First T levels to be delayed by a year to 2020

The teaching of the first 'pathfinder' T levels is likely to be pushed back by 12 months to September 2020, Tes understands

Stephen Exley & Will Martin

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The teaching of the first T levels, due to begin in September 2019, is to be pushed back to the following year.

According to the timescales in the Post-16 Skills Plan, the next step in the process of introducing the new qualifications was to develop the technical content for the "pathfinder" routes in October, with the first T-level qualifications to be approved in February 2019 for teaching at the start of the 2019-20 academic year. The remaining routes were intended to be phased in between 2020 and 2022.

But the process is already behind schedule, with the early general election in June having caused significant delays. The Department for Education is expected to confirm in the next few days that the pathfinder qualifications will not be taught until September 2020. However, the "transition year", currently scheduled to be introduced in September 2020, is likely to be brought forward by 12 months, Tes understands.

The move was confirmed by skills minister Anne Milton on Thursday. In a letter sent ot FE leaders on Thursday, she wrote: "Over the last few months, officials in the Department have carried out extensive testing of the current plans for delivery and, like many of our key partners including Lord Sainsbury, the secretary of state and I are now agreed that we need to adjust our timetable and take the necessary amount of time to ensure the reforms are delivered properly. We therefore now propose the first teaching of T levels by a number of pilot providers in September 2020, with all routes available as planned in September 2022."

'This needs to be done right'

The delay was welcomed by Mark Dawe, chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers. "This needs to be done right," he said. "There's no sense in this being rushed, it needs to have the support of employers and key stakeholders."

Earlier this month, the Department for Education revealed plans to invest £50 million in work placements for the T levels, with a further £15 million in funding to contribute to improvements in further education.

Speaking at the British Chambers of Commerce, Ms Greening said the T levels would offer a "gold standard for technical and professional excellence".

'Raising the status'

Speaking at a Westminster Education Forum event on 3 July, Sarah Read, head of T level development at the Department for Education, said the Department was on track to meet the "broad ambition that all routes would be into teaching by 2022", adding: "We are still working to those timescales."

Ms Read also said that T levels were being designed not as a “direct technical equivalent to A levels”, but as an education route that was valuable in its own right.

“I think using the word technical will hopefully raise the status of this alternative route and I think it’s quite important to say that we’re not trying to design something that is a direct technical equivalent to A levels,” she said. “We’re designing a system that is important in its own right, that has its own design parameters and aims to get young people on a really valuable course of study to prepare them for genuine preparation for entry to employment.”

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Stephen Exley & Will Martin

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