Awarded to Methods Business and Digital Technology Limited

Start date: Monday 1 June 2020
Value: £9,000,000
Company size: SME
Education and Skills Funding Agency (DfE)

T Level Service agile development- BA, user-centred design, development/delivery management services

20 Incomplete applications

14 SME, 6 large

26 Completed applications

19 SME, 7 large

Important dates

Monday 9 March 2020
Deadline for asking questions
Monday 16 March 2020 at 11:59pm GMT
Closing date for applications
Monday 23 March 2020 at 11:59pm GMT


Summary of the work
We require project delivery services to support the development of GDS compliant digital services for T Level users to support the roll out of T Levels from September 2020.
Latest start date
Monday 1 June 2020
Expected contract length
To 31/03/2021 with potential further extension to 31/03/2022
West Midlands
Organisation the work is for
Education and Skills Funding Agency (DfE)
Budget range
These capability services are to be delivered over a contract period of 1 year, with the option to extend for a further 12 months and with an indicative contract value of approximately £5,000,000 – £9,000,000 for the full 2-year service delivery.

About the work

Why the work is being done
Government’s plan to reform technical education, includes moving to a simplified system based on routes to employment, with T Levels as a flagship qualification. The new T Levels will be delivered in subjects including construction, creative and design, digital, engineering and manufacturing, and health and science, with the first T Levels being introduced in September 2020. A T Level digital service will help to support the roll-out of the qualifications, achieving a number of objectives including raising awareness and understanding; facilitating enrolment on the qualifications; enabling providers to source suitable employer placements; and providing timely results and certification to students.
Problem to be solved
A service is required to ensure we actively support our range of stakeholders and users in the delivery of T Levels. We have identified and commenced work on three priority service areas in the first instance which are at different stages in their respective delivery cycles. These are Marketing and Communications, including a campaign site to complement wider communications campaigns; matching providers and employers to facilitate industry placements for students; and issuing results and certification. In addition to this, discovery work is currently underway to review further potential support to providers as part of the T Levels journey.

The successful supplier is required to continue design and development across the priority areas identified, and potentially implement the outcomes of the discovery work with the aim of delivering a minimum viable service for T Levels.
Who the users are and what they need to do
Our users are both external and internal, for example:
As a student I need to easily access impartial information to understand and access T Levels, and to receive timely information on results.
As an employer I need to understand T Levels and link with providers and students to offer industry placements
As a provider I need to maintain relationships with students, employers and ESFA in the delivery of T Levels
As an awarding organisation, I need to ensure that I can provide accurate and timely data on students' progress
As ESFA I need to oversee effective delivery of T Levels, including sharing information with stakeholders, directly managing the issue of certificates to students.
Early market engagement
A Pre-Market Engagement call was held on 04/03. For a copy of presentation slides and Q&A please email with the subject title ' market engagement documents ' . The subject title must be populated as above to receive a response.
Any work that’s already been done
A discovery of the end to end T Level Service was completed in early 2019, with a further discovery focused specifically on Results and Certification Service completed in June 2019. Development of an initial campaign site to support marketing and communications to students launched in October 2019, with employer-focused content launching in February 2020. The alpha phase for our results and certification service completed in March 2020. Our industry placement matching service has moved into a business-as-usual phase, with requirement for ongoing maintenance. Discovery work is underway in the first quarter 2020 to explore number of other potential service areas.
Existing team
The existing teams are comprised of multi-disciplinary agile delivery skills. These teams are involved in service development for providing brand new digital services, going through the standard GDS phases. Typical team size is up to 8 with a skills mix such as product/service managers, delivery managers, business analysts, user research and design professionals. Teams are made up of managed service suppliers, supported by a small number of permanent staff.
Current phase
Not applicable

Work setup

Address where the work will take place
Primary location will be ESFA Cheylesmore House, Coventry. Occasional travel to the DfE/ESFA site in London along with travel across England for user research may be required
Working arrangements
This will be a 5 day per week (Monday to Friday) commitment and detailed working arrangements, including team location, size and make-up, will be contained within each statement of work. Day to day delivery will be governed by standard agile delivery techniques. These could be either a Kanban or a scrum approach (depending on the work) but the standard agile ceremonies appropriate to those will be undertaken. These will be monitored by the Delivery Manager and the Product Owner will be responsible for prioritising backlogs in refinement sessions.
Security clearance
Personnel from the Service provider need to have a BPSS check.

Additional information

Additional terms and conditions
Expenses must be pre-agreed and comply with DfE Travel and Subsistence (T&S) Policy. Any expenses shall be submitted in line with DfE standard T&S policy. Primary work location stated in SoW will not attract expenses. No parking is available on site.

