Education commissioning

Ministry of Justice Commissioning of New Prison Education Contracts

Offender Learning and Skills Service (OLASS) contracts come to an end in 2019, making way for a new system of education commissioning. Prisons are being given increasing flexibility and control over education budgets and the ability to commission a wide range of provision. 

To stay up to date with announcements on this fast-moving area of reform, sign up to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) online Bravo Solutions sourcing portal.

There is also a separate market engagement portal for the Dynamic Purchasing System (DPS) - to get more information, sign up to the Bravo Solutions portal above and look for 'PQQ 111: Prison Education Dynamic Purchasing System - Market Engagement'.

The changes to commissioning present opportunities for a wide range of organisations, including the voluntary sector, to get involved in delivering education services in prison. The MoJ has been working to inform and consult this audience through a series of events and resources - see below for a full list.

Prison Education Framework

From April 2019, the majority of education services in each prison will be commissioned through the new Prison Education Framework, which will provide a core curriculum of education in each prison. The commissioning process will determine who the provider of this core curriculum in each prison will be.

The Invitation to Tender (ITT) for the Prison Education Framework was released on 8th February 2018 - click here to sign up and view via the MoJ sourcing portal.

Launch events: accompanying events were held on 15th February in Sheffield and 22nd February in London.
Click here to view slides from these events.

Click here to read a transcript of the Q & A sessions held following these events.

Two sets of clarification Q & A have been issued regarding the ITT since the launch events and are available here and here.

Some of the key documents in the ITT are linked below. Sign up to the MoJ sourcing portal to access all of the documents.

Dynamic Purchasing System (DPS)

The Prison Education Framework will be supplemented by a DPS, which will allow governors to commission more specialist or one-off education services to suit their prison population. An unlimited number of suppliers can join or leave the DPS at any time, and bid for the different services being commissioned by governors, in a much more simple process than through the Prison Education Framework. The DPS is designed to complement the Framework and give governors more flexibility in the education services they can offer in their prison.

The MoJ has now set up a separate market engagement portal for the DPS. People and organisations interested in providing prison education services under the DPS should express their interest within the Bravo Solutions portal - look for 'PQQ 111: Prison Education Dynamic Purchasing System - Market Engagement'.

See the resources below for more on the DPS:

  • Employment Related Services Association (ERSA) / MoJ roundtable event on the DPS - 22 March 2018 (resources will be uploaded once available)
  • Dynamic Purchasing System (DPS) Supplier Webinar - 13 March (see slides)

 Events and Resources

See below for a list of events and resources provided by the MoJ on the changes to commissioning:

To stay up to date with future engagement events, sign up to the MoJ online 'Sourcing Portal' at this link.

The PLA has been summarising its key findings from some of these events - read more below:

Greenhouses not Warehouses: Commissioning education to plant seeds of hope and opportunity

Governor-led commissioning is an exciting opportunity to increase engagement of prisoners in education, to improve outcomes for learners and achieve a whole-prison learning culture, which aligns closely with the PLA's vision. The PLA has produced a workbook, titled 'Greenhouses not Warehouses: Commissioning education to plant seeds of hope and opportunity', aimed at supporting governors and managers to plan and commission education in this new environment.

Read a summary and access the workbook in full via the following links:

'Greenhouses not Warehouses' (Four-page summary)

'Greenhouses not Warehouses' (Workbook)

Further Reading

The PLA has been calling for changes to prison education contracts since 2015, including in the briefing 'The Future of Prison Education Contracts: Delivering Better Outcomes'

The briefing outlined eight solutions which, with greater flexibility within the contracts, could enable prisons to achieve better rehabilitative outcomes. See also the following press release from the launch of the briefing in May 2015.