Following their publication over the weekend, our Director of Business Development, Paul Saunders, takes a first glance at the Greater London Authority contract documents for the devolved Adult Education Budget.

Well firstly there is a lot to read.  I had lots of engagement on Twitter and LinkedIn over the weekend when I posted that the contract documentation was available; thanks for keeping me busy!

What we already knew was the overall devolved budget for the Greater London Authority is £311 million per year.  What has been confirmed is that these contracts will account for £32.5 million of funding per year, a small proportion of the overall budget.  There may be some additional funding available which could see the total available per year up to £50 million.  The final figure will be confirmed in January 2019 after consultation with the Department for Education (DfE).

Procurement timetable

Bids must be in by noon on the 21st December.

The procurement timetable is as follows;

  • Clarifications to questions raised will close on 12th December
  • Submission by noon on 21st December
  • Tender evaluation 21st December to the 23rd April
  • Contract standstill period 24th April to Friday 3rd May
  • Mobilisation – June and July
  • Contract start 1st August

The GLA are expecting to award multiple contracts that will be four years in duration, worth overall £130 million which could rise to £200 million.

What is the procurement process?

There is a two-stage process to this; it includes the completion of a challenging Standard Selection Questionnaire (SSQ).  If forms part of a self-declaration and evidences that you have the track record to deliver.  You must pass the SSQ to enable your tender to be reviewed.

It has been confirmed that providers such as FE colleges and London councils will remain grant funded therefore not having to tender but they can respond to this tender to gain additional AEB.

Cross-border delivery questions

The contracts are aimed at London residents only.  That fine but it could create some challenges.  For example, if an individual resides outside London but commutes in for work will they be eligible for AEB funded courses as part of upskilling (lot 2)?  I can envisage there may be some border issues here.

One question I have is about large FE college groups where their HQ is in London.  Some of them will have separate delivery sites which could be outside GLA territory.  How will this work for the grant funding?  Will it be reduced proportionality for the learners and sites outside London?  How will those “non-GLA” sites be funded under AEB?  I assume from the national pot as no other peripheral areas will be devolved.

Contract details

There are two contract lots with 75% being awarded to lot 1, supporting unemployed residents with lot 2 supporting the existing London workforce with upskilling.

The GLA will make use of European Social Fund (ESF) funding to provide as a match source.  The AEB contracts will include measures on ESF target groups.  These will include outcomes based on a thematic profile, but the measures will exclude any activity relating to non-regulated learning.  You will need to take some time in digesting all this.  The documents require reading a few reads before the mist lifts.  One thing for sure is that a provider will have to be compliant with ESF regulations and the audit that comes with it.

One feature is that up to 10% of your contracted AEB allocation can have some flexibility about learner eligibility.  What might not be eligible for AEB may be eligible under ESF rules therefore you will have some flexibility in how you apply this 10% of your AEB contract.  Making the best of both sets of funding rules.

The GLA are as you expect encouraging organisations to respond to this tendering as a provider, as a prime provider with subcontractors, as a subcontractor to a prime or part of a consortia.

The minimum contract value is set at £400,000 with a maximum of £10 million to any successful contract holder.

Draft funding rules for contracted providers

New funding rules have published for the contracted providers, albeit they are draft.  Interestingly there will be separate funding rules for grant funded providers in the GLA. Now until we see them we have no idea how they align to the funding rules for these contracts.  Surely, they can’t be any different, can they?  Confirmation that management fees charged by lead providers that manage delivery partners, mustn’t exceed 20% of the contract value.  That still seems high to me.  Of course, it does depend on the services provided by the lead.

The draft funding rules look very similar to the existing national AEB rules.  It includes the low wage rule for employed workers, but the financial figure is increased reflecting the London living wage which is currently £19,890.

Even though many things remain as is from a data perspective with LARS including funding values for the GLA, there is a commitment for training for successful providers on systems and data requirements.

The outcomes listed are still primarily qualification based but there is mention of piloting outcome models in future commissioning rounds.

They have listed the London boroughs that geographically shape the four sub regional partnerships.  They are West London Alliance, Central London Forward, Local London (North and East London) and South London Partnership.  Each area outlines it key priorities for adults and their skills requirements.

Register your interest

If you haven’t done so already make sure you register your interest in this opportunity and download the documents from the ProContract portal.

And, of course, if Gateway Qualifications can be of any help in supporting your bid, please contact us.