ESFA misses own deadline to update providers on T-levels

The Education and Skills Funding Agency has missed its own deadline to let providers know if they will be among the first to deliver T-levels.

Providers who wanted to deliver the prestigious planned new qualifications in 2020/21 were invited to submit an expression of interest to the agency in January.

According to that invitation, all successful providers had been supposed to receive notification on April 27, along with confirmation of how many students would qualify for teaching that year.

Guidance subsequently published by the ESFA in early March said providers would be informed by early May if their application had been successful.

But providers have now been told the information will be released in due course, according to a spokesperson for the Department for Education.

There is also no sign yet of the government’s response to its consultation on the new qualifications, also promised in early May.

T-levels have been designed to increase the prestige of technical qualifications, as match for A-levels.

They were originally intended to be introduced from 2019 but in July last year Anne Milton announced that this had been put back to 2020.

It was announced in October that the first three subject areas to go live will cover digital, childcare and education, and construction.

A further eight subject “routes” should be launched by 2022.

This latest slippage will add to concern from across the sector that the tight T-level timetable is unachievable.

Sir Gerry Berragan, chief executive of the Institute for Apprenticeships, voiced his concerns about the “worryingly tight” delivery timeline for the first three routes at an Ofqual conference in March.

“The last thing we should do is start the first three on the wrong footing and give them a bad reputation,” he said.

His views are particularly significant as the IfA is set to take over responsibility for administering T-levels later this year.

Sally Collier, Ofqual’s chief regulator, also spoke about the “ambitious” timeframe and the “risks” it carried at the same event.

And the Confederation of British Industry has also said it would like to see full delivery delayed until 2023.

Earlier this week Robert Halfon appeared to question the whole design principle behind the government’s designs for T-levels.

During a parliamentary debate on Tuesday the former skills minister, and now chair of the education select committee, asked whether 16 was too young for people to decide between an academic and a technical route.

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