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T Level Capital Fund guidance - questions and answers

Introduction

This page lists all the common questions that T Level providers have asked us about the T Level Capital Fund.  We recommend that you look below to answer any questions you may have.

Contents

Questions are batched into categories:

  1. General questions
  2. Developing your bid
  3. The estate
  4. Technical questions
  5. Project costs
  6. Making the 'space needs' case
  7. Match funding
  8. Financial information to support your application
  9. Education case - Student numbers
  10. Submitting an application
  11. Grant funding for successful projects
  12. Specialist equipment allocation

1. General questions

1.1. What is the long-term plan for funding T Levels capital?

We have made £268m available in capital funding to date to support the successful delivery of T Levels.

We cannot prejudge the outcome of the Spending Review in 2021, however Further Education remains a high priority for the Government and we expect this to be reflected in future capital funding settlements.

1.2. Why have you excluded Independent Learning Providers from applying for a building and facilities improvement grant?

Independent Learning Providers play a significant role in education delivery and will continue to do so in the delivery of T Levels. However we need to ensure that capital investment in buildings will benefit state funded education for the long term, and we cannot guarantee this for Independent Learning Providers.

Independent Learning Providers have the ability to flex to the market, can obtain investment from a greater pool of sources and can enter and exit with ease to suit their business model. However, this market flexibility brings with it additional assurance risks in how we manage capital investment. We therefore need to direct this funding to those types of institutions that are best placed to do this. Independent training providers will benefit from the specialist equipment allocation.

1.3. Will all T Level providers receive some T Level Capital Funding?

The building and facilities improvement grant (BFIG) element of the T Levels Capital Fund is a competitive bidding process and all applicants will need to meet the requirements set out in the guidance. The funding for building works will be allocated according to need and providers will have to make a case for additional space.

All providers will receive funding for specialist equipment if they meet the minimum threshold in terms of planned student numbers at the point of ‘steady state’ – which is the 4th year of delivery of each route.

1.4. If we apply for/secure T Level Capital Fund monies for a particular T Level route this round, e.g. Construction, does this mean that we are unable to apply for additional T Level Capital Fund monies for the same route in future rounds?

Yes, we will only allow you to receive one funding allocation per T Level route that you are delivering.

If you are a multi-academy trust (MAT) then you can apply once per T Level per academy.  The MAT must apply on behalf of the academy.

If you are a multi-site/multi campus college, you can apply once per T Level per campus.  The college corporation will need to apply on behalf of the college/campus, and will need to confirm the college/campus has not already received capital funding to deliver the particular T Level/s.

1.5. If our organisational/structural circumstances change after the submission of our bid, can we make changes later?

If your bid is successful and your circumstances change, we will allow you to submit a change request to amend the project. You will need to demonstrate that the revised project delivers the most appropriate estates solution. You will need to satisfy us that the revised project meets our minimum score threshold criteria to be eligible for funding. You will not be eligible for any additional grant support over and above what we have approved and, if the project is of lower value, then we will adjust the grant offer accordingly.

1.6. We only want to do one T Level in a route. Can we still qualify for the maximum amount or is the maximum only for those doing all of the T Levels in that route?

We have set out in guidance the maximum grant that is available for the three different T Level routes per institution. Your project could be for one or all T Levels in the route.  However, you will need to demonstrate a robust space need case within your application so you should ensure you only include what you actually need for the route applied for. If your project costs are high, you must provide a detailed explanation to justify why the costs are necessary. You must show that the project still represents value for money.

1.7. Will there be another opportunity to bid for some routes next time if we do not bid now, if we are unsuccessful this year or because we are not starting those routes until 2023?

You can bid for funding to cover all T Levels included in the T Level route(s) you will deliver from 2022/23 academic year if you have not previously received funding for those routes and you need to make improvements to existing space or increase space to support T Level delivery. You cannot make a further application for a route that you have received funds for in a future funding round, even if you expand the number of T Levels you offer in that route later.

If you will not start to deliver the T Level route until the 2023/24 academic year, then you will need to wait for capital funding arrangements for T Levels starting from September 2023 are decided. We will announce arrangements for this in due course.

1.8. When we put in an application for the building and facilities improvement grant, can we include in the application space/refurbishment related to a T Level route that we are not delivering it until 2023?

No, you should only apply for grant funding towards projects that you need to deliver the T Level routes you are delivering in September 2022. If you are not delivering a route until September 2023 this will not be eligible for funding in the current round.

1.9. Are the maximum grant allowances indicated in the guidance meant to be per route or per pathway?

The maximum grant being offered is per T Level route as indicated in the guidance. For example, if you are intending to deliver the Digital route, the maximum grant that can be applied is £650,000 for this route, regardless of whether you are intending to deliver all 3 T Levels that this route covers.

1.10. Can we apply for more than the maximum grants available if we are only able to fund a limited contribution towards the cost of the project?

No, we will only fund up to the published maximum grant threshold for each T Level route funded. Please also see information on match funding below.

1.11. In order to use funding efficiently, can we make a case for funding this year which would cover T Levels being available from 2023 and, if that is successful, rules ourselves out of the next round?

We currently only have funding agreed to fund T Level routes (including all T Levels that are available under each route) that are available to deliver in 2020, 2021 and 2022. We understand that for some providers it would be more appropriate to undertake a single project that addresses all your future needs for T Level delivery, and we aim to move towards this in future if funding is available. You may wish to delay your project until we are able to consider applications that address all provider needs. However, we cannot give any assurance that a budget will be available for this at the present time.

1.12. Can providers delivering in future T Level rounds from 2023 onwards apply for this funding?

No, this fund is for those delivering in 2022. Support for providers delivering from 2023 onwards will be agreed as part of the upcoming Spending Review discussions.

1.13. Can providers bid for all routes that they are planning to deliver, including those from 2023 and beyond?

No. Wave 3 capital funding is only for the T Level routes that you are delivering in the 2022/23 Academic year.

