Awarded to Hippo Digital Limited

Start date: Monday 5 April 2021
Value: £834,400
Company size: SME
Standards and Testing Agency (STA), Department for Education

Online Assessment Service - Beta

10 Incomplete applications

9 SME, 1 large

8 Completed applications

7 SME, 1 large

Important dates

Tuesday 12 January 2021
Deadline for asking questions
Tuesday 19 January 2021 at 11:59pm GMT
Closing date for applications
Tuesday 26 January 2021 at 11:59pm GMT


Summary of the work
Beta phase: co-located agile team required to build and implement an online/onscreen assessment and service to develop and deliver the assessments. The service must meet the digital service standards.
Latest start date
Tuesday 6 April 2021
Expected contract length
1 year
West Midlands
Organisation the work is for
Standards and Testing Agency (STA), Department for Education
Budget range
Budget of up to £850k. Bidders must fully detail their resources and charges at the proposal stage. Travel and Subsistence should be included in the proposed charges.

About the work

Why the work is being done
STA are looking to design and develop an online/onscreen digital assessment for Reception aged children by September 2023, to be delivered in primary schools within England. Trials will need to take place every year leading up to live delivery.
Problem to be solved
Schools will administer the assessment shortly after pupils enter their Reception year, at the start of their primary education. It will be an online assessment of a pupil’s ability in communication, language and literacy, and early maths skills. The assessment will last approximately 20 minutes and teachers will record the results. It will not be used to judge, label or track pupils. We need to design and develop a digitised assessment which fit within a digitally-literate world so that we can offer valid, adaptive, secure digitised assessments. The aim is for the solution to secure better value for money, achieved through better design and processes; creating efficiencies schools and STA efficiencies.
Who the users are and what they need to do
As a Head Teacher I need to feel confident that my staff have appropriate training and support

As a Pupil I need to
understand what I have to do

feel comfortable whilst taking the assessment

focus and take the assessment at the right pace for me

alternative methods of indicating my answers

access to technology I'm familiar with

As a Teacher / practitioner I need to
deliver the assessment regardless of my school’s ICT infrastructure/connection

confidence that I can use a digital solution, regardless of my digital skills
access guidance, training and support quickly and easily, without having an impact on the pupil’s assessment

assessment to be flexible to administer

understand where there are gaps in a pupil's understanding

assessment information to be easy to find and digest

As a School Admin I need data input and checking to be as quick and easy as possible

As a Test developer I need to create, find, view, edit, and archive test material

As a Psychometrician I need to understand how test materials perform

As a reviewer I need to feedback to internal and external colleagues

As a Service manager I need to create, find, view, edit, delete and archive assessments
Early market engagement
Any work that’s already been done
Discovery and Alpha completed. Currently in the second year of Beta having completed the first of 3 trials.
Existing team
You will be required to work alongside the STA digital team consisting of a Product Owner, Delivery Manager, User Researchers, Business Analysts and UX designer. You will also be required to work with our Test Development stakeholders including Test Development Researchers, Project Managers and Psychometricians.
Current phase

Work setup

Address where the work will take place
Cheylesmore House, Quinton Road, Coventry. CV1 2WT
Working arrangements
Currently working remotely due to Covid but aim to be co-located with the team in Coventry or London to maximise opportunity for engagement with DfE users and stakeholders. Travel to other DfE sites and schools to meet users is expected. Expenses must be included in the quoted contract sum (to note: there will be no separate budget for expenses). We will operate using agile project management methodology including daily stand ups, sprint planning, sprints, retrospectives and show and tells. There is some flexibility for remote arrangements.
Security clearance
The supplier will need to pass DfE’s security and assurance process and the procured team will need BPSS clearance as a minimum.

Additional information

Additional terms and conditions
DfE shall have the right to terminate the Contract at any time, by giving 28 days written notice to the Supplier, and DfE's liability there to shall be limited to costs reasonably incurred by the Supplier up until the termination date only. Suppliers must confirm acceptance of this term.

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
  • Have experience in delivering similar solutions in cloud -based environments and understand the security and management of cloud components.
  • Proven track record of delivering projects at speed with clearly identified deliverables and timescales.
  • Demonstrable evidence of incorporating latest technologies to enhance product specifications, resulting in increased functionality and improved user experience.
  • Demonstrate experience of developing digital assessments.
  • Examples of delivering services using agile teams, meet the Digital Service Standard/Tech Code of Practice and examples of passed GDS Beta Service assessments
  • Demonstrate experience of managing and proactively engaging internal stakeholders and building relationships to support digital transformation
  • Demonstrate experience of developing solutions using C# and Javascript using Azure hosting
Nice-to-have skills and experience
  • Demonstrate experience of delivering services for UK government departments or public bodies
  • Demonstrate knowledge and experience of working in the schools sector

How suppliers will be evaluated

All suppliers will be asked to provide a written proposal.

