Subcontracting: using funding to offer education and training

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.

By subcontracting we mean any delivery to a learner’s programme of learning by a third party. It does not matter if this is by a third party recruited to deliver on site (travel to teach), online learning or whether it is described as a service. If that delivery contributes in any way to the learner’s programme of study and is delivered by someone or an organisation not directly under the control of the lead provider then we consider that to be subcontracted delivery.

A subcontractor is therefore a third party 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).

In June 2020 ESFA published our response to the consultation exercise. From 2019 to 2020, to, 2022 to 2023 we will be implementing a series of reforms that will strengthen ESFA’s oversight of the approach to subcontracting in the sector. We have been clear from the outset that we wish to see a significant reduction in the overall volume of subcontracted delivery in the sector, and that is why we have asked that all providers review their existing subcontracting activity and take steps to reduce that activity across the next 3 years to 2022 to 2023.

ESFA recognises that subcontracting has an important role to play in delivering quality learning to all learners.

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. 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.

ESFA will, ready for delivery from 1 August 2021:

  • revise funding rules and associated compliance measures to incorporate all new subcontracting requirements
  • implement a risk-based approach for monitoring these rules
  • impose compliance measures when appropriate

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 4 March 2021 + show all updates
  1. Updated to link to consultation and further information.

  2. We have updated the first part of this page to reflect that our funding rules on subcontracting apprentice training have been strengthened.

  3. Added information explaining our intention to work with the sector to develop and publish expectations around subcontracting fees and charges in the coming months.

  4. First published.