Adult education budget tender delayed again

An upcoming tender for the national adult education budget has been delayed – again.

The Education and Skills Funding Agency had planned to launch the re-procurement exercise, which is expected to follow the same scope as the controversial AEB tender in 2017, in July 2020 but then pushed this back until the end of the year.

But the agency has now confirmed that the tender will not get off the ground until January 2021. Contract notifications are expected to go out to successful bidders by May ahead of their start in August 2021.

The ESFA told FE Week that the budget for the procurement will be confirmed following the upcoming spending review, but the Association of Employment and Learning Providers has briefed its members that it will sit between £65 million and £70 million.

Due to the “uncertainty with devolution and the devolution white paper”, the AELP also believes the ESFA AEB contracts are likely to be an initial one-year deal with an option to extend further if required.

The last AEB procurement was run in 2017 but was significantly oversubscribed, plagued with delays and had to be completely redone after the ESFA realised it was botched.

And when the final outcomes were released most providers had their funding slashed – including one case of a 97 per cent cut.

Providers teamed up to threaten the ESFA with legal action before the agency found additional funding to top up contracts.

Those contracts have been extended several times but must now finish by the end of July 2021 and there is no provision for carry over.

The upcoming AEB tender will just be for the national budget, not for devolved combined authorities which run their own procurements.