In the light of the updates issued by the ESFA last night in relation to the non-levy apprenticeship ITT, AELP CEO Mark Dawe has made the following statement:
“Changing documentation and requirements in a procurement process at this late stage is unacceptable. The whole process is in danger of descending into a farce. To introduce new criteria, starts, leading to a wholesale reduction in the maximum bid amount at this late stage, when many have completed their documentation, will lead to total confusion and chaos. AELP have been calling on the ESFA to remove their disastrous £200k minimum contract amount. It would appear that the ESFA are in a position after all to make such a change at this late stage and we would urge them once again to remove this minimum and not undermine many hundreds of good quality training providers”
The ESFA originally said: “Existing Apprenticeship Provider with non-levy historical delivery at or below/above £1.5m for 2015-2016” (original ITT Attachment One). This now becomes “Non-levy historical delivery at or below/above £1.5m, the value of historical delivery must relate to the cost of apprenticeship ‘Starts’ during the 2015 to 2016 funding year” (Updated: Calculation of non-levy historical delivery).
Unfortunately this is simply yet another unnecessary attack on existing high quality providers, when the government are keen to stress the importance of stability during this transitional period.
We have been informed by the ESFA that this is simply a clarification and that “most providers have understood this anyway”. From the plethora of responses we have already had from members, we know this is clearly not the case and AELP is not aware of any members who had interpreted it in this way. In essence there was never any reference of historical ‘starts’ in calculating what providers could tender for.
Our view is this significant change to the live tendering process and adds further backing for our calls to review the arbitrary £200k minimum contracting cap. We have called for this cap to be scrapped, but the ESFA have told us that now that the procurement is live, it must remain.
This late change to how the ESFA are measuring historical delivery means that yet more high quality providers will be pushed under the minimum contracting threshold and fall out of scope for a direct contract. Just because providers are small doesn’t mean they are not high quality and play an important role in the marketplace.