A leading education charity has lodged a High Court legal challenge against Nadhim Zahawi over his department’s handling of the flagship £121 million Institute of Teaching contract.
Schools Week revealed in March the contract was to be handed to a group of leading academy trusts. Rival bidders the Ambition Institute lost out over a financial compliance issue, despite scoring higher for the quality of its bid.
The charity – which is heavily reliant on government funding for its teacher training activities – has now lodged a legal claim against the Department for Education, Schools Week has learned.
The move is particularly damaging for the government, given Ambition is one of the lead providers under another of its flagship programmes, the early career framework (ECF).
The legal spat leaves the supposed September opening of the teacher training provider hanging in the balance.
However, Schools Week understands the department it still working towards the IoT launching in time for the new year. They are confident of a “robust” procurement process and that they have a strong case.
The IoT will be the country’s “flagship teacher and leader development provider”. It is supposed to have 500 trainees from September 2023, and 1,000 the following year.
Academy trust group won teaching contract
The School-Led Development Trust, led by the Harris Federation, Outwood Grange Academies Trust (OGAT), Star Academies and Oasis Community Learning, has won the contract, as first revealed by Schools Week.
Ambition lodged its legal claim in the High Court on April 22. It is not clear whether Ambition is pushing for the contract to be re-awarded, or wants compensation for what it believes is a government gaffe.
Both Ambition and the DfE declined to comment.
It comes soon after the DfE had to axe Randstad from running the National Tutoring Programme – another flagship scheme – following poor performance.
The HR firm had won the £32 million contract despite a bid led by the EEF, which ran the NTP in year one, scoring more highly. Like Ambition, it lost out on a financial technicality.
However, the legal move is also potentially risky for Ambition. Its most recent accounts, for the 2019-20 year, show £12 million of its £16 million income was from the DfE – meaning any souring of relations could impact its future viability.
The IoT will deliver the ECF for new teachers and national professional qualifications (NPQs) for more experienced staff as part of the DfE’s wider overhaul of teacher training.
The IoT will also attempt to replicate the approach of schools which “combine high standards of pupil behaviour and discipline with a broad knowledge-based and ambitious curriculum”, according to the DfE.