Dutch outsourcing giant Randstad will take over the National Tutoring Programme for tens of millions of pounds less than the maximum amount being offered by the Department for Education.
Tender documents published in February stated that up to £62 million was available to bidders for the second phase of the NTP. But documents show Ranstad’s contract is worth £25 million – just 40 per cent of the maximum value.
The Department for Education confirmed to Schools Week the amount is to cover three years of the programme, but its initial contract with the company is for one year, with an option to extend for two more years.
Kate Green, the shadow education secretary, has called on ministers to provide “absolute assurance that quality is not being compromised to cut costs”.
Multiple sources told Schools Week last month that Randstad had undercut the Education Endowment Foundation, which ran the NTP for its first year and was bidding under the new National Tutoring Foundation charity.
The EEF would not say how much it had bid for to keep running the scheme, but a source familiar with the process told Schools Week that Randstad’s bid was deemed “better value for money”. Two others confirmed the bid was cheaper, with one claiming it could be as much as £10 million less.
Green said education secretary Gavin Williamson had “serious questions to answer about the suitability of Randstad – a human resources company – to deliver tutoring for our children”.
”Failing to properly fund our children’s education while handing over a contract to a private company with little tutoring experience lays bare the Conservatives’ failure to provide the support children need to bounce back from the pandemic.”
But a DfE spokesperson said Randstad had “over 20 years of experience in the education sector, including working closely with schools”.
“It also has a strong understanding of the National Tutoring Programme, having worked as a Tuition Partner in the current academic year.”
Randstad declined to comment.
The EEF was handed £80 million to run the NTP this year, but the organisation would not say what proportion of that amount was for subsidies and how much it received to actually run the programme. Teach First was given £6.4 million to run the academic mentors arm, with DfE paying the mentors’ salaries directly.
Randstad’s appointment was confirmed this week in ministers’ £1.4 billion education recovery plan, which prompted the resignation of education recovery tsar Sir Kevan Collins amid warnings the proposals do not go far enough.
£1 billion of the cash is for tutoring, with £218 million expected to be spent on the NTP on top of £215 million already allocated for the 2021-22 academic year. The money will cover Randstad’s contract and subsidies for the tuition itself, though these are due to taper off in the coming years until schools are paying the majority of costs.
Local tutoring funding will follow pupil premium
Of the remaining funding, £579 million will go directly to schools to help them establish “local tutoring provision” using new or existing staff, to “compliment” the work of the NTP.
The DfE confirmed that this funding would be shared out based on schools’ pupil premium allocations, and that further details of the funding model and approach for the NTP and school tutoring would be provided “shortly”.
Baroness Berridge, the academies minister, faced questions about the recovery package fiasco and Randstad contract in the House of Lords this afternoon.
Baroness Donaghy, a Labour peer, even pointed to “revolt in the Conservative ranks”, and claimed that Tory MPs had been told in a recent meeting with ministers that “there has been a big mess-up over the last few days for no reason”. She also asked “what process took place that made the choice of Randstad preferable to the National Tutoring Foundation”.
Berridge replied: “The department, as it is required, ran a commercial procurement for the next years of the national tutoring programme and Randstad won that procurement and so a contract’s been signed with them.”
Year 13s to be able to retake year from September
As part of the education recovery package, the government announced that schools and colleges would be funded to give some year 13 students the option to repeat their final year.
The DfE confirmed to Schools Week that pupils would be able to resit the year from this September, and that it would provide more detail on funding “shortly”.
Ministers faced strong criticism this week over the recovery package, amid reports that it amounts to less than a tenth of what was proposed by Collins, who warned this week that the average primary school would receive just £6,000 per year, equivalent to £22 per child.
Education secretary Gavin Williamson told BBC News earlier this week that the government were looking at interventions they can “actually deliver today” rather than waiting for the spending review later this year.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies has warned that if new spending is only announced in the autumn, “the actual measures could be delayed well into 2022 – potentially too late to effectively make up for lost learning”.