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The Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) has launched a subcontracting consultation, with plans to cap business spending and ensure only local or digital consultants are used by contractors.

The ESFA has issued ten recommendations on changes to subcontracting rules – with the aims of reducing costs and eliminating poor arrangements. If you are a provider of subcontractor, please read the information below.

What are your thoughts on the proposals by the ESFA? Let us know in the comments.

What are the ESFA proposals?

The ESFA has made ten recommendations which it believes can help to “eliminate poor arrangements in the sector”.

ESFA Chief Executive, Eileen Milner said:

Where subcontracting is done well and for the right reasons, it can fill gaps in niche or expert provision, provide greater access to training facilities or offer an entry point for disadvantaged groups.

However, despite tightening arrangements, there is still room to improve. We continue to receive information and investigate cases where subcontracted provision is not appropriately controlled, overseen or managed by the lead provider, this is a concern. We expect consistently high quality provision of education and training in the post 16 space.

Subcontractors should be no more than an hour away

A key proposal is to advise that subcontracting partners are no more than one hour away from the prime contractor by car.

Should providers wish to enter into a distance arrangement they will be “required to submit a case to the ESFA for approval within a specified period, and must obtain the agreement of ESFA before delivery can commence.”

The advice would mean that time and costs are reduced across the sector, whilst also providing an opportunity for online provision for this purpose.

What are the other proposals?

The ESFA also wants to exercise greater oversight of the volume and value of provision that can be delivered by a single subcontractor.

Where the aggregated value of a subcontractr’s delivery exceeds more than £3 million of ESFA funded provision, the agency proposes to make a referral to Ofsted for the subcontractor to be subject to a direct inspection.

Meanwhile a percentage cap is proposed on subcontracted provision of 25% of ESFA post-16 income in 2021-22. This will fall to 10% by 2023-24.

The ESFA is also proposing to introduce strict new laws on circumstances in which the entirety of a learner’s progreamme can be subcontracted. In future, providers that wish to subcontract the whole of a learner’s programme will be required to make a case to the ESFA.

As part of a new rationale for subcontracting, providers will need to state the educational intent for entering into subcontracting arrangements.

What can businesses do next?

Ofsted plans to visit those subcontractors with more than £3 million worth of contract in place. They are also looking at clamping down on out of area arrangements.

Should providers be currently using subcontractors outside the one hour drive recommended, it may be advised that alternative subcontracting provision is sought. There could be subcontractor within a closer radius, or alternatively an online service could be used.

The ESFA plans to start implementing the rule changes at the start of 2020-21. To read more on the aims of the consultation click here.

How can EDQuals help?

With the ESFA recommending that online services are used for subcontracting, EDQuals is able to help

EDQuals is an online secure qualification, coursework, CPD delivery and training platform. EDQuals was the chosen provider for the government’s Flexible Learning Fund, developed for prime funders and subcontractors. The scheme was announced by Skills Minister, Anne Milton to encourage more people to take part in new training or courses that would help them progress in employment.

As an alternative online provider, EDQuals is a bespoke service which can be used to help individuals meet their own training needs. It means costs and time can be reduced, which meets the recommendations of the ESFA whilst improving business efficiency.

The EDQuals platform provides a course delivery programme, online teaching (live and recorded), coursework and marking in a secure locked-down environment.

For more information on EDQuals, click here. To book a demonstration, click here.