Court date set for Learning Curve vs DfE procurement trial

The four day trial will determine if DfE broke procurement rules by refusing Learning Curve Group an adult education budget contract

The four day trial will determine if DfE broke procurement rules by refusing Learning Curve Group an adult education budget contract

The Department for Education will go to trial this December to defend allegations it acted unlawfully in last year’s adult education budget (AEB) procurement. 

Learning Curve Group and its seven subsidiary training companies are suing the department for “acting unlawfully” in evaluating their unsuccessful bids for a contract. 

New High Court documents reveal Learning Curve’s case will be heard at the Technology and Construction Court, Manchester, in a four-day trial that begins on December 16.

The trial will finally determine whether the DfE broke procurement rules by rejecting Learning Curve’s bid. 

Alongside claims for damages and costs, Learning Curve Group also wants the court to rule that the AEB procurement was run unlawfully and should be re-run.  

It launched its case in August last year after it was one of several major training providers to have their adult education budget bids rejected by the Education and Skills Funding Agency. 

The DfE has denied Learning Curve’s claims that it acted unlawfully in its evaluation of their bids that “deprived” them “of a real chance of winning a contract”.

Government lawyers filed their first defence against the claim in October. 

The case rests on a dispute over a section in Learning Curve’s bid that forecasts training courses and learner numbers, known as its Q1B1 submission. The DfE’s defence claimed Learning Curve’s tender “fails to provide the forecast of the number of learners per course, which is an entire deliverable asked-for”.

Learning Curve refiled its claims in November, following disclosure of procurement evaluation documents. The company alleged that documents showed evaluators had initially scored its Q1B1 response as 100 – enough to be considered for a contract – but this was downgraded to 50 by “non-evaluators” that “did not apply the published award criteria”.

The DfE’s next defence admitted that the initial evaluators “failed to apply” the award criteria for that crucial question. As a result, the usual “consensus score” process, where two evaluators agree on a final score for a question, did not apply and a moderator decided the lower score.

At a court and case management conference earlier this month, Judge Stephen Davies ordered that a liability trial take place this December. Once the court rules on liability, additional proceedings may then follow to decide the value of any costs or damages.

Learning Curve Group declined to comment. 

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