Exams regulator Ofqual is paying £225,000 to an outsourcing company used in the government’s much-criticised Test and Trace system to answer calls from students, parents and teachers.
The regulator outsourced its public enquiries lines to Sitel to meet an expected rise in calls.
Last year Ofsted staff were deployed to help in the height of the grading fiasco, but they have since gone back to the watchdog.
The contract notice states Sitel will be required to answer all incoming calls, working with Ofqual service managers and frontline Ofqual staff who will handle all email and outgoing calls.
Sitel will also “represent” the regulator in “support of promoting public confidence” in qualifications. The contract will run for two years.
Ofqual said it had “secured the services of an acknowledged expert organisation who are currently delivering services in the education sector to meet expected demand”.
Sitel has received tens of millions of pounds for its part in the government’s Test and Trace scheme.
A National Audit Office (NAO) report in December said contract tracers employed by Sitel and Serco reached just 60 per cent of contacts by the end of October.
It also found that “utilisation rates for call handlers remained well below the target of 50 per cent” during September and October. “Substantial public resources” had been spent on “staff who provided minimal services in return”, the NAO said.
Ofqual said the procurement process “included appropriate due diligence and provided us with access to Sitel’s existing systems and people”.
Sitel did not respond to requests for comment.