three schools previously ditched plans to take part in the 2020 wave.

Access Creative College, a national creative college, is now scheduled to deliver the digital route next year.

Durham Sixth Form Centre is also still committed to teaching the digital route but from 2021, along with health and science.

Salesian School in Chertsey, which was awarded £1.1 million in T-level capital funding last year, will teach digital and education and childcare. The University College Birmingham will now deliver the education and childcare and health and science T-levels next year.

A spokesperson for the DfE said the four providers that have deferred delivery will now support students already signed up for September to find “other suitable courses”, and the department will keep in “close touch to support them to do this”.

The deferrals have been announced on the same day that the DfE revealed the list of providers due to deliver the third wave of T-levels in 2022. Full story here.