Tendering process finally launched for single awarding organisation plan for prisons

Tendering process finally launched for single awarding organisation plan for prisons

The contract tendering notice has finally been published by the Ministry of Justice in support of its move to appoint single awarding organisations for seven areas of study in prisons.

The approach to market for this process was originally supposed to have opened on September 21, but FE Week reported on delays back on October 9.

The initial notice has now gone live on gov.uk, although FE Week understands the actual invitation to tender documents won’t be made available until tomorrow. 

“The MoJ wishes to appoint awarding organisations whose qualifications will be used in adult prisons across England for seven specified curriculum areas,” a spokesperson said on gov.uk.

“The use of those qualifications will be mandatory for the education providers appointed through the separate procurement processes when delivering learning in specified seven curriculum areas.”

It explains the requirement will be split into seven separate lots – English; English for speakers of other languages, maths; information and communication technology; catering and hospitality; construction; planning and the built environment; and cleaning and facilities management.

The closing date for applications is November 24, to run the service from August next year to July 2023. The total contract value is £9.9 million.

The MoJ added that it “wishes to utilise the light touch procurement process to appoint awarding organisations whose qualifications will be used in adult prisons across England for seven specified curriculum areas covering some 42 per cent of learning delivery”.

It pointed out that the use of those qualifications will be mandatory for “the education providers appointed through the separate procurement processes, when delivering learning in specified seven curriculum areas”.

This is set to be the first time the government will have procured single awarding organisations for qualifications.

Such an approach is considered risky by some, because of the lack of competition or alternative supplier if something goes wrong.

But the Coates Review into prison education, in May last year, criticised existing provision.

“Currently there is too much variation between the requirements of different awarding bodies,” wrote Dame Sally Coates.

The prison reform white paper published in November last year then looked toward the introduction of “a core common curriculum across the estate, focusing on maths and English”.

FE Week previously reported that a “market engagement” event to outline the plan took place for interested awarding organisations back in August.

According to the presentation from the event, seen by FE Week, bid returns were expected by October 20, with the contract actually intended to be awarded on November 3.