Things we know, and things we don’t: an update on the new education contracts

10 Oct 2017


By Nina Champion, Head of Policy

Further to my article in August, we have now taken part in a follow-up webinar organised by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) procurement team.

We now know a few more things about the commissioning process for prison education:

  1. Commissioning will take the form of both a framework contract and a Dynamic Purchasing System (DPS).
  2. The framework contracts will be for lead education deliverers in each prison (or prison cluster) and will include compulsory provision of seven subjects:
  • Maths
  • English
  • English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL)
  • ICT
  • Hospitality and catering
  • Cleaning and facilities
  • Construction
  1. The Dynamic Purchasing System will enable Governors to draw off the DPS for specialist provision.
  2. The timetable has shifted slightly. The adverts for the framework and DPS won’t now go out until quarter one 2018, with award of contracts not taking place until quarter three 2018.
  3. Some education providers are looking for partners to tender. For example, Serco’s call for partners can be found at this link. Novus has also issued an invitation for organisations to work with them under the existing contract via a Dynamic Purchasing System, accessible at this link
  4. Information, Advice and Guidance (IAG) will be commissioned separately.
  5. There will be further consultation during quarter four of 2017. Sign up to the MoJ’s online ‘Sourcing Portal’ at this link to be involved in future consultations.

However, there are still areas of uncertainty, including:

  1. How the framework contracts will work in responding to the particular needs of individual prisons. The earlier suggestion was that individual prisons, or clusters of prisons, would run miniature competitions between organisations on the framework to meet particular requirements. However, discussion during the webinar of, for example, regional lots cast some doubt on this suggestion. The team took the issue away to clarify.
  2. The time frame of contracts drawn from the DPS. During the webinar it was suggested this would be just one year, but this was highlighted as a problem by some in attendance and the MoJ team said they would reconsider a more flexible approach.
  3. What the performance and/or accountability measures will be.
  4. How the education agenda will link with the digital prisons agenda to enable virtual learning environments to complement classroom learning.
  5. What will happen to the commissioning of prison libraries.

As before, the Prisoner Learning Alliance (PLA) is keen to hear your views so that we can continue to feed in thoughts from the sector to the MoJ, and also develop our work in supporting governors with their new powers to commission education. Please contact: