Multiple providers have successfully overturned the government’s decisions not to award them contracts in the controversial non-levy tender – including several big hitters.

The ESFA last week began contacting organisations that had appealed the outcome of the procurement before Christmas.

Among the winners were Focus Training Group, which has a ‘good’ rating from Ofsted, Basingstoke College of Technology, and the grade three West Kent and Ashford College.

FE Week understands that decisions on some appeals are still outstanding, including that of the grade one Exeter College and grade two Newcastle and Stafford Colleges Group, and that more successful wins could be in the pipeline.

Focus Training, which has delivered apprenticeships in the south-west for 20 years, was originally told it had not reached the minimum threshold score to secure a contract.

Following a nervy festive break, the ESFA altered its decision last week.

Both myself and all of our staff are delighted that our appeal was successful

It said that after reviewing its scores, and undertaking more quality-assurance, FTG had reached the pass mark and had its complaint upheld.

Jamie Rail, FTG’s managing director, told FE Week it had been “one hell of a month” following the initial outcome of the tender, but he was elated with the final decision.

“Both myself and all of our staff are delighted that our appeal was successful,” he said. “We were convinced from the outset that it was never the intention of the government or the ESFA to lose ‘good’ provision through this process.

“This will allow us to meet the growing demand from our employers across the region, and we now look forward to a successful 2018.”

Paul Hannan (pictured above), the chief executive of the Hadlow Group, of which West Kent and Ashford College is part, said it was a “massive achievement” to have the decision overturned.

“The ESFA dealt with our case swiftly and efficiently,” he added.

Other providers have not received such good news about their appeals.

One of these was HYA Training, rated ‘good’ and based in Yorkshire and the Humber, which passed the score criteria but fell below the £200,000 threshold above which the ESFA applies its pro-rata methodology.

We feel the process of adopting a pro-rata methodology left providers such as ourselves second-guessing

It appealed the decision on the basis it had been unaware of the pro-rata percentage rule, but the appeal was not upheld.

“We feel the process of adopting a pro-rata methodology left providers such as ourselves second-guessing what would be a safe and secure allocation to tender for and, like many other providers, we would of course have tendered for more had we known,” Patrik Knowles, the managing director of HYA, told FE Week.

The FE sector has been up in arms about the outcome of the tender ever since results were released after a long delay in December.

A total of 714 providers were given an allocation to train apprentices with small employers between January 2018 and March 2019, but 227, nearly a third, are on their first direct apprenticeships contract.

As revealed by FE Week, one organisation that went out of business two months ago, for example, was awarded a contract in the procurement – even while several high-profile colleges ranked ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’, including Exeter, missed out.

Those which had been successful started receiving their contracts just before the Christmas break.

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