Awarded to Version 1 Solutions Limited

Start date: Monday 21 February 2022
Value: £1,324,720
Company size: large
Education Authority, Northern Ireland (EA)

Outcome for a supplier to develop a replacement Northern Ireland Substitute Teacher Register (NISTR)

8 Incomplete applications

6 SME, 2 large

8 Completed applications

2 SME, 6 large

Important dates

Tuesday 30 November 2021
Deadline for asking questions
Tuesday 7 December 2021 at 11:59pm GMT
Closing date for applications
Tuesday 14 December 2021 at 11:59pm GMT


Off-payroll (IR35) determination
Contracted out service: the off-payroll rules do not apply
Summary of the work
EA requires a supplier to deliver a minimum viable product and subsequent functional releases for the replacement NI Substitute Teachers Register and manage a public beta phase and handover to EA/third party supplier. This will also include data migration from existing system and integration with other EA systems.
Latest start date
Monday 14 February 2022
Expected contract length
24 months + optional extension up to 6 months subject performance/commercial governance arrangements
No specific location, for example they can work remotely
Organisation the work is for
Education Authority, Northern Ireland (EA)
Budget range
£1,200,000 - £1,500,000

About the work

Why the work is being done
NISTR, established in 2002, provides a networked database of 7000+ qualified teachers providing substitute cover to 1100 schools.
NISTR supports Department of Education NI (DE) Policy on use of qualified substitute teachers (DE Circular 1997/14), and re-employment of Prematurely Retired Teachers (DE Circular 2011/07). DE Circular 2006/07 ‘Child Protection: Employment of Substitute Teachers’, and DE Circular 2008/10 ‘Employment of Substitute Teachers – Northern Ireland Substitute Teachers Register’ advice for schools on the use of NISTR. See NISTR allows employers to check that teachers are eligible to teach, satisfy relevant health requirements and are registered with the General Teaching Council for Northern Ireland (GTCNI). Continued provision is paramount to ensure efficient and effective running of schools when teachers are absent by booking substitute teachers without delay. It facilitates the EA mission to ensure every child receives a quality education and is challenged and supported to be the best they can be. It ensures DE meets its payroll obligations without delay or error.
The current contract expires on 30th September 2022. EA must provide an enhanced solution with data migration ready for go-live in advance of 30th September 2022
Problem to be solved
As part of the wider EA Education Information Services (EdIS), formerly ETS, programme, the Education Authority must provide a replacement solution for NISTR to enable all schools in Northern Ireland to search for, employ and pay suitable temporary staff to cover for planned or emergency absences. The current contract, in place since 2015, expires on 30th September 2022. NISTR suffers from poor usability and a lack of reporting and analytics capability. Many schools carry out bookings off-system, resulting in inaccurate teacher availability data on NISTR. Additionally, teachers are dissuaded from updating unavailable time in their calendars due to a lack of block booking functionality. Finally, NISTR administrators must contact the supplier for any reports they wish to run. Instead, schools need to be able to access NISTR from any location to quickly and easily contact teachers and complete bookings in real time. Teachers need to also be able to easily register, create and maintain a profile in NISTR that accurately reflects their daily availability for substitute roles. Administrators and other approved users need to have access to a suite of static and dynamic reports.
Who the users are and what they need to do
School users:
When a teacher is absent, I use NISTR to search for an available, qualified and vetted teacher who can meet the school's needs in terms of location, subject(s), curricular level, and relevant experience. I instantly communicate via integrated voice chat and instant messaging with the substitute teacher prior to booking. I give approval to proceed to payment. I access reports.
Substitute Teacher:
I must register on NISTR and add my contact and professional details, eg qualifications, subjects, experience, training, and available dates. Initially, I am vetted to approve my teacher number, annual GTCNI membership, AccessNI check - - every 2 years, and health check. I pay online for my AccessNI check. Now live, I can instantly communicate via integrated voice chat and instant messaging with schools to confirm a booking, thus I am unavailable to other schools. I access bookings reports.
DE Teacher Pay and Pensions Team:
Monthly, I import into the payroll system from NISTR details of substitute teachers approved for payment. I access a range of reports.
EA HR Administrator(s):
I administer the NISTR system, add new school sites, assist with registration problems, access a range of reports and analyses, and monitor the service.
Early market engagement
A pre-market engagement event was held on 20th October 2021 to provide all suppliers with more detailed background on the requirements. The information shared during the event and subsequent questions and answers are available here: Pre-Market Engagement -
Questions and answers -
Any work that’s already been done
A detailed specification of requirements including a Minimum Viable Product and mandatory requirements has been completed and is available at the following link:
Existing team
The current EA team is comprised of:

• Workstream Lead
• Project Manager (Contractor)
• Senior Business Analyst
• Seconded School Principals
• SMEs from the EA BAU service
• Consulting Partner team

It is envisaged this team shall undergo expansion with new roles included.
Current phase

Work setup

Address where the work will take place
Education Authority Northern Ireland, project can be delivered remotely
Working arrangements
We anticipate you will work remotely as part of an integrated client/supplier team, communicating via MS Teams. You must work closely with client stakeholders. Prior to development sprints and public beta, you will need to undertake discovery exercises to fully understand current processes and requirements, and identify improvements. For governance, we require weekly status reports in a format to be agreed upon contract award. You will host "show and tell" sessions upon conclusion of each development sprint through agile project delivery methodology. On-site working may be requested on an ad-hoc basis in NI. EA working hours are 9am-5pm, Monday-Friday.
Security clearance
All resources working on this engagement will be required to have successfully passed BPSS checking - evidence will be required.

