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  • Writer's pictureSteve O'Hare

BLOG: What is the Adult Education Budget (AEB)? Five key questions answered.

Updated: Nov 16, 2022

MD Steve O'Hare answers five key questions about the Adult Education Budget (AEB) and explains when tender opportunities may be available.

What is the Adult Education Budget?

The Adult Education Budget, known as AEB, is one of the main levers that the Department for Education (DfE) and Combined Authorities have for up-skilling unemployed and low-skilled people who are predominantly 19-plus.

It runs across England in variety of different forms and supports people with low, or no qualifications, to move forward in life. The AEB is designed to help people achieve qualifications or complete learning activity that helps them progress into employment and/or further education.

In recent years the AEB has gone through a significant period of change. We hear in the news about devolved local authorities or devolved combined authorities. Four years ago, the process of devolution for AEB began, with Combined Mayoral Authorities being given control of the budget and being able to procure skills that were specific for their areas.

Outside of the devolved areas, there is a separate budget which is managed exclusively by the DfE.

What opportunities are coming up now and whereabouts are they?

Five combined authorities namely Greater Manchester, London, Tees Valley, North of Tyne and West Midlands, are all in the final year of their existing contacts, so they will reach a point where they need to re-procure work, creating an opportunity for organisations to bid for that work. Tenders are due to be released over the coming months, with contracts needing to be in-place for August 2023.

The DfE are currently formulating their plans for non-devolved areas and are likely to go to tender in January 2023 for contracts that are starting in August.

What’s the difference between devolved and non-devolved areas?

Fundamentally, they are similar as both are qualification driven and have non-accredited learning elements.

The key difference is that in devolved areas, combined authorities can pick and choose what they want in their area, which means there is a different ask for each. This means from devolved area to devolved area, potential bidders need to tailor their service offer to meet the needs of that locality.

In the non-devolved areas there is more uniformity, for example, if you are in Nottinghamshire or Leicestershire, delivery could be very similar, within a wider framework.

What’s the size of the funds we are talking about?

Across England, it’s substantial, with the total value of AEB being £1.5billion per year.

In terms of procurement activity, it varies from area to area. For the non-devolved pot, it’s £70m per year and for each of the combined authorities, they have a varying amount of money which is dependent on the size of the area. Greater London is the biggest devolved area in terms of its budget, with a total of over £350million per year.

This means there is a substantial amount of money for organisations to tender for.

What timelines are we looking at and any tips for those who want to get involved?

The time to act is now. The combined authorities will come to market over the next three to five months because new contracts need to be in place by August next year. Each area will work to a slightly different timeline and will have a slightly different approach to the way in which they are going to go to market.

If you are bidding, bear in mind who you are bidding to.

In previous blogs and videos I have done, I talk about understanding your buyer and what they want, and this is very much the case with this. What the DfE want might be different to what the North of Tyne want.

Therefore bidders need to make sure that they fully analyse the published specification, look at what each buyer wants to buy and give that buyer what they want.

For more information or support with your bid, contact

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