Procurement paused on college antisemitism training

Procurement of £7 million to tackle antisemitism in education now has "arbitrary" closing date of 2030

Procurement of £7 million to tackle antisemitism in education now has "arbitrary" closing date of 2030

The search for a firm to conduct “tackling antisemitism” training in colleges has been mysteriously paused by the Department for Education.

The DfE has indefinitely extended the bidding deadline for its “tackling antisemitism in education” contract, which now has an “arbitrary” closing date of March 7, 2030 “simply to ensure the opportunity remains open”, according to new tender documents.

Successful bidders were supposed to have been told the outcome of their application by March, with the contract going live in April. 

Instead, all bidders have been told to wait for updated procurement timelines via the department’s portal, Jaggaer.

The 2023 autumn statement dedicated £7 million over three years to tackling antisemitism in schools, colleges and universities.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said at the time: “I am deeply concerned about the rise of antisemitism in our country, so I am announcing up to £7 million over the next three years for organisations such as the Holocaust Educational Trust to tackle antisemitism in schools and universities.”

According to new tender documents, seen by FE Week, the funding has been split into two lots: £3.75 million dedicated to universities, and £1.72 million to schools and colleges.

DfE is earmarking the remaining funds to go towards an “innovation programme”. Details of the are expected at some point this spring.

Lot two – a programme for schools and colleges – is looking for one or more providers to create resources that will improve the understanding of antisemitism amongst staff and students and help staff identify and tackle incidents of antisemitism.

What is the programme?

The programme will deliver five initiatives across three strands: “bespoke” training, student-facing opportunities, and resource development.

DfE wants a “dynamic” staff training package which aims to help to build the confidence of college staff in discussing and tackling antisemitism on campus.

Staff will be trained in such things as the history of antisemitism and the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism.

Bidders will also need to develop a national train-the-trainer scheme so a “champion network” of specialists to train others and “act as experts in tackling antisemitism” in colleges.

Students will receive face-to-face workshops with experts and webinars to “improve understanding of antisemitism, and tackle dis- and misinformation”.

An annual scholarship programme for 151 students aged 15 to 18, one per local authority area, will also be created. Students applying for the scholarship will need to produce an essay or research project about antisemitism. If successful, students will access talks from experts and an international trip to build their understanding of the history and legacy of antisemitism.

The successful providers will have to tailor the education to different student ages and learning environments as well as “the distinct challenges they are facing (for example, types of antisemitic incidents), and to support take-up”.

Market engagement

Interested parties were invited to a market engagement event in January and the competitive tender was officially launched in February.

At the supplier engagement event, providers were informed that they will have to work closely with DfE and the college sector to address its “distinct needs”.

DfE was also grilled on why the funding had an uneven split. “Considering the relative number of schools and colleges v the number of universities, why has the allocation of funding been split in the way it has?” one attendee asked.

DfE answered: “There were a number of factors we took into account that informed the funding allocation as well as population, including: instances of antisemitism; resulting problems from antisemitic behaviours; and what interventions could be delivered in each section.”

According to the tender documents, DfE doubled down at the virtual event on the use of the IHRA definition of antisemitism after questions were raised over the “problematic and contentious” definition.

The non-legally binding definition is as follows: “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

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