From a total pot of £75 million, 15 providers were awarded almost the maximum individual amount of £2.5 million, including Realise Learning and Employment Ltd, The Skills Network and Let Me Play Ltd.
Three of those 15 big winners – Prevista Ltd, Aspire Sporting Academy Ltd, and Pathway First Ltd – are judged ‘requires improvement’ by Ofsted. A further two – The Construction Skills People Ltd and Twin Training International Limited – have only had an early monitoring visit.
The lowest value contract awarded was to Logistics Skills & Consultancy Ltd, which received £236,580.
ESFA officials were delayed in commencing the contracts due a legal challenge launched by the Learning Curve Group, which imposed an “automatic suspension” in August. Learning Curve Group, which is attempting to get the procurement re-run through the courts after missing out on a contract in the competition, has since given permission for the suspension to be lifted.
Learning Curve Group is one of several high-profile providers to have their bid for a national AEB contract rejected, alongside Babington and Skills Training UK, the latter of which has since gone bust.
The 54 winners in the tender represents a further reduction in the number of training providers with national AEB contracts.
The agency reduced the number of AEB contractors from 208 to 88 when it last procured in 2021.
Of the 2021 winners, just 20 have won contracts again this time around.
FE Week analysis shows that eight of the 54 winners are judged as ‘requires improvement’ by Ofsted, half of whom were inspected this year. Meanwhile, four of the contractors have not yet been inspected by the watchdog at all.
The contracts will run for an initial 12-month period covering the 2023/24 academic year, with options to extend further by up to three 12-month periods.
[UPDATE: The origianl version of this article listed 54 contract awards, as announced by the DfE here. But days after publication, the DfE published a separate Contracts Finder page for another contract award for TLG Business Services, taking the total number of AEB tender winners up to 55. The DfE claimed: “Publication on contracts finder takes place after signing of the contracts by both parties. The difference in timing is as a result of the automatic suspension.”]