This document sets out the ESFA compliance and control requirements and advice for institutions using third parties for ESFA-funded provision.


Funding guidance for young people: 2019 to 2020 subcontracting controls

PDF, 621KB, 20 pages

Funding guidance for young people: 2018 to 2019 subcontracting controls

PDF, 536KB, 20 pages

Subcontracting control regulations: 2018 to 2019 powerpoint presentation

MS Powerpoint Presentation, 237KB

Funding guidance for young people: 2017 to 2018 subcontracting controls

PDF, 439KB, 18 pages


Funding guidance for young people: subcontracting controls for academic year 2016 to 2017 and before is available at the National Archives.

2019 to 2020 Subcontracting control guidance changes

All directly funded organisations must properly monitor and control all subcontracted delivery. They must ensure that safeguarding is rigorously policed, that students enjoy the same entitlements as those learning in schools and colleges and that their education is of high quality.

Directly funded institutions should set out in their organisation’s strategic aims their reason for subcontracting, which must enhance the quality of their student offer. They are also responsible for the selection and actions of their delivery subcontractors.

From 2019, the ESFA will introduce an annual review of subcontracting for all providers (referred to as institutions in our 16-19 study programme funding stream) who subcontract. This will look across ‎all the ESFA programmes including 16-19 funding, the Adult Education Budget, Apprenticeships, and the European Social Fund. It will protect students by looking for signs of non-compliance and checking with directly funded institutions that the rules are being followed.

2018 to 2019 Subcontracting control guidance changes

This guidance has been reviewed and substantially revised to make it easier to use and to strengthen requirements in a number of areas in response to issues identified in recent investigations. Concerns relate to the robustness of controls exercised by some funded institutions, the extent to which students on subcontracted provision receive the full entitlement and the attention paid to ensuring students are safeguarded. These concerns are exacerbated where the whole of a student’s programme is subcontracted and where the delivery is at a distance from the directly funded institution. This is often the case where subcontracted provision in sport is delivered alongside sports academy/sports club activities. It is essential that the delivery of the ESFA funded programme and the delivery of the academy/club’s activities are distinct from each other and that students understand the rules and requirements pertaining to each. In the document the individual improvements to the guidance are highlighted at the end of the summary.

2017 to 2018 Subcontracting control guidance

The sub-contracting controls guide for 2017 to 2018 includes the 2 significant new restrictions first introduced in 2016 to 2017. The first applies to maintained schools and academies that have whole programme sub-contracting arrangements (both local and at a distance) and the second applies to colleges sub-contracting provision wholly or substantially to a special school for provision for 19 to 25 HNS. Any institutions with sub-contracted provision are advised to ensure that they review the guidance and take the required actions.

Third party arrangements, often referred to as either sub-contracted or franchised provision, have created substantial financial and reputation issues for institutions in the past. Problems have been particularly significant where the sub-contracted service has taken place at a distance from the directly funded institution, in a different part of the country. Directly funded institutions include all institutions that are either directly funded by the ESFA or are directly funded by local authorities using ESFA funding that includes all maintained schools, academies, free schools, sixth-form and FE colleges and independent institutions.

Published 13 August 2013
Last updated 3 July 2019 + show all updates

  1. We have updated the subcontracting controls guidance for academic year 2019 to 2020 and highlighted the key changes.
  2. The sub-contracting document for 2018 to 2019 has been added.
  3. Funding guidance for young people: 2017 to 2018 sub-contracting controls has been added.
  4. A letter from Peter Lauener to schools and academies drawing attention to the new arrangements on post-16 sub-contracting has been added.
  5. Funding guidance for young people: 2016 to 2017 sub-contracting controls has been added.
  6. Updated 2015 to 2016 documents added
  7. Annex A added to funding guidance for young people: sub-contracting controls.
  8. First published.