SFA funding research fails to attract any bids

The Skills Funding Agency has failed to attract a single bid on its tender for research into a new payments regime for adult learning, FE Week can exclusively reveal.

Fourteen research firms had been invited to bid for the work, but not one had gone for it as the deadline ticked by at noon on Monday last week.

The agency had been looking to go back to the drawing board following its own investigation into uniform funding for functional skills English and maths earlier this year.

But with less than a year to go before the new system is in place, an agency spokesperson said they would “continue to undertake the necessary analysis and research”.

Bidding contractors had been set a 33-day timescale in which to carry out at least 70 interviews with industry insiders, including college heads and teachers and stakeholder organisations.

The report was also to have been produced – with conclusions and recommendations.

The tender invite itself read: “Please be clear of any significant milestones in the project and how long the project would take from commissioning to completion.”

The move to commission a report on the new funding system comes less than three months after the agency announced the payment rates following its own investigation with the Funding External Technical Advisory Group.

The agency said English and maths qualifications would be funded at a base rate of £336, with a 1.3 Programme Weighting Factor boosting the amount for entry level maths to £437.

However, an agency spokesperson said at the time the figures could be “revisited”.

That “revisit” looked to be taking place with the research tender in which the winning contractor would have expected to be notified they had got the job by Wednesday, September 10.

The tender called for the successful bidder to have identified people to interview by September 24 before handing in the final report on October 26.

But, said an agency spokesperson: “No bids were received for this project.

“The agency is working to ensure that funding rates set, as part of its new simplified approach, is representative of the delivery requirements for functional skills and will continue to undertake the necessary analysis and research to inform these decisions.”

They added: “The agency and its advisory group confirmed in June that it would continue to explore whether the current cohort data is representative of the delivery requirements for functional skills.

“The research tendered, as agreed by BIS, the agency and its technical advisory group, is part of this further work.

“It was tendered to a range of specialist research organisations through the BIS research and evaluation framework agreement.

“This project was released through the framework on 16 August to all framework contractors in category two: economic and econometric forecasting analysis, of which there are 14.”