Specialist contractors recruited by the government to help regional schools commissioners improve schools are facing questions over potential conflicts of interest.

The Department for Education (DfE) has awarded contracts totalling £12 million to 93 contractors to support the academies and free schools programme.

In total, regional schools commissioners (RSCs) can call on a pool of about 400 advisers across the 93 contractors.

However an education consultant, who did not want to be named, highlighted a potential conflict of interest. He said two of the firms are primarily involved in recruiting staff and selling software, not school improvement.

The consultant added: “Looking through the list of specialist contractors … I admit to being surprised.

“Understanding how those organisations came to be regarded as experts in this field [school improvement] would provide a very useful insight for policy makers.”

Just last week the education committee, as part of its RSC inquiry, welcomed the work of these contractors.

But, it said: “We recommend that the government review the amount of information currently in the public domain about their identity, appointment, work, monitoring and impact, with a view to improving transparency.”

Contractors must ensure their conduct is in line with the civil service code’s principles of “honesty, integrity, impartiality and objectivity”.

Should a contractor break this clause – including by making “inappropriate sales approaches to schools” – the DfE says it will cancel the deal.