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Post-16 education subcontracting: Using funding to offer education and training

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Information for providers of 16 to 19 funding and adult education and training services, including apprenticeships and traineeships on subcontracting ESFA funding.


In June 2020, we published our response to the subcontracting consultation which will reform the future arrangements for subcontracting of ESFA funded post-16 education and training. On this page, you will find information about the reforms, our subcontracting policy and other information related to post-16 education and training subcontracting.

Subcontracting reforms

In June 2020, we published our response to the subcontracting consultation, setting out a 3 year reform programme. Our overall vision is one where only good, well managed subcontracting occurs and at a significantly lower volume than currently. Where subcontracting does exist, it does so to enable specialist and geographically challenged delivery, meet the needs of employers and to enrich learners’ programmes.

Subcontracting funding rules

Subcontracting requirements are currently contained within the main documents for most funding streams. There is a separate guide for 16 to 19. Ahead of the 2021 to 2022 funding year, the agency will be publishing a single subcontracting policy which will apply to all post-16 education subcontracting (excluding apprenticeships).

Subcontracting for the first time

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

The document subcontracting for the first time: seeking written approval contained within the page below 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.

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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 ESFA’s written permission. You must obtain permission from 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 in the subcontracting to second level: seeking written approval document within the page below.

Providing external assurance on subcontracting controls

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 have published guidance on the clause and the information we need from lead providers.

List of declared subcontractors

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. This allows main providers to understand the contractual commitments of their current and potential subcontractors. This is not a list of approved subcontractors.

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

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