Funding for T Level routes being delivered from 2023 onwards will depend on the outcome of the next Spending Review.

1.14. Will I receive the Specialist Equipment Grant if I don't apply for the Buildings element of the grant?

All providers will receive the Specialist Equipment Allocation, whether or not they apply for Buildings and Facilities Improvement Grant Capital.

1.15. Is the minimum project value £200,000 even where there is more than one route involved, or is there a minimum value per route?

The minimum project value is £200,000 even if that project is to support the delivery of several routes.

1.16. How might we seek to fund our 'virtual' environment - for example, in purchasing an appropriate e-portfolio system?

The Buildings and Facilities Improvement Grant cannot be used to fund IT software or hardware, though it might be used to fund refurbishment of spaces used for the virtual environment if these are primarily to support T Levels and fulfil other requirements.

You may be able to use the Specialist Equipment Allocation to fund some IT equipment - you would need to be able to account for this equipment (singly or as a group of items) as a capital asset on your accounts. Alternatively you may need to use your revenue funding to pay for this.

1.17. Section 5.3.3 of the guidance on sustainability refers to the 'Further Education Net Zero Carbon Model - 10 Point Plan' and the ’Technical Annex-Sustainability Brief,' but these documents do not appear to have been published.

This was a mistake in the guidance and referred to documents not yet published - we have now updated this section on the published version on the website.

We are very sorry for any confusion caused, and will assess applications in this section in line with the March 2021 version of the guidance.

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2. Developing your bid

2.1. Our bids are all interdependent – how do we handle that?

If you are submitting two or more applications and these are not for separate academies within a MAT then we will allow you to group these together into a single application and combine the maximum grant allowances accordingly. If you decide to submit separate individual projects, there is no guarantee that if one project is successful the other one will be too. If you cannot deliver the project as a stand-alone project, then you should combine them into a single application and we will assess on this basis.

2.2. Is it better to submit one bid or two?

It is for you to decide whether to submit single or multiple applications. You may submit one project application per T Level route that you plan to deliver in September 2022. You may alternatively choose to make an application for a single project, which supports the delivery of multiple routes, so long as you have not had any previous capital funding approval for any of the routes applied for.

It is fine to submit a multiple phase single bid so long as each phase is completed by September 2022. You should also be aware that we can only approve whole applications as submitted so if you combine projects into a single application then we will not be able to separately approve individual projects within it. So we will either agree to fund the whole of the project or not fund any of it as we will not be able to assess the individual phases/ projects independently of each other.

Also, we can only provide funding for eligible routes that you are delivering in September 2022 so, if your project includes a wider scope than the eligible routes, you will need to demonstrate that any grant requested is required for the eligible part(s) of the project and will need to justify how you have apportioned the project costs in this respect.

2.3. If we send in more than one bid, if one of our bids fails, do they all fail?

No, just as if you decide to submit separate individual projects there is no guarantee that if one project is successful the other one will be too.

2.4. Can we split our project into two phases, one which will complete in September 2022 for the first T Level we are delivering in a T Level route and a separate phase to complete later for the other T Levels in that route, starting the following year?

We are happy to consider this so long as you can clearly demonstrate the first phase for the 2022 pathway will complete within our stated timelines. However, you must complete all spending on the second phase for pathways you will deliver from 2023 by the end of our 2022/23 financial year, 31st March 2023.

2.5. If we have been approved for more than one T Level route, must we prepare an application that covers all routes approved for in this round, or could we prioritise one or two areas for this round, and submit an additional application for other areas in future rounds?

No, you do not need to include all the routes that you are delivering in the applications for projects you submit for this funding round. However, we will not know whether funding is available for future rounds until later, so cannot currently confirm that you will be allowed to submit future applications for routes that you have not yet received capital funding for.

2.6. The guidance document sets out that the minimum project value thresholds are £200,000 for each route. Does the minimum project value threshold of £200,000 for these routes apply to each bid? Or can we submit a combined bid for a minimum project value threshold of £200,000?

A single application for multiple T Level routes should have a minimum value of £200,000. However, lower value projects which primarily comprise of works that would normally be undertaken as part of general maintenance such as redecoration and renewal of floor coverings are not eligible for BFIG funding.

2.7. Is there any flexibility on the date by which projects must be completed?

We expect projects to be completed by September 2022 in readiness for the start of the academic year. We will however consider applications with later completion dates on a case-by-case basis and you should therefore set out your case for an extension to the September 2022 deadline within the relevant section of the application form. Where you will not have projects completed in time for September 2022 delivery we would expect you to have appropriate temporary arrangements in place so as to support T Level curriculum delivery from the start of the academic year. Please note the costs of any temporary accommodation should not be included as part of your capital project but you should identify these costs within the financial plans submitted.

2.8. Will the T level capital fund application be considered alongside any CIF bids?

Yes, so long as there is no duplication of works/ funding requests. CIF funding cannot be used as match funding for T Levels Capital.

2.9. As a college, to what extent will we be able to apply for funding as part of our overall long-term strategic estate plans where some funding may be made available from other sources such as the FE Transformation Fund?

The purpose of the T Levels Wave 3 Capital Fund is to provide financial support to eligible providers with their capital projects which have the primary objective of building or refurbishing building/s for the teaching of the T Levels curriculum.

There may be other DfE capital funding which you have or intend to apply for.

We encourage providers to take a holistic approach to their capital projects and reflect this in the information they provide and the capital projects they propose.

If you apply to multiple DfE capital funds, you should be aware that a successful project in one bid does not necessarily mean all your projects will automatically be successful, so your T Levels project should be deliverable as a standalone project even if it is part of a larger programme.   

2.10. We hope to accommodate all T Levels within one new building rather than several. However, the calculation for possible funding only considers the first three waves of subjects. Is it possible to consider the later waves for a bid of this kind? The alternative would be to divide a building into phases but that is always more expensive and would be disruptive.

