Learndirect set to lose rights to run Home Office citizenship test

Learndirect set to lose rights to run Home Office citizenship test

Learndirect’s multimillion-pound contract to deliver the Home Office’s Life in the UK test is to be put out to tender for a “new” provider, FE Week can reveal.

The nation’s biggest FE provider has since November 2014 held the contract to operate the tests, which are a crucial component for obtaining British citizenship, on behalf of the UK Border Agency.

It also had a contract for an older version of the service for an unknown number of years before 2014, and had the agreement extended at least once.

But it appears that the nation’s largest provider, which has endured a chaotic end to 2017, what with its grade four from Ofsted, the subsequent losses of government funding and a National Audit Office investigation – the outcome of which is due tomorrow, will not continue with the tests when its current Home Office contract ends in June next year.

A “prior information notice” was released by the Home Office on November 30, spelling out the department’s intention to put the £21 million contract out to tender and recruit a new provider.

“In preparation for the current contract coming to an end, it is the Home Office’s intention to launch a competition in early 2018, in order to find a new provider or providers to deliver the service throughout the UK,” the document, brought to the attention of FE Week by Tussell, a database of UK government tenders and contracts, said.

Learndirect’s previous contract was extended in 2013, when it issued a press release suggesting it had worked with the Home Office on the service since its launch in 2005.

“We’re very proud of the work we’ve done with the UK Border Agency to deliver Life in the UK tests since they were launched in November 2005,” said Suzana Lopes, its senior vice-president of sales at the time.

The Home Office told FE Week that announcing its intention to tender the test was part of its usual procurement procedures, and confirmed it began working with Learndirect on the “new” Life in the UK Test service on November 1, 2014.

The department would not, however, tell FE Week how many years it had worked with Learndirect on the older version of the service.

Learndirect also declined to comment.

Life in the UK tests are carried out on computers around the UK, with separate arrangements for those carried out abroad.

The Home Office’s tender page says bids for the contract, which will initially run from July 1, 2018 to July 31, 2021, will be “welcomed from single organisations or consortia, although it is the intention that a single contract will be awarded for provision of the service UK-wide.

“Indicative timescales are of competition launch towards the end of January 2018, with a final bid submission date at the end of March 2018 and a service commencement date in July 2018. These dates are indicative only, and may be subject to change.”

There will be a “supplier event” after the launch to “engage with potential bidders and provide further information, and to afford prospective bidders an opportunity to ask questions”.