Start date: Monday 19 July 2021
Value: £4,500,000
Company size: SME
Department for Education

DfE User Experience & Design Capability North England

14 Incomplete applications

13 SME, 1 large

18 Completed applications

18 SME, 0 large

Important dates

Thursday 6 May 2021
Deadline for asking questions
Thursday 13 May 2021 at 11:59pm GMT
Closing date for applications
Thursday 20 May 2021 at 11:59pm GMT


Off-payroll (IR35) determination
Summary of the work
Working alongside teams supplying User Experience and Design capabilities to deliver user centred design of communication, content, IA, interactions, products, policy, operation and services. Partner in advocating for users and using best-practice design methodologies. Help identify risks/opportunities to influence changes in strategy, operations and delivery. Primarily within scope of IR35.
Latest start date
Thursday 15 July 2021
Expected contract length
2 years
North West England
Organisation the work is for
Department for Education
Budget range
up to £4 500 000

About the work

Why the work is being done
DfE need a supplier who will work with blended teams across the department, to design and deliver high-quality, sustainable and joined-up user journeys for digital products and services for teachers, schools, parents, social workers, children and internal users. This involves designing and iterating products to enable journeys that that fit together as a coherent, consistent offer for users and deliver policy intent. This approach provides continuity within the DfE and for users. The supplier is expected to provide expertise and support and transfer this knowledge regularly to civil servants in the team and in the user-centred design community. This requirement is primarily within scope of IR35.
Problem to be solved
Digital and Technology require capabilities that can deliver outcomes that achieve policy intent based on validated user needs and to cross-government and DfE-wide service standards. These capabilities are cross the full range of user experience -- including interaction design, content design, service design, policy design and increasingly learning design. They will be required on programmes that span the delivery life cycle (discovery, alpha, private/public beta, and live) as well as approach (transactional services and information services). The supplier will work with blended, multi-disciplinary teams to validate and meet user needs, streamline and clarify user journeys, to lower cognitive load of the user and to avoid duplication of efforts with other teams working with similar users.
Who the users are and what they need to do
Education advisors
School administrators
Learning Providers
People that deliver children’s social care services
Our own staff
For example:
I need to train to be a teacher so that I can be employed as a qualified teacher”
As a school leader I need to know about funding opportunities so that my school can apply for relevant grants
As a parent I need to know how to apply for financial support for my child
Early market engagement
Not applicable
Any work that’s already been done
Some digital education services are live via the GOV.UK website, for example:

However, there is still a lot of potential to deliver development work and enhancement.
Digital programme discovery is well underway with potential services identified and prioritised with some service discovery, alpha and private beta activity already completed. The department has a high-level roadmap of digital projects, which are iterated on the basis of insight and departmental priorities. The roadmap will be shared with the successful supplier once a contract has been awarded.
Existing team
This contract will support digital delivery taking place across DfE. You will work with internal DfE staff from a range of disciplines, including technical architecture, software development, security, policy, communications, service and product management, finance, business analysis, performance analysis, and delivery management.

You may also collaborate or work on projects with other suppliers who are providing capabilities as part of a team, for example, delivery management, business analysis, user research and software Development.

This contract will not prevent us from using other commercial arrangements to engage capabilities to support the volume of work

NEXER Digital is the incumbent supplier.
Current phase
Not applicable

Work setup

Address where the work will take place
For the duration of COVID19 restrictions all teams are expected to work and collaborate remotely.

For any SoW, the work is likely to be based in Sheffield, Manchester or Darlington. Some work may be required UK wide and travel may be required to other DfE offices.

The primary location will be detailed in each SoW and expenses will not form part of the cost unless the supplier is asked to work from another location during the execution of the work relating to the SoW. e.g. If SoW primary base is in Manchester then no expenses will be paid for Manchester.
Working arrangements
Detailed working arrangements will be contained within each Statement of Work.

Day to day delivery will be governed by standard agile delivery techniques, with appropriate ceremonies to be undertaken.

Scope and prioritisation of work is decided by the product owner with input from the SRO and wider DfE governance. SOW will be reviewed by relevant Heads of Profession.