We currently only have capital funding available to support the delivery of T Level routes that are introduced up to the 2022/23 academic year. You can submit an application that includes works for specific T Levels that are now available but which you may deliver in subsequent years, but the eligible costs that make up grant support and match funding must only be used to fund building works that are required for the whole of the T Level route for which you are delivering at least one T Level in September 2022. We will accept an apportionment of costs based on floor areas where this is new build. For example, if you intend to build a new 2 storey building costing £5m but will only be using the whole of the first floor for T Level delivery then the eligible project costs are £2.5m (50%) and the level of grant available will normally be up to £1.25m depending upon which routes you are delivering and your ability to match fund.

2.11. This round of T Level capital funding is part of wider government capital funding that is available. Is it possible to use more than one capital funding stream to support/improve an existing project? For example, would it be possible to use T Level Capital Fund to amend an existing scheme so that an additional floor could be added to a new building?

Yes, you can use different funding streams to support your project. However, you must clearly set out within your application what part(s) of the project is for T Level curriculum and identify the costs of the T Level part separately so we can determine eligibility for funding.

You should not use any other central government capital funding as your match funding, so for example if you are refurbishing 2000m2 within a building at a cost of £3 million and only 1000m2 is being used to support T Levels we would expect you to assess the costs of the works on the T Level accommodation separately and this is the element that you should use for determining the level of grant requested. In this case if the costs are apportioned equally on a floor area basis the eligible project costs would be £1.5m of which you could get up to £750,000 grant assuming this is supported by the T Level route grant thresholds and you are able to afford the match funding. Any apportionment of costs should be fully explained and confirmed as reasonable by your costs adviser.

2.12. Can we apply for funds to build a new building or refurbish a building that will not be for T Levels but allows the freeing up of other accommodation, which can then be used for T Levels?

You must use the T Level Capital Fund to improve the part of the estate which is being used to deliver T Levels. We want your project to demonstrate it will provide world class equipment and facilities for T Levels. If you build a new block for non-T Level curriculum just so that you can use existing space for T Levels, this would not meet the requirement. Please remember if you plan to build new space which results in an increase in gross internal area, you must provide a space needs justification to be eligible for funding.

2.13. If we need to vacate adjacent space in order to expand e.g. construction space to teach T Levels, surely accommodating the relocated provision is a necessary investment for T Levels delivery?

Only the cost of works to support the T Levels routes available in Academic Year 2022/23 will be eligible as part of the project. So for example, if you deliver the Business and Administration route from 2022 then the cost of the new accommodation that supports this will be eligible. But if, as part of the same building project, you also include new accommodation for any route not being rolled out from until 2023, these costs would not be eligible. For all expansion projects, you will also need to provide a space needs justification for your project to be eligible.

If you incur costs by repurposing space which you were using for non-T Level provision so that you can use it for T Level provision, you could apply for funding towards the cost of this. This could be as an individual project or a project for multiple routes. However, you should not claim for more than 50% of the eligible costs element, subject to match being affordable.

Costs for delivering new space which will not house T Level routes being delivered from 2022 will not be eligible for funding from the BGIF. If the costs of delivering the planned new space impact on your ability to match fund, then we will take this into account in the affordability assessment. However, you should not include the cost of the non-T Levels accommodation or any other direct government funding as match.

2.14. We want to refurbish T Levels space within an accommodation block, of which approximately 25% of the total space will be used for T Levels. The block needs a new roof and heating system which we will need to replace as part of the project. Will the costs incurred in respect of upgrades which improve the whole block be eligible?

You can use the Buildings and Facilities Improvement Grant to improve accommodation that is being used to deliver T Levels. In some cases it will be necessary to improve space that you will not use for T Levels as part of your building works because of the work being undertaken.

In the example given, the whole of the project cost would be eligible. We expect the extent of works undertaken to non-T Levels space to be the minimum that you need to deliver your T Levels project. Your project should not include works to non-T Level space that is not needed to deliver your T level project.

2.15. How will site improvement for the second tranche of subjects fit within this bid process?

We understand you would want investments made in supporting the T Level routes available in 2020, 2021 and 2022 to align to your plans for the future of your estate, and we are keen to support this aim. However, capital funding arrangements for T levels routes starting from September 2023 are yet to be decided and funding constraints mean that we have had to prioritise investment to support only the first three waves of T Levels at present.

You may apply for part funding of a larger project which includes estate improvements beyond the initial T Level curriculum. In such a case the overall project may complete after September 2020, but you must present the T Level estates project for the initial routes as a separate phase which will be completed by this date and ensure that the project costs for which funding support is requested just cover this first phase.

2.16. If we were to apply for funding for a Digital classroom, can IT infrastructure be included as part of the capital bid? Or can the cost of IT equipment such as laptops/PC’s etc. be used as match funding?

You should only include IT infrastructure as part of your bid if it is an integral part of the project and is impractical to exclude it at this stage (e.g. cable systems). You should not include ICT software or PCs as part of your project.

You will be able to use the specialist equipment allocation for funding any specialist IT requirements that you need for Digital. You should not use any existing equipment that you own as match.

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3. The estate

3.1. We occupy land administered under a trust arrangement. Your guidance states, “The BFIG is only available for projects which aim to provide and/ or improve a capital asset held by you in freehold or on a long lease (125+ years)”. How do we comply with this requirement?

You should provide confirmation from the trustees they are supportive of your project and to their current knowledge your occupation of the land for the intended educational purposes will continue. This confirmation would not limit their ability to undertake their fiduciary duties in light of new information.

3.2. If we were to partner another organisation to provide T Levels at their site/premises, would we be eligible for funding for any cost of the development/redevelopment?

Funding is only available for projects which aim to provide and/ or improve a capital asset held by you in freehold or on a long lease (125+ years). Remember, if your plan results in an increase in gross internal area, you must provide a space needs justification for your project to be eligible for funding.