Additional information

Additional terms and conditions
Shortlisted suppliers must provide a pricing proposal which separates solution technical delivery from hosting, because EA may decide to use currently-contracted hosting - whereby the Supplier must work collaboratively with the hosting provider. Pricing evaluation will focus on the technical delivery costs only:

Supplier must comply with:

Health and Safety at Work (NI) Order 1978;

Sustainable Development Strategy NI,

NISTR Social Value Requirements ; and

NI Fair Employment Requirements

The following Optional Call-Off Schedules shall apply: 8, 14, 15, 21, 26 (Cyber Essentials Plus)
Joint Schedules 6, 7, 8 apply at EA's option depending on the solution/supplier.

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
  • State how you have agreed and delivered a minimum viable product to agreed quality within constrained timeframes. Provide at least one example. Minimum 3 years' experience of this is required.
  • Describe how you have rapidly designed, developed and implemented a cross-platform solution (iOS, Android, web app) using Agile methodology. Give one example (minimum) from the past 3 years with dates.
  • Explain how you have delivered solutions within the last 3 years (providing at least one example with dates) of similar scope and size (1,000+ users) to EA’s referenced requirements:
  • Provide at least one example where you deployed a multi-disciplinary team consisting of management, technical, business resource with appropriate skills/experience to deliver digital outcomes. Minimum of 3 years’ experience required.
  • Explain how you work collaboratively with stakeholders incorporating feedback into the solution to design and deliver an enhanced user experience. Minimum of one example and minimum 2 years’ experience required.
  • How do you successfully manage large scale (1,000+ users) testing phases, specifically Public Beta to meet objectives? At least one example and minimum of 2 years’ experience required.
  • Explain how you have successfully delivered large scale cutover activities without a parallel run phase within the last 3 years. At least one example with dates to be provided.
  • How do you work with other suppliers to successfully migrate data, including all data quality, cleansing and integrity activities? Minimum 2 years' experience and at least one example required.
  • Explain how you work with clients/third parties to develop interfaces to internal and external systems. Give at least one example, with dates, within the past 3 years.
  • How do you, either alone or partnering with a third party, implement and support a hosted solution? Experience must be within the past 3 years (dates must be stated)
  • How do you plan, deliver and evaluate solution-focused training to a large geographically-dispersed user base through a variety of online/offline methods? Experience within the past 3 years (give dates)
  • Explain how you deliver data insight and analytics through reporting with at least one example where the reports/insights resulted in tangible improvements. Experience within the past 3 years (give dates)
Nice-to-have skills and experience
  • Demonstrable experience of delivering solutions that conform to relevant industry regulations relating to service management and security, including ISO 27001
  • Demonstrate experience of working within a large government department (1000+ users) within the last 3 years
  • Demonstrable experience of working within the Education Sector within the last 3 years

How suppliers will be evaluated

All suppliers will be asked to provide a written proposal.

How many suppliers to evaluate
Proposal criteria
  • Describe how your solution will meet the functional and non-functional requirements outlined in the "Any Work That's Already Been Done" section. (15%)
  • Describe your proposed methodology for taking forward the Beta phase including how findings from the Discovery and Alpha phases will be adopted. Support answer with at least one example. (10%)
  • Describe your proposed methodology for service transition from Beta to Live, and how you will work with EA/third party to achieve this. Support answer with at least one example. (10%)
  • Describe your proposed approach to working with schools and other stakeholders in ensuring that the solution is adopted, including the provision of support and guidance during transition. (15%)
  • Proposed team structure, with relevant mix of disciplines, skills, experience to successfully deliver the solution within project constraints (time, cost, quality). (including CVs of key proposed members demonstrating relevance) (10%)
  • Describe how you will meet the required timeframe for the Minimum Viable Product as specified in EA’s referenced requirements: (15%)
  • Describe your timeframe for delivery of each of the major functional components of the solution to meet EA's required timescales. (10%)
  • Describe how you will identify risks and dependencies and your approaches to managing them to ensure delivery to required quality and timescales. Support answer with at least one example. (12%)
  • Demonstrate how you will ensure that the client receives value for money. (3%)
Cultural fit criteria
  • Shares knowledge and experience with clients, takes a transparent and collaborative approach to engaging with the Buyer. Demonstrate how you will achieve this with at least 1 example. (15%)
  • Demonstrate with examples your ability to take responsibility for all associated works, resolving problems and being able to adapt quickly to any agreed changes. (10%)
  • Demonstrate with at least one example your ability to focus on business outcomes and delivering solutions within tight timescales. (15%)
  • Demonstrate very high-quality interpersonal communications, especially showing sensitivity to EA departments under competing pressures and committed stakeholder groups with competing priorities. (15%)
  • Demonstrate with at least 1 example how you will successfully apply agile methods in the context of more traditional working practices. (15%)
  • The supplier must function in a self-starting fashion, minimising input requirements of a very small client team. Demonstrate how you will achieve this with at least 1 example.(10%)
  • Describe with at least one example how your approach to stakeholder engagement will allow you to successfully work as a team with our organisation and other stakeholders. (5%)
  • Provide evidence of how your approach to challeging the status quo will result in an improved final outcome.(5%)
  • Describe with at least one example how your approach to working with clients with low technical expertise delivers successful outcomes.(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. Who from your team will be scoring applications for this opportunity and what positions do they hold?
The evaluation panel comprises of the following:-
• EdiS Project Officers (2)
• EA HR Officers (2)
• Stakeholder SME (2)

