Education secretary makes ‘guarantee’ T Levels will be ‘available’ to adults in future

T Levels will be an option for adults of any age to study as part of the government’s new lifetime skills guarantee, the education secretary has surprisingly claimed.

Gavin Williamson’s promise, made in the House of Commons today, comes despite Department for Education rules that T Levels can only be taken by 16 to 19 year olds.

The education secretary this afternoon took questions from MPs on prime minister Boris Johnson’s new “lifetime skills guarantee”, which involves offering all adults in England a full level 3 qualification for free from April if they do not already hold one.

A full list of available level 3 courses for this entitlement will be set out next month, but the government has said the qualifications will need to provide “skills valued by employers”.

Peter Aldous, the MP for Waveney, said in the Commons today that this new guarantee is “extremely welcome as it should help boost Covid recovery”, before asking: “So that those adults who will take up the guarantee can realise their full potential, can my right honourable friend confirm that the new gold standard T Levels will be available to them?”

Williamson replied: “I can absolutely guarantee that. I had the great opportunity to see so many youngsters at college, taking on the T Level.

“It has been incredibly warmly welcomed because what the real difference is, is to so many other past attempts in terms of reform of qualifications in this sector has been very much based on the needs of employers to ensure that as the T Levels are being developed that they actually take young people into work or onto further education or apprenticeship.”

Williamson’s claim has baffled the sector, considering that only those up to the age of 19 are currently allowed to study for T Levels.

In response, Labour’s shadow skills minister Toby Perkins tweeted: “Incredible, and if indeed he is saying T Levels will be available to all adult by April 2021 he’s got less idea what’s happening out there than I thought.”

The DfE later claimed that Williamson only meant that T Levels could possibly be made available to adults in the future, not by April when the level 3 entitlement and lifetime skills guarantee kicks in.

T Levels for adults are not expected to be made available until all T Levels are rolled out and embedded into the skills system, the DfE added.

The first three T Levels were rolled out in September, with 22 others due to follow from next year until 2023.