Skills and experience

Buyers will use the essential and nice-to-have skills and experience to help them evaluate suppliers’ technical competence.

Essential skills and experience
  • Within last two-years have experience in successfully designing and delivering end-to-end digital products in government, demonstrated through passing Government Digital Service(GDS) assessments at every stage of GDS agile delivery framework
  • Within last two-years have experience in successfully implementing User Centred Design Services(User Research/Service Design/ Content Design/Interaction Design/Business Analysis) demonstrated through successful project-delivery and achievement of key success measures for projects
  • Evidence of demonstrable experience within the last two years in working on complex, multi-stakeholder programmes (both internal and external) within the public sector
  • Evidence of delivering high profile, time critical services and ensuring effective management of risks to delivery
  • Proven experience of using a range of agile techniques alongside stakeholders that may be unfamiliar with agile project management within government
  • Proven experience of supporting customers to build in-house capabilities and ensure effective knowledge management and transfer
  • Evidence within the last two years of experience in architecture services and ensuring products are robust, scalable, open, secure and align to wider organisational capabilities and strategies
  • Experience within the last two years in scalable cloud-based web applications (preferably Microsoft Azure), detailed knowledge of the C#,.NET,ASP.NET MVC programming languages and building front-end web applications (HTML/CSS/JS)
Nice-to-have skills and experience
  • Within the last two years’ experience of end-to-end design, development and delivery of multi-strand digital programmes within the public sector, ideally in the Education sector
  • Experience of delivering services similar to our priority areas, and an ability to identify and apply relevant knowledge to strengthen service design
  • Experience of passing multiple GDS service assessments within complex digital programmes across government

How suppliers will be evaluated

All suppliers will be asked to provide a written proposal.

How many suppliers to evaluate
Proposal criteria
  • Demonstrate experience in end-to-end delivery of digital products from discovery through to live within Public Sector
  • Demonstrate ability to deliver digital products/services to government Digital Service (GDS) standard across the GDS agile delivery phases
  • Experience and methodology in approach to agile project using both Kanban and scrum
  • Demonstrable experience of working alongside clients that are typically unfamiliar with agile project management, in co-located, integrated teams
  • Demonstrate approach to knowledge and skills transfer to enable the transition of service delivery to the business
  • Technical competence in a wide range of relevant technologies and agile practices including business analysis, project management, research, design, development, architecture and testing
  • Ability to promptly mobilise expertise to scale up team and flex resource when needed and to respond to fluctuating resource requirements
  • Ability to demonstrate flexible use of resources across multiple streams of work to maximise efficiency
  • Value for money
  • Demonstrate understanding of the challenges of implementing user centred design in a multi-stakeholder government environment
Cultural fit criteria
  • Work as a team – Collaborate, establish good working relationships, generate team spirit
  • Integrate – Work closely with staff unfamiliar with agile working principles to align plans and activities
  • Build capability – Encourage learning, share knowledge, address capability gaps, act on feedback
Payment approach
Capped time and materials
Additional assessment methods
Evaluation weighting

