The government is reviewing whether T levels can still be rolled out from September 2020 as planned, Tes understands.
The new “gold-standard” qualifications for technical education were due to be introduced in 50 providers from this September with the digital, construction and education and health T-level routes being the first to be delivered.
However, the coronavirus outbreak has seen college campuses closed to the majority of students, all summer exams cancelled, and the government confirming last Monday night that end-point-assessments for apprentices could be postponed or completed remotely.
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With so much of the planning for T levels yet to be completed – Tes understands that the first review of the qualifications by the Department of Education and the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) was due to happen on 1 April – the timeline for the implementation of the qualification seems less certain.
A Department for Education spokesperson said: "We recognise the impact the Covid-19 outbreak will have on T-level providers. We are continuing to keep this under review, working closely with providers, as the situation develops and we will provide an update as soon as we possibly can.”
Emma Hardy, Labour's shadow FE and HE minister, told Tes: "With everything that’s going on, the government can only suspend T levels for a year, surely, because we’re not going to have the capacity to introduce a new system."
Significant investment has already taken place to ensure the qualifications are ready to be taught from September 2020.
In response to a written question by Ms Hardy, apprenticeships and skills minister Gillian Keegan confirmed that the government had spent £114 million in funding allocations for T levels in the years 2018-19 and 2019-20. They also awarded £38 million in capital funding for providers delivering T levels in 2020 and £95 million for providers starting delivery in 2021.
Ms Keegan wrote that it was estimated that there would be 1,500 and 2,000 places available for students across the first three T levels taught from September 2020.
James Kewin, deputy chief executive of the Sixth Form Colleges Association, said that most SFCA members assumed delivery would go ahead as planned.
He said: “A straw poll of members scheduled to deliver T levels from September indicates that most think delivery will continue as planned if students enrol as normal at the end of the summer. There are some clear challenges – for example, delays to construction mean that some facilities will not be ready on time and work placements will take longer to secure – but overall, our colleges intend to deliver T levels as originally planned.
"None of us can predict what the world will look like in September and colleges are very sensibly reviewing their plans on a regular basis in response to the Covid-19 crisis.”