3.3. Can we apply for capital to refurbish a site we are acquiring to expand our T level offer?

You should determine your space needs for T Level provision on the basis of your current cohort and reasonable expansion plans required to address demographic trends and any known provider structural changes that will leave a gap in provision. We do not expect you to expand T Level provision into localities that you do not currently cover as we will eventually be rolling out T Levels for delivery by all suitable providers across England. If you do need additional accommodation then you should be aware that the BFIG is only available for projects which aim to provide and/ or improve a capital asset held by you in freehold or on a long lease (125+ years).

If you propose an estates improvement project with expansion, you will need to show why you need the increase in space. We will not support projects where your growth is the key goal and you will need provide a space needs justification.

3.4. As a school preparing our bid for T Level Capital funding, do we need to include a school maintenance plan with our application and is it possible for someone to look at our draft plan?

There is no requirement to include a maintenance plan but, you can do if you think it supports your statement on estates planning or other condition information submitted with the bid. We are unable to give feedback on individual bids as this is a competition.

3.5. What do you mean by estate plans?

If you are a university, further education or sixth form college, or a Multi Academy Trust you will need to provide an estates strategy (including an executive summary).  The separate summary document should not be longer than 4 sides of A4 and should explain how the project fits with your medium to long-term estate plans.

If you are a school, academy or a university technical college you should provide a statement of not more than 4 sides of A4 explaining what your estate plans are and how your project fits with your estate plans.

3.6. Is there specific guidance regarding what should be included in an estates strategy. Do you have a template / sample to assist applicants in briefing building surveyors?

The estates strategy needs to consider your overall curriculum requirements for the next 5 years and how you should best accommodate the curriculum delivery within your estate, taking into account existing constraints and available budget. It should also include an analysis of existing space utilisation, condition and suitability and identify issues with your existing estate that need to be addressed. You should then consider appropriate options for addressing the existing estate issues and accommodating curriculum needs, considering advantages and disadvantages of each option and undertake a scored cost benefit analysis to determine the best overall estates solution. Depending on the complexity of your preferred option you should consider undertaking a feasibility study to determine deliverability and better understand risks etc. You will find some advice on undertaking a feasibility study in Annex 1 of the T Level Capital Fund Guidance. We recommend that you obtain professional advice on how best to do this for your estate.

3.7. Is a building condition survey report for the affected building sufficient rather than for the entire estate?

Yes, this just needs to cover the project specific part of your estate, though you will need to take a more holistic view in developing your overall estates strategy.

3.8. Are boiler replacement costs eligible for funding as part of capital project bids?

Boiler replacement costs would normally be considered part of ongoing planned maintenance works, so can only be considered if the works are directly necessary in connection to the T levels project. If so, they should be included in the mechanical elements section of project costs.

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4. Technical questions

4.1. There is a link in the applicant guidance document to school buildings Output Specification 2020. Is there one for FE colleges?

No, we don’t currently have any design guidance information for FE colleges.

4.2. Can you provide guidance in terms of circumstances when DfE determines the appropriateness of provision of a feasibility study?

A feasibility study should be provided on more complex projects where there are significant risks likely to impact on programme and budget that should be resolved or at least fully understood to demonstrate the project should be deliverable as presented. For example, if your project requires planning consent and the building is Listed or in a conservation area a feasibility study should consider the risks around this and ensure alternative options have been considered where appropriate. You should take professional advice on whether you think your project should be supported by a feasibility study and will find more information in Annex 1 of the TLCF guidance

4.3. The TLCF application form requests a project management methodology and Gantt chart. Does the word limit for this question include the Gantt chart attachment or is the word limit exclusive of this?

A Gantt programme chart will be required as a separate document supporting your application.

4.4. The TLCF application form requests an organogram to show the Project Governance arrangement. Does the word limit for this question include the organogram attachment or is the word limit exclusive of this?

An organogram will be required as a separate document supporting your application.

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5. Project costs

5.1. Are costs that we have incurred already towards preparing our T Level Capital bid (e.g. architects, surveys, planning fees) eligible for inclusion in the overall project costs?

Only project related costs incurred after the programme was launched will be eligible for consideration.

5.2. Do we need to obtain contractor quotations and formal tenders to support the project cost information in our capital application?

If your project is straightforward, we expect you to be able to obtain contractor quotations and formal tenders to support the project cost information. We recognise that more complex projects could take longer to develop the application to the standard we expect. We cannot give you an assurance that costs not evidenced by tenders/ quotes will achieve a high score. However, we do aim to be flexible on our scoring where the scale of the specific project presented does not lend itself to tendering for the works within our timetable for applications. In these circumstances we will accept a cost plan prepared by a qualified cost consultant to an appropriate level of design information, e.g. RIBA stage 2.

5.3. If contractor quotations are not readily available at the time of submitting our application would a Quantity Surveyor generated cost plan suffice instead?

Yes we will accept your cost plan as long as it is endorsed by an independent professional cost consultant.

5.4. Does the DfE have a published cost model/ benchmark data applicable for prospective projects?

Yes, see link to further education scheme cost models available on the web: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/further-education-schemes-summary-cost-models 

5.5. In preparing our T Level application for capital funding, we are unsure how to deal with aspects of project costs which have not been finalised. For example, where the Local Authority may require us to use a particular material (for example for cladding) and we won’t know this until we formally apply for planning permission. How do we forecast the costs in our capital application?

Where possible you should consult the local authority planning department to ascertain the materials specification that would be required. Many local planning authorities have a pre application process that would enable you to get an opinion on this. If you are unable to obtain any advice from the local authority, then your architect will need to make a recommendation based on what they expect the planning requirement to be. If the estimated costs for something impact on the overall value for money of the project compared to sector benchmarks then you should provide an explanation for this which will be assessed as part of your application and this could impact on whether your project is successful. Alternatively, if you are prepared to accept the planning risk and are able to fund any additional costs if later information indicates a more costly material is required then you should base your costs on the cheaper option and identify this risk and how you will manage it within your application.

5.6. The guidance is clear that we should not include the specialist equipment in the project costs, however, should we include the specialist equipment costs within the financial forecast and investment appraisal?