SOW may include services that fall inside and outside of IR35 - with an expectation that a high proportion will be inside of IR35. We will be looking for a supplier that has the capacity to meet both of these scenarios.
Security clearance
DfE requires all supplier staff to have baseline personnel security standard clearance (BPSS) – any enhanced security requirements will be detailed in the Statement of Work. Suppliers will be required to complete a supplier security assurance form to ensure they meet the required standard for DfE e.g. cyber essentials

Additional information

Additional terms and conditions
•Standard Framework and Call Off Terms and Conditions apply. Expenses must be pre-agreed and comply with DfE standard Travel and Subsistence policy.
•Primary work location stated in SoW will not attract expenses.
•Contract and Vendor Management will form a key part of governance. Suppliers will be expected to co-operate in a manner that fosters healthy working relationships and quality delivery.
•Suppliers must provide sufficient guarantees to meet GDPR requirements in line with Procurement Policy Note 03/17 Changes to Data Protection Legislation & GDPR

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
  • Evidence of designing end-to-end services across a range of on-line and off-line channels
  • Evidence of prioritising understanding of needs and behaviour and using insight to underpin and drive design decisions when designing content, product and services. Effectively communicating/influencing those decisions with stakeholders/partners.
  • Evidence of communicating service concepts/ideas using methods that allow others to see all parts of a service. To give feedback that identifies gaps and areas of overlap among other services.
  • Evidence of integrating design with other disciplines such as user research, org design, business analysis, data science and policy intent, to deliver digital services in the face of challenges.
  • Evidence of analysing failure within a service and identifying root causes which were resolved, highlighted and advocated for change through documentation, which was shared in a backlog to be prioritised.
  • Evidence of designing, developing and delivering products and services across the whole lifecycle through iteration, research and testing
Nice-to-have skills and experience
  • Evidence of ability to identify the right type of prototype for the situation and to deliver low-fidelity and high-fidelity prototypes, including ability to prototype in code.
  • Evidence of experience with the GOV.UK design system
  • Evidence of designing services within environments with multifaceted supply and delivery chains

How suppliers will be evaluated

All suppliers will be asked to provide a written proposal.

How many suppliers to evaluate
Proposal criteria
  • Evidence of understanding and examples of passing the Government’s Service Standards Assessment or an equivalent standard within private sector (if applicable)
  • Evidence of designing and delivering a service that has passed accessibility audit WCAG 2.1 to AA standard and can demonstrate delivery beyond the standard e.g. designing for neurodivergence.
  • Evidence of working with users to understand their work, their operating context and constraints & identify and implement adaptations/improvements
  • Examples of effective communication across organisational, technical and political boundaries, understanding the context
  • Experience in providing strategic design insights to contribute to a collective vision and to align and increase the profile of design in a government department
  • Experience working with an organisation of increasing agile maturity?
  • Evidence of ability to make and influence informed decisions based on user needs, available technology and value for money.
  • Explain your processes for on-boarding and retention of resources, which meet our requirements for both inside and outside IR35, in the North England.
Cultural fit criteria
  • Evidence of dissecting and delivering complex and technical information and language simple and accessible for non-technical audiences (2%)
  • Evidence of establishing a strong User Experience and Design based culture of service and continuous improvement (2%)
  • Experience of working with multi-vendor teams and understanding of how to be part of a multidisciplinary, agile service team (2%)
  • Experience of collaboration with multiple organisational stakeholders with the aim to achieve a single objective (2%)
  • Experience of transferring knowledge to permanent staff within client organisation (2%)
  • Social Value (equal opportunity and wellbeing) - Provide evidence of your company's approach to diversity and inclusion and your ability to manage the wellbeing of your team (10%)
Payment approach
Capped time and materials
Additional assessment methods
  • Case study
  • Work history
  • Reference
  • Presentation
Evaluation weighting

Technical competence


Cultural fit




Questions asked by suppliers

1. Could you please clarify what you mean by multifaceted supply and delivery chains?
DfE are looking for a supplier who has experience delivering where the focus is about the external complexity. Less about the digital teams themselves and more about call centres, or social workers, or schools, or publishers etc.
DfE have lots of legacy organisational and technical architecture. We deliver through complex supply chains - setting regulation, frameworks, outcomes etc, but often not directly delivering ourselves for some of it. E.g. Apprenticeships as a service was built where an existing apprenticeships service existed, and woven in piece by piece, swapping bits out and refactoring as they went.
2. Can you please confirm that there will be an opportunity for shortlisted suppliers to ask further clarification questions at Stage 2 once further information around the scope, roadmap and needs expressed further?
Shortlisted supplier will have the opportunity to ask further clarification questions at stage 2 on the written proposal, presentation and price document and during the presentation session
3. Do you have any preference between public sector or private sector examples? Or will both be treated equally as long as they are relevant to the question?
Both public sector or private sector examples will be treated equally as long as they are relevant to the question.
4. Can you provide timescales for the next round and up to winning the bid?
Advert 06/05/2021 – 20/05/2021
Sift & Moderation - w/c 24/05/2021
Notify suppliers - 02/06/2021
Proposal received from suppliers - 09/06/2021
Interview & presentation - w/c 14/06/2021
Moderation - 17/06/2021
Financial due diligence by - 22/06/2021
Submit Award recommendation report for internal approval by - 23/06/2021
Seek Internal Governance Approval - 30/06/2021
Notify suppliers - 05/07/2021
Contract start date - 15/07/2021

