National Tutoring Programme contracts could allow new lead provider Randstad to remove its partners and take their business and staff “without compensation”, the Tutors’ Association has warned.
Nine leading tutoring organisations are still to sign up to the government’s flagship NTP scheme – a week after it launched – as a contract dispute drags on.
Schools Week revealed last week that the providers, including leading tutor charities and education giant Pearson, were refusing to sign up to Randstad’s contract demands.
Randstad seem to have given themselves the right to confiscate a tuition business at will
The Tutors’ Association (TTA), a membership body for tutors, has now said that a “litany of disasters” by the new NTP contractor is jeopardising the programme’s future.
One disputed contract clause would allow Randstad to remove a provider and force it to transfer its whole NTP business – including tutors and staff – to the recruitment firm without any compensation.
TTA president John Nichols told Schools Week: “Randstad seem to have given themselves the right to confiscate a tuition business at will; how much more anti-competitive or unfair could this be?”
As well as running the scheme, Randstad is also an approved provider. Nichols called this a “clear conflict of interest, with Randstad acting as both administrator and tuition partner itself”.
The NTP launched for its second year on Thursday last week. Just 29 approved providers were announced.
The Department for Education has since been called in to solve the dispute. Sources say that although Randstad has provided verbal assurances, the contract wording has not been changed. Providers were due to meet the DfE again last night.
Nichols said Randstad could resolve the issues “within just a few hours. They have even been provided with the exact wording for the contractual amendments that are required.
“The DfE could, with a single call or email, solve the problem. Worst of all, it is the millions of children who desperately need and deserve the help that the NTP could provide who will pay the price if urgent action is not taken.”
The aggrieved providers are believed to account for around 50,000 pupils, nearly 10 per cent of the government’s pupil tutoring target this year. The government has doubled its target to more than 500,000 pupils.
The TTA has also claimed that there is “inconsistency” in the way tuition partner applications have been processed. It claims that 10 linked organisations applied with “practically identical” applications and policies. But only two were accepted and the remaining eight were rejected for “different reasons”.
Randstad has said it would run “evaluation assessments” across providers to ensure a “fair and consistent approach”. The NTP’s website says that an independent analysis would also be done by safeguarding consultancy firm The Athena Programme.
Concerns also rumble on about the NTP’s new online portal, which Randstad said will make it “even easier” to access tutoring. However, Lucy Spencer, TTA’s vice president, said the “unfinished” platform requires tuition providers to “hand over all of their commercially sensitive data with no safeguards”.
There is also confusion over whether providers will have to cap tutoring places to ensure that more poor pupils are benefiting. The DfE expects 65 per cent of tutoring this year to go to youngsters eligible for pupil premium.
Sixteen organisations involved in the NTP last year are missing from the list while 13 of this year’s providers are new. Only five of those describe themselves on their website as being primarily or exclusively tuition firms.
Six advertise themselves mainly as recruitment firms, albeit with tuition services highlighted on most of their websites.
A Randstad spokesperson said: “There are a small number of Tuition Providers who have raised some questions about the terms of the NTP contract.
“We will continue to work through those questions with them in order that they may join the other providers who have already signed up to the terms. We look forward to working with accredited Tuition Partners and welcoming additional providers as we move through the programme.”