Yes, you should assume that the specialist equipment costs will be funded by you in your financial forecast. The costs proposed should be reasonable and justified.

5.7. Although the application guidance states that specialist equipment should not be included in the costings for the BFIG application, should (for example for refurbishment of an Early Years facility) small chairs and tables targeted at nursery children be considered to fall within specialist equipment category?

We would normally expect you to include the costs of furniture and fittings in your application for BFIG. However, if you require specialist/ bespoke furniture to support a specific curriculum, there is also scope to use the Specialist Equipment Allocation to fund this. You should be clear in your application for BFIG as to whether this includes funding for any specialist furniture items and we would expect these costs to be within the overall allowable rates for furniture within the FE Cost Model.

5.8. Can fixed furniture be funded through the BFIG? i.e. tiered seating or fixed booths?

Fixed furniture can be funded through BFIG, as long as the costs are in line with the expectations of the FE cost model. To assist in the evaluation of your project you should complete the project cost section within the application form. Fixed furniture should be included within item line 4 and the information you provide will be compared against the published summary FE cost model to establish value for money.

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6. Making the 'space needs' case

6.1. We plan to refurbish an existing building. As part of this work we intend to install a lift which will increase the floor space over two floors by 31m2. Do we need to submit an independent space needs justification?

As this is a very small scale expansion we are happy to accept a non-independent space needs case. You should provide a space needs statement to justify why your preferred option delivers a more practical solution than an alternative that would not increase floor space.

6.2. Do you have any guidance on space standards that can be shared?

We have provided links in the guidance document which should provide you with information that needs to be considered as part of presenting a space needs case as follows:

For sixth form colleges or further education colleges your evidence should include an independent space utilisation survey and/ or specialist reports on space needs based on ‘Management of Floor Space in Further Education Colleges September 2016’ issued by Building Knowledge Info (the RIBA/Association of Colleges Client Forum).

https://www.building-knowledge.info/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Management-of-Floor-Space-September-2016-1.pdf 

For academies, schools, studio schools or UTC’s your evidence should include: a net capacity assessment for the whole institution at the time of application, based on the existing buildings but also any new or remodelling work proposed.

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/area-guidelines-and-net-capacity 

6.3. If we need to demonstrate the need for a new building, what evidence is required to support the bid?

Please refer to sections 5.1 and 5.2 of the guidance:

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/952024/T_Levels_capital_fund_guidance_for_applicants.pdf

6.4. For the space needs assessment tools, do we need to complete both tools and is there any guidance on how to complete them?

If your proposal is for an expansion project, you will need to complete both tools. They include guidance on how to complete the relevant sections. Please do include the details of your whole estate; there are sections to include a breakdown of the provision on individual sites as well. Section 5 of the published guidance includes further information on supporting documents you might want to submit as context for your space needs assessment.

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7. Match funding

7.1. We do not have access to funds or sponsorship to provide a 50% contribution to the project. Does that make us ineligible?

No, we will ask for evidence in your application to demonstrate your ability (or not) to make a contribution (match funding). This will need to show you have exhausted all avenues of securing additional funding. Once we have this information we will determine any award following an affordability assessment. The assessment will seek to avoid placing you in a position where you are at risk of inadequate financial health.

7.2. What is the expectation regarding match funding?

All applicants are expected to provide a 50% match funded contribution. In the event that you are unable to afford the full 50% match (through cash reserves, cash generation, external financing, etc.) we will consider a waiver request subject to you completing the relevant financial plan return for us to review and your financial circumstances supporting the waiver request.

We will undertake an affordability assessment based on the updated financial information that you submit with your application and decisions on match waiver will be made as part of the assessment and approvals process. We will allow up to 100% waiver of match if the financial assessment supports this.

7.3. Can we use donated land or buildings as a source of match funding?

We will allow donated buildings and land to be used as match subject to their value being supported by independent open market valuation. However, this will not apply to any existing assets that you already own. If you are able to borrow we will also allow loans to be used as match funding. You can also use other funding, such as LEP, as a match, but we will not allow other central government funding to be used as a match.

In the event that you are unable to afford the full 50% match, we will consider a waiver request subject to you completing the relevant financial plan return for us to review and your financial circumstances supporting the waiver request.

7.4. Can you clarify what can be used as match funding, i.e. can the following be used as match funding: revenue, creation of space within an existing building, or land value?

Revenue - If it’s the provider revenue to pay for the provider share of the capital project costs (i.e. provider cash), then yes this can be used as match funding. However, if it's future revenue generated by the project then it cannot be used as matched funding.

Creation of space within an existing building – In-kind match funding is permissible where a third party provides the space, subject to the value of the space being properly evidenced by an open market valuation and the asset being transferred to the provider. If the space or premises/site is already owned by the provider this would not be allowed as matched funding.

Land value – If the land has been purchased within the last 12 months for the project or where a third party donates the land this would be considered as in-kind matched funding subject to the value being certified by an open market valuation. Existing land owned by the provider will not be eligible as match.

7.5. Can we list out the full specialist equipment requirement and then offer some current kit (to be relocated) which has a good level of remaining life, as our match funding element, given its relatively recent purchase?

We will not normally count existing assets owned by you as eligible match. However, in the case of equipment, if this has been purchased within the last 12 months and is being used to support the T Level curriculum then yes this can be included within your match contribution.

7.6. Can we use funds from external sources such as LEPs for match funding?

Yes we will allow you to use LEP funding and contributions you make towards your estates strategy as part of your project match contribution as long as this is being used to specifically fund the T Levels capital project. Other grant funding direct from central government would not be permitted. We encourage providers to explore all potential sources of funding from outside government to meet the match contribution requirement.

7.7. What happens if you do not approve our request for a waiver of match funding? Can we re-submit our bid?

We will not accept another bid after the submission date has passed. If your request for waver of match funding is not supported, then we may be prepared to offer you a reduced level of grant support, but this will depend on how we decide to prioritise your application. It is important that the financial plan is completed fully to support your application.

