T-level recruitment targets for digital 'unrealistic'

Just half of the expected number of students are currently enrolled on the digital T-level programme, says Pearson

Kate Parker

T levels: Student recruitment targets for digital 'unrealistic', says Pearson

Targets for student participation in the newly introduced digital T level are unrealistic, Pearson’s product director for Btec and technical has said. 

Speaking at a Westminster Education Forum event today on T-level implementation, Donna Ford-Clarke said just half the number of learners expected were enrolled on the digital T level, and highlighted issues with recruitment. 

“We're offering the T levels in construction and in digital," she said. "In terms of construction, we have seen where the numbers are just about where we expected them to be. However, with digital, that's a different story, where we see that the number on digital is significantly less than we expected: just half the number of learners are on the digital programme to what was expected when we started out.”


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Ford-Clarke said there were a number of reasons relating to Covid, including less recruitment activity and providers delaying delivery by a year.

She added: “I think providers have found it inherently hard to recruit for the T level in digital and I think the numbers we have in targets are probably unrealistic in terms of the digital pathway, so I think that's just something we need to bear in mind.”

T levels are in their first year of delivery, with students across 47 providers taking part in education and childcare, digital and construction pathways. 

DfE 'entirely transparent' on T-level numbers

In her opening comments at the conference, Ms Lovelock said that providers had wanted to push ahead with delivery, despite the challenges of the coronavirus.

However, the launch has involved providers delaying delivery, and concerns have been raised over the viability of industry placements amid the pandemic.

A T-level action plan published by the Department for Education in January revealed that, as of October 2020, 400 students were enrolled on the digital T level, 250 on the construction T level and 650 on the education T level. 

Sue Lovelock, director of professional and technical education at the DfE, said there were no targets on recruitment for T levels. 

“On numbers, we've been really transparent from the outset that there isn't a target for T levels in our early years of rollout or, indeed, later in the programme," she said. "This is bottom-up and based on providers planning places and then successfully recruiting students on to them. That said, we've been entirely transparent about the numbers that are on T levels this year.” 

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Kate Parker

Kate Parker is a FE reporter.

Find me on Twitter @KateeParker

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