Technical competence


Cultural fit




Questions asked by suppliers

1. *update*
The email address for the pre-market engagement events was missing a letter. Please email for the slides and Q&A, including ' market engagement documents ' in the subject title.
2. We would like to speak to some of the SME suppliers about partnering for this opportunity. Is there a way to understand who attended the supplier briefing/ has expressed interest in this opportunity so we can make contact
Unfortunately we are unable to disclose information regarding which suppliers expressed interest/attended the pre-market engagement event
3. Please can you provide details of what the next steps are following this initial application i.e. deadlines for the written proposal/if there will be an interview and when?
An assessment of all suppliers who submit at stage one will made, with the 3 highest scoring suppliers being taken through to a shortlist. Shortlisted suppliers will be asked to submit a written proposal and deliver a presentation. Deadline for written proposals is 06/04/20 in the current indicative timeline. The full indicative timeline can be found in the PowerPoint presentation from the pre-market engagement. To receive a copy of this please email with ' market engagement documents ' in the subject title
4. Who from your team will be scoring applications for this opportunity and what positions do they hold?
Applications will be scored by individuals with both technical knowledge, and an in-depth knowledge of the T Level programme.
5. Are you working with any existing suppliers in relation to this tender opportunity? If you are, who are they?
The incumbent supplier for the T Level Service is Methods. However there is no collaboration in relation to the development or evaluation of this tender opportunity through the DOS4 Framework.
6. Is this service expecting to go through the GDS Service Assessment?
Yes, the service will be subject to GDS assessment
7. What work has already been done? What state is it in? Can you share any reports/outputs/assessments from existing work that has been carried out at this phase?
The programme currently includes three digital projects which are at various phases in their respective project lifecycles. A campaign site went live in October 2019; An internally used Industry Placement Matching tool is currently in beta; and the results and certification service is currently in alpha. Unfortunately, we are unable to share any reports at this stage.
8. What phase do expect the project to be in by September? Private Beta/Public Beta/Live?
The programme currently includes three digital projects which are at various phases in their respective project lifecycles. By September 2020, the campaign site will remain live following launch in October 2019; an internally used Industry Placement Matching tool will move into a business-as-usual phase with the requirement for ongoing maintenance; and the results and certification service will be in the beta phase.
9. What do you expect the minimum viable product to be? What’s the scope that has been agreed? How will you define success?
The current agreed scope of the service is to deliver a minimum viable service based on the following three strands:
- Marketing and Communications (T Levels campaign site)
- Industry Placement Matching
- Results and Certification
The success measures for the projects will be set out in discussion with the successful supplier.
10. What are the initial three T-levels expected to be and who are the partners who will be issuing them in this service MVP (institutions)?
Awarding Organisation NCFE has been awarded a contract to deliver the Education and Childcare T Level, and Pearson has been awarded contracts to deliver T Levels in Design, Surveying and Planning as well Digital Production, Design and Development. Around 50 further education and post-16 providers will teach these T Level programmes from September 2020.
11. The ad mentions that "the successful supplier is required to continue design and development". However, there are no Developers, Technical Architects, Testers or DevOps/Platform Engineers listed in the "typical team size" mentioned further down the ad. Do you definitely require these additional roles? (We realise they may be required for some SoWs and not others).
The successful supplier will be required to deliver an outcome based service and as part of this will need to determine the resource requirements to deliver those outcomes. However, we do currently use these roles as part of the development of the T Level service.
12. Would you be open to a transparent consortium approach for this opportunity?
All bids that can demonstrate the capability and capacity for this opportunity are encouraged to apply
13. Question 1 asks for the full GDS Life Cycle in the past 24 months, is there any flexibility on this question. Would you accept companies that have just passed GDS on various projects rather than on one project?
Yes, we would accept suppliers that have passed GDS assessments across multiple projects. Suppliers are required to have experience in passing GDS assessments across the entire delivery framework, from discovery through to live. However, those GDS assessments could have been passed across multiple projects.
14. Is there any incumbent supplier?
Yes the incumbent supplier is Methods
15. What is current technology stack and database technologies used?
Also, if there's any need to building data warehouse and/or reporting system to give insights, in terms of conventional reporting or using AI/ML?

*Answer in two parts due word limit* 1/2 The service runs on our DfE PAAS instance. It is built as a combination of Azure Web Apps, Azure functions and Azure Managed SQL. In the long term the application will utilise the department API Management instance and EventGrid. There are integrations with other DfE applications also hosted on Azure, and the service makes use of cross government components such as GOV.UK Notify.
16. What is current technology stack and database technologies used?
Also, if there's any need to building data warehouse and/or reporting system to give insights, in terms of conventional reporting or using AI/ML?

*Answer in two parts due to word limit* 2/2There is no current data warehouse or MI set up, however in the longer term there is an aspiration to integrate with DfE MI services. The system currently uses App Insights for monitoring and logging, but will be required to move to department level monitoring in Splunk once the service is live.
17. Can you please elaborate on your how you would like suppliers to demonstrate experience in the priority area of "Results and Certification".
The results and certification service will collect component data from awarding organisations, providers and ESFA to calculate T Level results and enable certification for students. We have listed as a 'nice to have' experience in delivery of services similar to our priority areas. This could, for instance, be in a directly related subject area or in similar projects developing services which manage complex data across a range of stakeholders.
18. Question 10 requires evidence of delivering services similar to the DfE's three priority areas, which are all markedly different. Are suppliers permitted to refer to multiple examples of work when answering a single question?
Yes suppliers are permitted to refer to multiple examples when answering a single question.
19. *Delayed response as question was submitted on time but due to website issue not received by Department For Education until 18/03*

Previously, we worked with DfE Stakeholders and a Branding Agency (both in London). Will this arrangement continue with future iterations of the Marketing & Comms website?
20. *Delayed response as question was submitted on time but due to website issue not received by Department For Education until 18/03*

Can you confirm what front-end framework you are using, and if you are not, do you have a requirement to use one in the near future? As an example; Vue.JS, React or Angular.
We use .NET Core to build web applications and have no plans to migrate away from that or use any additional frameworks in the future.