Education commissioning

New prison education contract commissioning

Offender Learning and Skills Service (OLASS) contracts come to an end in prisons 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. 

For a quick breakdown of the changes, click here to read a blog by PET's CEO, Rod Clark (June 2018).

Prison Education Framework (PEF): the latest updates

Suppliers have now been chosen for each lot of the Prison Education Framework (PEF) (which will provide a core curriculum of education in each prison).

The full list can be found here

Dynamic Purchasing System (DPS): the latest updates

Here are the latest dates for the roll-out of the Dynamic Purchasing System (DPS), which will allow governors to commission more specialist or short-term education services to suit their prison population.

17 October 2018 The deadline for suppliers to be on the DPS at the earliest point possible.
1 November 2018 The evaluation period for the first tranche of applicants ends.
8 November 2018 First tranche contracts signed.
9 November 2018 Earliest date for prisons to issue requirements for applicants already on the DPS to compete to provide services against those requirements.
9 November 2018 The DPS then reopens for applications to join from other suppliers.

For more information about the PEF and DPS, please see below.

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

Prison Education Framework (PEF)

From April 2019, the majority of education services in each prison will be commissioned through the new Prison Education Framework (PEF), which will provide a core curriculum of education in each prison.

The commissioning process will determine the provider of this core curriculum in each prison, with prison being divided into lots that potential providers can bid for. The core curriculum is English, Maths, ICT and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), and the prime provider must provide for these subjects as a minimum. They may also bid to provide a wider curriculum.

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

The MoJ confirmed the winners of the PEF contracts with the relevant providers in September 2018 - click here to find out the names of the successful bidders for the 17 lots.

Launch events: events to accompany the ITT were held on 15th February in Sheffield and 22nd February in London - click here to view slides from these events and click here to read Q & A transcripts.

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

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

Dynamic Purchasing System (DPS)

The Prison Education Framework (PEF) will be supplemented by a DPS, which will allow governors to commission more specialist or short-term 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 requested by governors, in a process designed to be much simpler and more flexible than through the PEF - for prison commissioning teams and potential suppliers. The DPS is designed to complement the PEF and give governors more flexibility in the education services they can offer in their prison.

The MoJ ran a separate market engagement exercise for the DPS via Bravo Solutions, which closed on 18 September 2018.

As of September 2018, the DPS is now live. The Invitation to Participate documents are available on Bravo Solutions via PQQ_130. People and organisations interested in providing education services under the DPS are being encouraged to register on that PQQ, so they can download the documents and prepare their responses.

See the resources below for more on the DPS:

  • Latest DPS Q&A, issued by MoJ on 29th August 2018 (view here)
  • Employment Related Services Association (ERSA) / MoJ roundtable event on the DPS - 22 March (read Q&A here)
  • 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 'Bravo Solutions' portal at this link.

Further Reading

The PLA has been summarising its key findings as the changes progress - 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 PLA Publications

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.