7.8. We are intending to apply for future capital funds that are also likely to ask for match funding, can we apply for a match funding waiver if we are holding reserves to provide match funding to apply for any future DfE capital projects?

 You should offer match funding for T Level projects where you can afford to do so. Where you have provided match funding for T Level projects we will take that into account when assessing whether you are able to provide match funding as part of any future applications to DfE capital funds.

7.9 Can we use Towns Fund funding as part of our match funding contribution?

No. The Towns Fund is funded by MHCLG, so is central government funding, which cannot be used for match funding T Levels.

7.10 What proportion of projects received a waiver for match funding?

We do not publish figures on the proportion of projects that successfully apply for a waiver for match funding.

7.11 Do you have best practice examples for bids for this fund?

We do not publish best practice examples of bids as this is a competitive fund where projects vary hugely in size and scope. Many details included in applications would also be commercially sensitive or confidential.

7.12 If my application for a waiver from match funding is not successful, will it be possible to discuss and amend the project?

Once decisions are made on projects and match funding we will consider any changes to project scope on a case by case basis. While it may be possible to reduce the scope of projects to reduce the overall costs, it is unlikely that this will result in a change to the percentage of match funding required unless the overall financial position of your organisation has changed in the meantime.

7.13. The minimum threshold listed for each route is £200k, is this £200k for the project or for the DfE grant?

£200k is the minimum project size, including DfE funding and any match funding - so you could apply for a project paid for by £100k DfE funding and £100k match funding.

7.14. Can we apply for funding for work that will start before we receive a final decision on our bid?

Yes, though any work done or money spent before decisions are made on the bid is at your own risk.

We will consider costs relevant to the project that are incurred after the launch of the fund (13 January 2021).

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8. Financial information to support your application

8.1. We are a Sixth Form College but also a member of an Academy Trust, which Financial Plan template should we use?

If your Sixth Form College is part of an Academy Trust, then you should use the Academy Trust Financial Plan template.

8.2. You say all applicants must complete a separate cashflow template. As we are an academy, this information and more will be part of our financial plan. Do we have to provide both?

The requirement to provide a financial plan is only if you want to be considered for a reduced Match contribution. If you are applying for a reduced Match contribution and all of the information we are asking for is contained in your financial plan, you do not have complete the separate template. In all other circumstances we require the Cash flow template be completed.

8.3. If our project is over £1m, you ask for an Investment appraisal template for 3 options, the base case (do the minimum), alternative and preferred option. What does this mean?

We want to know that the option you propose delivers the best value. The option you present in your application (preferred option) should show after Net Present Value (NVP) analysis it delivers greater value. NPV is determined by calculating the costs and benefits for each period of an investment. NPV accounts for the time value of money. It provides a method for evaluating and comparing capital projects. We will consider this against the base line (the minimum or barebones project you could undertake) or a third alternative option you have considered as part of developing your plans.

8.4. Do we need to complete a financial risk management plan even if we are asking for 100% funding and we consider there is no financial risk to us? And even if we have completed the risk management section in the application form?

All applications must include a financial risk management plan. This is different from the financial plan which is only required in cases where a match contribution waiver is being requested.

8.5. As a further education college, please confirm whether we can submit a copy of our IFMC with our application instead of completing the capital financial forecast and cash flow templates as these will provide information that the ESFA already hold?

All further education colleges and sixth form colleges must submit a capital financial forecast template and capital cash flow template together with supporting commentary, which takes into account your project, to support any application. These templates allow for an assessment of affordability to be completed over the duration of the capital project.

8.6. To help inform project cash flow forecast, what is the expected date of contract commencement for approved projects?

Your project should allow for a reasonable start on site date for it be completed by September 2022. There may be some flexibility on the September 2022 completion date where this is justified.

8.7. What financial information should be included in the templates if we submit as 2 applications. Do we just put the value of each stream in each respective template, or do we put the total of both streams in each?

You should include the value of both projects in the finance information for each application to help us understand the overall impact the projects will have on your finances.

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9. Education case - Student numbers

9.1. The Educational Delivery section of the T Level Capital Fund application form asks for justification to be provided to support assumptions on learner numbers for any interdependent T Level routes. Please clarify the definition of interdependent T Level routes

Where you are making an application for a project that covers facilities for more than one route, these are considered to be Interdependent T Level routes for the purpose of this application. You would need to provide information on the numbers of students across these routes that will be using the space(s) being created/refurbished, as well as where there are other T Level routes where students might use the space, even if specific additional space is not required for that route.

9.2. You are asking for projected student numbers up to the 4th academic year, but we won’t know the outcome of the various qualification reviews by then, so what planning assumptions should we use?

You should provide projections, based on current students on similar programmes, backed up by analysis of the number of full time students that you expect to be taking each T Level route in the first year and following three years. We understand that these will be approximate and that numbers may change as more information becomes available. Student numbers should be provided on a pathway and route basis for each route applied for.

9.3. Can you clarify the information required to support assumptions on learner numbers for any interdependent T Level routes?

This requirement is set out in the guidance which sets out the basis on which we expect you to explain student number projections. We have set out the requirements for the educational/skills assessment criteria in the guidance and indicate that you should provide projections, backed up by analysis of the number of full-time students that you expect to be taking each T Level route in the first year and following three years. Student numbers should be provided on a T Level and route basis for each route applied for. Providers should only complete section 6.2.1 where the single application is for more than one T Level route.

9.4. Within tab 6 (Educational Delivery) of the T Level Capital Fund application form, for questions 6.1.1 to 6.1.7, under the respective 2023/24 to 2026/27 headings (columns F to I), do we enter the number of planned new starts for each academic year or would you like to see cumulative totals which encompasses those still on programme?

The information required is the number of full-time students planned to be on programme in each year and not just new starts.

9.5. On the application form we are asked for existing equivalent courses. Technically there are none as T Levels are very specific so we can only give information on courses that are a closest representation to the specific T level route. For example, we have around 100 on the Applied Science however we anticipate only one T level group in 2021/22 of say 15-20.

