Information for providers of adult education and training services, including apprenticeships and traineeships on subcontracting ESFA funding.

A lead provider is a college, training organisation or employer that has a direct contractual relationship with the ESFA.

A subcontractor is an organisation that is engaged in a contractual and legally binding arrangement with one or more lead providers, to deliver education and training provision that the ESFA funds.

Each lead provider and subcontractor must have a valid UK Provider Registration Number (UKPRN).

ESFA recognises that subcontracting has an important role to play in delivering quality learning to apprentices and adult learners. In recent years, we have strengthened our funding rules on subcontracting and we are continuing to do so. We expect providers to maximise the amount of funding that reaches front line delivery of high-quality learning.

When subcontracting, ESFA will require providers to:

  • clearly describe, before each subcontracting relationship is agreed the reason for subcontracting and all services they will provide and the associated costs when doing so. This will include a list of specific costs for managing the subcontractor, quality monitoring activities, and for any other support activities offered by the main provider to the subcontractor
  • ensure all costs are individually itemised and describe how each cost contributes to delivering high-quality learning. Providers must also explain how such costs are reasonable and proportionate to delivery of the learning or apprenticeship training
  • include a breakdown of all services and costs in each subcontract

ESFA will, ready for delivery from 1 August 2019:

  • revise funding rules and associated compliance measures to incorporate the requirements set out above
  • implement a risk-based approach for monitoring these rules
  • impose compliance measures when appropriate

These expectations will be reviewed in 18 months.

The implementation of the revisions to the AEB and apprenticeship funding rules will apply to new learner, or apprentice starts from 1 August 2019. We realise there should be an implementation period to allow providers to adjust to the changes and to revise their contracts with their subcontractors. The implementation period of the revised rules will apply as follows:

  • From 1 August 2019 for new learner and apprentice starts where a new subcontract is yet to be agreed and entered into, and
  • By 30 November 2019 for new learner and apprentice starts where revised subcontracts are required

This means that from 1 December 2019, these revised subcontracting rules apply to all new learner or apprentice starts

Subcontracting: for the first time

If the funding rules you are working to require permission from the ESFA to subcontract for the first time, you must obtain the ESFA’s written permission before doing so.

Subcontracting for the first time: seeking written approval (PDF, 150KB, 4 pages) describes the process for getting permission to subcontract funding for education and training.

Along with the request to subcontract, you must also provide a report from an external auditor.

Subcontracting: second-level

If the funding rules you are working to allow subcontracting to a second level (where a subcontractor further subcontracts to another legal entity), you must first obtain the ESFA’s written permission. You must obtain permission from the ESFA to subcontract to a second level every year.

You can find the information we need in order to review requests from providers to subcontract to a second level:

Subcontracting to a second level: seeking written approval (PDF, 156KB, 6 pages)

Providing external assurance on subcontracting controls

The ESFA funding agreements contain a clause about an annual subcontracting assurance requirement.The clause requires lead providers that will subcontract more than a defined level of provision to obtain a report from an external auditor that provides assurance on the arrangements in place to manage and control their subcontractors. The clause requires lead providers in scope to supply us with a certificate confirming that the report provides satisfactory assurance.


We’ve published guidance on the clause and the information we need from lead providers.

List of declared subcontractors (formerly the ‘subcontracting register’)

The list of declared subcontractors provides information about subcontractors that hold contracts worth at least £100,000 in aggregate with one or more ESFA-funded providers of adult education and training services, including apprenticeships and traineeships.

Subcontractors are shown with their lead or main provider/s and the individual values of their contracts.

Some subcontractors are ‘lead or main providers’ in their own right. We have used data taken from subcontractor declarations that lead or main providers submit each funding year.

Published 31 January 2018
Last updated 10 July 2019 + show all updates
  1. We have updated the first part of this page to reflect that our funding rules on subcontracting apprentice training have been strengthened.
  2. Added information explaining our intention to work with the sector to develop and publish expectations around subcontracting fees and charges in the coming months.
  3. First published.