Exclusive: Election delay for results of first adult education budget procurement

Exclusive: Election delay for results of first adult education budget procurement

The announcement of results of the first ever procurement process for the adult education budget has been delayed until after the general election, FE Week can reveal.

An email seen by FE Week was sent to providers earlier today via FASST, the online services hub for organisations working with the Education and Skills Funding Agency, confirming that the Department for Education had “paused” the announcement until after the general election on June 8.

This comes after we revealed in late April that it was likely to be delayed until after the public vote.

It was signed-off by the “DfE sourcing team” and said: “In the run up to a general election, the ESFA, along with all government departments, has to comply with a series of restrictions imposed on communication activities.

“The timetable for announcing procurement results for the AEB has been paused in accordance with these restrictions. We will provide an update after the general election.”

Providers that didn’t have to tender for AEB funding will have already received their allocations, but those relying on the process for their financial support will be frustrated by the news.

It follows controversy caused by the government’s decision to also pause the massively over-subscribed non-levy apprenticeship procurement process.

Mark Dawe, chief of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, called for a long-term pause relating to the AEB procurement on April 25.

Mark Dawe

He said at the time: “The ESFA have just set a precedent for placing a pause on the non-levy apprenticeship procurement, so why not set aside the AEB invitation to tender for a year and give ITPs an allocation for the year 2017/18 essentially based on what they had before?”

It is thought around 500 training providers will have applied for a share of the AEB, which totals around £1.5 billion.

But only around £250 million of the budget was actually up for grabs through the tendering process, because colleges, local authorities and universities – which contract with the ESFA through a grant funding agreement – were not affected by recent changes and therefore did not have to tender.

The former Skills Funding Agency first wrote to independent training providers last autumn and told them that their current AEB contracts would come to an end in July, rather than having them automatically renewed as before.

FE Week then reported in January that the resulting procurement process for such contracts for ITPs had finally been launched by the SFA.

The ESFA announced on April 12 that the decision over non-levy apprenticeship funding allocations had been be paused to allow more time for the situation to be reviewed.

FE Week subsequently revealed that the total value of bids lodged through the now-paused procurement for apprenticeship provision allocations for non-levy-paying employers was around £1.6 billion, almost four times more than the sum available.

Providers had been bidding for a share of a funding pot worth up to £440 million. But FE Week learned that interest in this funding stream appeared to be much higher than the government had anticipated, with actual bids amounting to around £1.6 billion.