We do not necessarily expect providers to start T Levels with cohort numbers similar to the total volume of all students on relevant similar qualifications. Many providers are commencing with smaller cohorts and growing these over time. Providers must determine what is practicable in terms of teaching and student choice. The guidance on student numbers does however make clear that we would not expect the T Level numbers to exceed the numbers of students being taught in those areas currently unless there is a valid reason.

9.6. In the capital application form, under sections 6.1.1 - 6.1.7 should we include the figures we submitted when we were selected to deliver T Levels or the figures we are estimating we will recruit from year 1 based on our marketing, applications and engagement with schools and careers staff?

Your starting point should be the current planned numbers for 2022 T Level delivery, which we would not expect to exceed the numbers of learners you have on similar existing course areas. The Guidance explains this further in section 5.4.

9.7. In the application form, under section 6 ‘Educational Delivery’ it asks for justification to support assumptions on learner numbers for interdependent T Level Routes. Please clarify what evidence would be expected?

We would expect the starting point for any assumptions around student numbers to be the numbers of students on existing similar programmes as at the last full academic year. Where you expect growth in student numbers on the programmes this should be well evidenced, information that explains the rationale for this might include:

  • local demographic changes
  • evidence of increased local labour market demand for certain programmes (such as evidence that employers you are working with are willing to offer industry placements)
  • changes to your institution’s curriculum offer that take out other competing courses (with specifics on rationale, courses and numbers)
  • other changes in the learning offer locally that might increase the demand for places within your institution

9.8. In section 6 of the TLCF application form, are bidders required to provide T Level learner numbers that relate to the T Level projects requiring funding (e.g. Construction or Health & Science or Education T Level routes) or learner numbers for each subject being delivered?

You will need to provide planned student numbers for each T Level you are delivering in the route(s) for which you are planning a capital project and are bidding for that funding from the T Level Capital Fund’s Building and Facilities Improvement Grant.

9.9. How do we factor in known future changes to learner numbers when considering our space needs? For example, if we are expecting to take a new year group from September 2022.

If you are planning on delivering an expansion project, please provide the current and projected student number positions by submitting completed versions of the space needs assessment tools (OWU and GLH assessment tools) which are available alongside the guidance. You should also include justification for any changes by cohort up to and including the steady state year. Please refer to section 5 of the published guidance.

9.10. What happens if our actual recruitment to T Levels is below the planned numbers outlined in our capital bid?

You should provide projections in your capital bid, backed up by analysis, of the number of full-time students that you expect to be taking each T Level route in the first year and following three years. At the same time, you will be providing us with planned student number assumptions twice yearly though statistical annex data collections. We would expect there to be alignment in your assumptions across both.

Obviously, as we are asking for planned numbers, we know these are not fixed and so will review applications to ensure assumptions are reasonable. You will not be penalised if actual T Level students numbers are not the same.

9.11. Can you confirm the approach to establishing the baseline for 21/22 is to base it on the ILR data for equivalent courses for year end 2019/20? In the guidance it mentions that the baseline for 2021/22 should be based on learner numbers for 2021/22.

There was originally an error in the guidance which was amended in February. This now says: You should provide student number projections supported by analysis of the number of full time students that you expect to be taking each T Level route in the first year and following three years. To identify these students you should use 2019 to 2020 end-year data from the Individualised Learner Record (ILR) and the school census.

9.12. Where we have larger student numbers listed on the ILR in a particular technical area than we expect to take the T Level, should we add year 2 of legacy qualifications to the T Level numbers?

The last year’s delivery data is a recommended starting point to ensure consideration of your curriculum plans. You should include in your application numbers of students that you can realistically expect to recruit to a T Level from the first delivery year. This may not be the sum total of all students on courses in relevant curriculum areas currently if you are still offering other qualifications alongside. You may then expect to grow numbers over time and there is the opportunity to provide information on projections.

9.13. In 6.2.1 of the application form, it refers to one route. However, we are bidding for a building to cover most routes including adding the 2023-24 waves. Would it be helpful to include this data in our application pack.

While box 6.2.1 on the application form mentions including information on student number projections for the primary T level, if you are applying for a project that covers more than one T Level route, then you should include information on student number projections for all routes here.

 

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10. Submitting an application

10.1. Are bidders able to provide governing body approval board minutes after the TLCF application has been submitted or will a letter of approval signed by the chair of governors suffice for the application?

If you are unable to obtain full governing body approval in time for the application then, yes, a letter confirming support signed by the chair will suffice for the application.

10.2. Can we change / withdraw the bid once it has been submitted?

As this is a competitive process you will not be allowed to make changes to your bid following the submission deadline, though you are able to withdraw your application at any time if you wish to do so. If your project is successful then any significant changes you subsequently decide to make will be subject to our approval and a condition of our agreement is that we would need to be satisfied the project still meets our criteria for grant support.

10.3. We wish to develop facilities to deliver the T Level related to the Engineering route: Maintenance Installation and Repair: Vehicle. As the T Level pathway for Automotive will be available for delivery under the Engineering route I am assuming that our project will be eligible, but I would be grateful for confirmation.

If you have already been approved to deliver T Levels in the Engineering route, then you are able to apply.

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11. Grant funding for successful projects

11.1. If our project is approved, when would grant funding commence?

Once we have communicated that projects are approved and providers have confirmed that the project will go ahead, we will send out a Grant Letter to which will outline the conditions of the grant. Grant will be allocated monthly in arrears based on the monthly spend profile that you submit and is subsequently agreed with you.

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12. Specialist equipment allocation

12.1. How do I apply for the Specialist Equipment Allocation (SEA) and is it possible to apply for the SEA without applying for Building and Facility Improvement Grant (BFIG)?