How many suppliers to evaluate
Proposal criteria
  • Proposed supplier team structure, with evidence to demonstrate a strong team and how their skills and experience will deliver the required outcomes (10%)
  • Evidence that the supplier has an appreciation of the education and educational technology policy landscape and that the proposal is relevant to that context (15%)
  • Evidence of how the proposal represents value for money. (10%)
  • Demonstration of ability to work with DfE/STA in-house teams with limited technical and agile expertise. (15%)
  • Evidence of the required technical capabilities to provide immediate impact and working software. (15%)
  • Evidence that your proposed approach and methodology for delivery will successfully deliver working software to meet user needs and meet specified acceptance criteria. (10%)
Cultural fit criteria
  • Demonstration of working in a transparent and collaborative way with DfE in a remote working environment; including expertise of Kanban Agile methodology, and products such as VSO, Slack and Teams.
  • Demonstration of ability to work in a modern digital ways within DfE and GDS formal procedures and policies
  • Demonstration of a proactive approach, taking responsibility for work and resolving issues quickly, without an over reliance on the client team
  • Demonstration of working with colleagues with low technical expertise and upskill them
  • Demonstration of ability to work in a modern digital ways within DfE and GDS formal procedures and policies
Payment approach
Capped time and materials
Additional assessment methods
Evaluation weighting

Technical competence


Cultural fit




Questions asked by suppliers

1. Can you confirm who the current incumbent is please?
Our current service provider is Hippo Digital.
2. Could you please confirm if some of these services could be delivered from our offshore delivery centre in India with a UK interface, provided we complied with all data protection and security controls?
The answer to this question is " No".
3. Who’s on the panel?
The evaluation panel will include:
1. Product Owner -STA Digital Assessment (Service)
2. Assessment Researcher - Test Development Research
3. Delivery Manager (RBA and Assessment Service)
4. Commercial team representative - compliance checks and moderation
4. Would you consider a UK HQ organisation, with nearshore (Central Europe) multi-disciplinary teams?
The response to this question is " No".
5. What has been developed so far in Alpha? Is there a PoC already in place?
We have a MVP in place that we trialled with 30 schools roughly 500 pupils last year. We are in the 2nd year of Beta, there is a 3 year process to develop tests and 2 more trials are required before go live in 2023.
6. You previously awarded this contract to Hippo Digital on an 18 month contract with a £1.29M budget in April 2019. What are the reasons for the project not being complete yet? Is this exercise going to be used to award Hippo a contract extension to finish the project? What would be the advantage to the client of changing suppliers midway through the project?
The project is due to go live in Sept 2023. There is a 3 year process to develop tests so the previous contract was the first part of the process.
This exercise is to evaluate suitable delivery partners and award to the best candidate.
It's for the bidders to highlight the advantages of working with them.
7. What state is the work on the MVP in? Will the vendor be expected to continue work that is already in progress by the incumbent?
We have a working MVP which requires iterations from lessons learnt from the POC and additional new features added. The aim is to have feature not in progress during the handover period so the supplier picking up work that is ready for dev. However there is the possibility work will be in progress.
8. Is there documentation on code, services and infrastructure?
Yes this is all documented and will be part of the handover.
9. What will be the ongoing relationship with the incumbent in the later stages of this project? Will there be an opportunity to query the incumbent should there be a need?
There would be a handover period but that would be the only contracted period of interaction with the incumbent. For later stages the wider DfE have also been involved from a technical perspective so can also advise.
10. Is there an existing automated delivery pipeline (CI/CD)?
Yes, there is.
11. Is it expected that the vendor’s team is a cross-discipline team with their own product owners and testers that work in parallel with the STA team? Or is it expected that the vendor team are just engineers working under the STA teams product owner and business analyst directly?
Expectations is that STA team is Product owner Delivery manager, Business Analysts, design and user researchers. We require a dev team to develop and test the service. Bidders can propose other roles Product owner, delivery manager etc. but would have to justify why resource would be needed on top of existing STA resource.
12. What proportion of work will be across the solutions front end and back end services?
We have a well-defined back end. Roughly 70/30 front end to back end. A lot of the planned features are iterations of the MVP front end.
13. Please can you confirm the expected balance of co-located work between London and Coventry. Would co-location in London with occasional visits to other locations be satisfactory or must a supplier attend both sites equally?
Coventry has been the main location and where the team had agile space. So the expectation is Coventry would be the base but there are key stakeholders based in London so visits to London may be required.
14. Are we expected to take on existing development? If so, are we able to store the source code in our source control or do we need to use your source control systems?
Yes, you are expected to take on existing development. No, you would be required to use our source control systems using Azure.
15. Can more detail be given around the technical implementation and usage of technologies in the current solution?
What components exist?
Which parts are javascript versus C#?
More specifically are the back end services in
All the back end API's/services are (.net core function apps).
The services/web apps C# ASP.Net core MVC which the exception of conduct assessments (and item configuration) - which is javascript."
16. Please can you confirm the expected balance of co-located work between London and Coventry. Would co-location in London with occasional visits to other locations be satisfactory or must a supplier attend both sites equally?
Coventry has been the main location and where the team had agile space. So the expectation is Coventry would be the base but there are key stakeholders based in London so visits to London may be required.