Awarding giants silent as bids open to run ‘Gen 2’ T Levels

A process to 'refresh' 7 existing T Levels launched last week

A process to 'refresh' 7 existing T Levels launched last week

The awarding giants that deliver the seven T Levels put up for relicensing are keeping tight-lipped over whether they will bid for the contracts again.

Pearson, City & Guilds, and NCFE won the race to design and deliver the flagship qualifications during waves one and two of the rollout that got underway in 2020.

Their contracts run for an initial five years, at which point the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education launches another procurement to seek bids to “refresh” the courses.

The current awarding bodies must submit another bid if they want to be considered for running the qualifications in the future. 

But all three have refused to say whether they will apply to recontract after IfATE launched the process for T Levels “Generation 2” last week, stating this decision is “commercially sensitive”.

FE Week understands that the awarding bodies have been running the contracts at a loss which could make them think twice about staying involved in T Levels. The running of the qualifications has also been difficult due to several layers of bureaucracy at decision-making level.

IfATE is responsible for procurement and management of the technical qualification (TQ) within T Levels, and the awarding body is responsible for designing and delivering the TQ; Ofqual regulates the TQ and the Department for Education issues T Level certificates, and is responsible for overall T Level policy.

There is also the new hurdle of the prime minister’s proposed Advanced British Standard, which would replace A-levels and T Levels in the next 10 years. 

The attractiveness of T Levels has taken a hit since the announcement in October, with leaders warning the already difficult task of selling T Levels to parents, students and employers has now been made even harder.

IfATE addressed this issue when it launched the relicensing process, insisting that T Levels will, “in the meantime, remain the gold standard employer-shaped technical qualification at level 3 for 16- to 19-year-olds”, adding that it is “vital that the Generation 2 qualifications are refreshed and developed to the highest standard”.

While seven T Levels have this week been put up for relicensing, three of the qualifications – offered by NCFE in health, healthcare science and science – that were part of the wave two rollout have been left out.

All of those qualifications suffered with well-publicised issues which led to results being regraded in their first year. Various changes have been made to the content of the T Levels over the past year to make them fit for purpose.

A spokesperson for NCFE said: “For the health, healthcare science and science T Levels, we are under contract with IfATE and will continue to deliver these contracts. The future procurement is being managed by IfATE and we recommend you liaise with them directly on the timings of this. 

“In terms of our bidding intentions for the T Level routes in the procurement round announced this week, this information is commercially sensitive. We continue to be focused on ensuring the T Levels we deliver are rigorous, high-quality, and meet the needs of those in industry. We will, of course, inform our providers of our plans, as soon as we are able to do so.”

Procurement documents, seen by FE Week, state the health and science T Levels “will be extended by one cohort”. FE Week understands that a separate relicensing process for the health and science T Levels will be conducted in 2024.

Pearson and City & Guilds both said their decision to bid for T Level contracts is also commercially sensitive.

NCFE delivers three of the seven T Levels part of this current tender, while Pearson & City and Guilds are responsible for two each. The contracts, expected to be awarded in July 2024 for delivery from September 2025, are worth £28,093,974 in total.

Chris Morgan, IfATE’s deputy director for commercial, said: “This exciting opportunity will see the first two waves of T Levels, rolled out from 2020, going back to market for bidding in three key sectors. We welcome widespread interest and look forward to receiving submissions from awarding organisations.”

The 7 T Levels up for relicensing

T Level nameCurrent AOContract value
Education and Early YearsNCFE
£5,526,068
Design, Surveying and Planning for ConstructionPearson£3,426,668
Building Services Engineering for ConstructionCity & Guilds£3,962,768
Onsite ConstructionCity & Guilds£3,902,468
Digital Business ServicesNCFE£2,786,268
Digital Support ServicesNCFE£3,789,868
Digital Production, Development and DesignPearson£4,699,868

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