You do not need to apply for the Specialist Equipment Allocation (SEA). We will make an award using a formula based on the T Level route(s) you intend to deliver and your expected student numbers. We will ask you for the information needed to calculate this in Autumn 2021. Our intention is to give you indication of the minimum allocation you can expect to receive in Winter 2021/2022 and pay this funding in Spring 2022.

12.2. Why do we need to complete the ‘specialist equipment’ sheet on the application form if there is a formula-based Specialist Equipment Allocation (SEA)?

The specialist equipment sheet is for you to tell us what specialist equipment you think you will need for delivering T Levels. This information will help us make decisions on our overall approach to allocating the SEA but we will also be considering other factors. We will also take into account your likely costs for specialist equipment should you apply for a reduction in the matched funding requirement.

12.3. Is the Specialist Equipment Allocation (SEA) funding only available to apply for T Level providers that have a minimum of 28 learners?

You will be eligible for SEA if we have selected you to deliver T Levels from September 2022 and you can show that a minimum number of 28 T Level students will be enrolled on the T Level route for which the SEA is paid. This is based on two year-groups of 14 students in the fourth delivery year of the qualification by which time we expect providers to reach a steady state for student numbers.

12.4. As a provider who will be delivering multiple routes from September 2022, do we complete the specialist equipment tab on the application form to specify our needs for all routes even if, for example, we only submit a BFIG covering only one or two routes?

The SEA is intended to help fund equipment for all T Level routes that you intend to start delivering in September 2022. You should therefore complete the SEA tab for all T Level routes you intend to deliver, regardless of whether you apply for BFIG for that route

12.5. If we are not intending to submit a BFIG application, do we still need to complete the tab about the specialist equipment on the application form to let you know what we would like? Or will there be another process to identify equipment required for SEA?

You do not need to apply for the Specialist Equipment Allocation (SEA). We will make an award using a formula based on the T Level route(s) you intend to deliver and your expected student numbers.

12.6. How is the Specialist Equipment Allocation determined?

We will calculate a rate per student for each route based on the costs of equipment requirements for the different T Level routes. We will then allocate this rate based on the numbers of students you expect to have on programme at ‘steady state’, which is expected to be in the fourth year of delivery.

12.7. Will this fully cover the costs of equipment needed to deliver the T Level?

We expect providers to match fund the Specialist Equipment Allocation (SEA) they have been awarded, so for every £1 you receive from DfE, you should contribute £1.

12.8. Can we use the Specialist Equipment Allocation to purchase equipment for our other sites in readiness for delivery even if we will deliver T Levels on only one site in the early days?

The allocation is for providers to use to acquire equipment that will specifically be used for delivering T Level curriculum. The expenditure should be prioritised to support equipment needed for early delivery but we recognise that additional equipment may be needed to fund planned expansion of T Levels within other locations/ sites. Expenditure to support this will also be eligible, but you will be liable to repay any monies that are spent on equipment not used to support T Levels delivery within the Route funded. However, we will not take account of any match funding you provide in considering any clawback and you should therefore consider using match funding to purchase equipment where there is a risk of T Level delivery plans not being fully implemented.

12.9. Can we spend some of the Specialist Equipment Allocation on the building works itself?

No, you can only use the equipment allocation to purchase equipment. It cannot be used to fund building works.

12.10. Can you tell us what is deemed to be Specialist and what is General Equipment so that we are including the right information in the right place?

Specialist equipment is defined as industry standard equipment which is specifically required to deliver the T Level curriculum for which the allocation is provided. The equipment funded must be accounted for as an asset on your balance sheet and satisfy accounting rules in this respect. Standard classroom furniture is not eligible to be funded by SEA but it is fundable as part of a BFIG project so long as it is to support an eligible capital project (i.e. we will not support projects specifically for new furniture and the cost of furniture/ equipment needs to be relative to the overall costs of the building works). All equipment must be purchased and owned outright by the provider.

12.11. As digital skills are a core component of the T level, can we include ICT costs in our bid for TLCF?

We do not normally allow standard ICT equipment to be eligible for BFIG. However, it may be eligible to be funded by the SEA, for example if the IT equipment is specifically needed to deliver the curriculum content, e.g. to support AutoCAD design then it will be eligible, as will specialist software that has been designed to support a specific curriculum need.

12.12. Please could you define and give examples of Specialist Equipment Costs v General Equipment costs?

Below are some further examples of eligible specialist equipment items:

  • Digital: 3D Printers and scanners, gaming laptop PCs, monitors and systems, ultrawide monitors for editing suites, professional drones
  • Construction: surveying equipment, digital electronic theodolites, site lasers and scanners, PC package to run CAD and BIM software, concrete testing equipment.
  • Education: children’s kitchen accessories, play tables and chairs, simulated nursery setting, sensory equipment, baby simulator
  • Science and healthcare: science lab equipment, body scan simulators, hospital beds and mattresses, patient monitors, CPR manikins, hoists
  • Business and Administration: interactive presentation screens, audio and visual equipment
  • Engineering and Manufacturing: diagnostic testing systems and rigs, 3D printers and production systems, robotic equipment, welding equipment, CNC lathes, laser and plasma cutting equipment
  • Legal, Finance and Accounting: interactive presentation devices 

12.13. Does the cost for networking and power which will support our T Level specialist equipment be eligible and covered by the SEA?

As a general rule networking and power upgrades will not be eligible to be funded via the SEA. However, if you are able to evidence that these upgrades are required as a direct consequence of the new equipment being used and the power upgrades are proportionate to the cost of the equipment (less than 25%) then we can be flexible on this. We will also allow you to use your match funding to address these additional costs.

12.14. Is the funding being allocated for equipment for just one T Level in a route or for the whole route, even if we won’t deliver other T Levels in that route until later?

The equipment allocation is our support for all of the equipment you need to deliver all pathways within the route funded. You will not therefore be eligible for any further equipment allocation for that route.

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Do you have your own question?

Please check the questions and answers before you contact us with a question.

If you cannot find your question, you can ask us via email: TLevelsW3.CAPITAL@education.gov.uk.
We will respond to all new questions by regularly updating this page.