This timescale may change (up to a week or 2) due to staff viability for evaluations
5. Will you be able to organise access to users (e.g. Teachers/Practitioners,
Parents, Students, Education advisors, School administrators, Learning Providers) throughout the project duration?
Would access to students need special provision to form part of UR?
Multidisciplinary teams have URs who create user research plans and organise access to users throughout the project, subject to requirements, standards and access.
Access to teachers, schools and students are subject to user research plan approvals to ensure no undue burden is placed on the sector.
6. There is mention of “Working alongside teams” – how many teams do you have that would require working alongside?
We have multiple business areas and it would depend on what area you were placed in as to which other teams you would need to work alongside.
7. There is mention of blended teams and one incumbent – is the definition of blended teams (incumbents, contractors and civil servants) – if so what %age of the team are civil servants, what %age are contractors, what %age are incumbents?
The definition of blended teams in this context is permanent civil servants and contractors. As this is a call off contract, we do not have the individual breakdown available at this time.
8. There is mention of a user-centred design community – how many people form part of that community and how often do they meet and collaborate?
There are more than 100 people in the user-centred design community. It meets quarterly and has met twice so far. There is also a UCD Slack channel for ongoing collaboration.
Each UCD profession also meets up: content design meets weekly, interaction design meets monthly, service design meets monthly, and user research meets every other week.
9. There is mention of “transfer this knowledge regularly to civil servants” – would these civil servants be part of the team to help aid realtime transfer of knowledge?
Most of the civil servants would be part of the team. There may be others who are not part of the team but are part of the community of practice.
10. There is mention of the following roles already identified interaction design, content design, service design, policy design and increasingly learning design – is there any indication of the numbers required or particular %age of resources required to fulfill the projects. If not available now will there be information available at round 2 to help shape round 2 answers.
There is no current indication of the numbers or percentages currently required. Interaction, content and service design are required more often. If we have this information available at stage 2, we will make this available.
11. There is mention of projects at different stages (e.g. discovery, alpha, private/public beta, and live). How many projects are there in total and which phases are they in. If not available now will there be information available at round 2 to help shape round 2 answers.
There are currently around 40 projects at different stages. About 45% are in beta, 25% are in discovery, 15% in alpha, and 15% live/continuous improvement.
12. Is the incumbent being replaced and if so, will they provide a handover period?
Due to the nature of this contract, there may be a minimal handover period, if a new supplier is successful.
13. How is information shared currently across teams in order to avoid duplication i.e. are there any common tools, repositories, collaborative sessions to share work to avoid unnecessary duplication.
There are some common tools and repositories (i.e. Confluence, Github, Trello, Slack, show and tells). Teams do this in the way that best suits them. It is everyone’s responsibility to proactively share knowledge and working and seek out knowledge and working.
14. There is mention of a high-level roadmap of digital projects to be made available on successful contract award – but is there a publicly available roadmap that can be provided to help understand vision and direction of activities?
Our current strategy is here:
15. What tools do you use for contract/vendor management e.g. Balanced Scorecard?
DfE will work with the successful supplier to agree a set of performance measures within the contract.
16. There is mention that a high proportion will be inside of IR35 – can you provide us anticipated %age of inside IR35 roles.
The contract will primarily be used to bring in resources, which falls within IR35 but reserving the right to call off this contract for managed services, where appropriate.
17. Is there a reference rate card that is assigned for this work?
There is no reference rate card. Once the procurement has concluded, there will be a rate card agreed that will be used throughout the duration of the contract.
18. Can you please define or provide an example of a ‘multifaceted supply and delivery chain’ in this context?
DfE are looking for a supplier who has experience delivering where the focus is about the external complexity. Less about the digital teams themselves and more about call centres, or social workers, or schools, or publishers etc.
DfE have lots of legacy organisational and technical architecture. We deliver through complex supply chains - setting regulation, frameworks, outcomes etc, but often not directly delivering ourselves for some of it. E.g. Apprenticeships as a service was built where an existing apprenticeships service existed, and woven in piece by piece, swapping bits out and refactoring as they went.
19. Please can you confirm whether ‘failure within a service’ refers to technical/system failure, failure to meet user needs, or both?
20. Within suppliers’ individual responses, are you looking for multiple examples at a lower level of detail or a single, more detailed, one?
The DOS framework allows suppliers to provide either single or multiple examples as evidence against the criteria set.
Each example provided will be scored against the given criteria. Either multiple or one example would be acceptable and fairly and equally scored so far it covers all elements of the criteria
21. With regards to Q1, please could you clarify whether you are seeking a response which shows an example of the supplier having designed both an on-line and an off-line service? Or a single service which has both on-line and off-line touchpoints?
We would ideally prefer suppliers to provide examples of single services that have both on-line and off-line touchpoints.