Please note it is not EA policy to release the names of individuals on the evaluation panel.
2. Has any external supplier been involved in the initial scoping work? If so, who?
Ernst & Young have been procured as project support advisors.
3. Can you please provide an anticipated timeline for this procurement that includes dates for:

- Shortlisting Notification for Stage 2 – Submission Deadline for Stage 2 – Presentation – Evaluation period
Award Notification
We are currently working to the following timetable:-
• Initial Supplier responses closing date – 14th December 2021
• Evaluation of responses – 15-20th December 2021
• Request for proposal from Shortlisted suppliers – 21st December 2021
• Return date for proposals – 10th January 2022
• Evaluation of proposals – 11th - 17th January 2022
• Issue contract award letter – 4th February 2022
• Contract commencement – 11th February 2022
This is a draft timetable and is subject to change.
4. Can you confirm if shortlisted suppliers will have the opportunity to present?
Shortlisted suppliers will be notified at the appropriate time of the additional assessment methods.
5. Can you please advise the preferred tech stack for this opportunity?
EA has no preferred tech stack for this opportunity.
6. Will there be any feedback to suppliers on the work they did in responding to the RFI?
Suppliers will be notified of outcome by email with feedback as per framework guidance.
7. Will there be any feedback to suppliers on the work they did in responding to the RFI?
Suppliers will be notified of outcome by email with feedback as per framework guidance.
8. Will there be an opportunity to provide diagrams and images of potential solutions – methods of working etc within the answers to the questions?
There is no opportunity to provide diagrams and images of potential solutions at Stage 1, shortlisted suppliers will have the opportunity at Stage 2.
9. Which stakeholders were canvased as part of the requirements gathering exercise?
Stakeholder engagement included school users including principals, teachers, support staff; substitute teachers; officers from the Education Authority (EA), Department of Education (DE), teaching Trade Union Representatives, education Employing Authorities and Sectoral Organisations (Governing Bodies Association Northern Ireland - GBANI, Council for Catholic Maintained Schools - CCMS, Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta - CnaG), General Teaching Council Northern Ireland.
10. Is the current supplier bidding?
We have no advance notice whether the current supplier will bid or take part in the bidding process. The framework does not allow the buyer early sight of participating suppliers prior to the closing date for return of the shortlisting responses, in this case 14th December 2021.
11. Could the Authority please confirm it’s position with regard to background IP, where a supplier may have existing relevant solution components, and also ownership of foreground IP for any newly created solution?
The incumbent has IPR ownership of existing solution. For the new solution, EA’s IPR position is as set out in the relevant DOS5 Ts&Cs. Also note EA’s requirements under “Summary of the Work” i.e. “EA requires a supplier to …manage a public beta phase and handover to EA/third party supplier.” Whatever IPR the tenderer choses to include, it must, following handover of the new solution, allow EA to support and develop the solution itself or pass it to another supplier to carry out support and development for EA, without any licence fees or other charges being payable to the tenderer.
12. What are the pain points extant in the current system that need to be addressed in the new product?
The main pain points are as follows:
- Poor usability/user experience
- Significant manual keying of data
- Poor functionality for teachers to block book Unavailable time
- Bookings being carried out off-system via phone calls and external private user groups, resulting in bookings not being updated on the system.
- No mobile app
- Limited reporting functionality
- A lack of data validation
- No link to an online payments solution

Note that while these are the main pain points, the supplier must deliver all requirements listed as being part of the Minimum Viable Product by 30th September 2022.
13. With COVID-19 and the Christmas break, and a proposed Phase 2 submission of Monday, 10th Jan. Can you advise if there will be flexibility in these timelines? We believe a short extension will allow all bidders to ensure they submit top quality bids.
We are not able to grant any extensions due to the tight timescales involved.
14. There are requirements to have substitute teachers get in touch with EA by phone and in-app chat. Is there a contact center solution in place for integration?
For clarification, the requirement is for schools to get in touch via integrated phone and in-app chat with substitute teachers. There is no contact centre solution currently in place.
15. The Non-Functional requirements list an application published in iOS and Android app stores. But none of the functional requirements have native mobile application requirements. Is a native mobile app a required feature?
Functionality such as integrated voice chat will require the NISTR app to access features such as the microphone on the user's device. The supplier must therefore provide the functionality through mobile app (native/hybrid app) and the NISTR website (