Randstad, the Dutch multinational responsible for implementing the National Government’s flagship tutoring program (NTP) is under increasing pressure after claiming that the number of students enrolled for subsidized tuition is more than 90% lower than the goal.
MPs from the multi-stakeholder education committee were told that the recruiting firm, which controversially received the NTP contact in June, had only enrolled 5% of the target number of students for the 2021 school year / 2.
Talks are underway to set up a new non-profit consortium of educational charities that could take over the leadership of the NTP from September 2022. A meeting is due to take place with the Education Secretary, Nadhim Zahawi, next month to discuss option.
On Tuesday, the committee learned that 28,000 students of a year-end goal of 524,000 have been enrolled so far, though schools are nearly a third of the way through the year. The Department of Education (DfE) said that figure was out of date and has since increased, while TES said 8% of the target started tuition.
Randstad was awarded the contract to run the program in June after submitting a bid of £ 25million, which was considerably lower than competing bids and well below the government-suggested maximum of £ 62million.
When asked if this proved value for money, Nick Bent, managing director of the Tutor Trust, one of the partners providing private lessons in schools, told the committee: “I’m afraid all the evidence that we’ve seen so far on Randstad’s performance in delivering this contract suggests that this is a massive fake economy and that the former secretary of state [Gavin Williamson] erred in awarding this contract to Randstad.
“The question is whether the new Secretary of State [Nadhim Zahawi] will do anything about it. It seems very clear to us who are the frontline implementing organizations with the TNP that Randstad simply does not have the capacity or the competence to deliver this program effectively.
He continued: “They are now desperately trying to rectify this and we are working closely with them… but there is a huge question mark as to whether it is fair for Randstad to continue to run this program for the full three years. . “
The committee heard that there was a termination clause in the three-year contract at the end of the first year – and the second – that could allow the DfE to bring in an alternative organization to lead the NTP.
When asked what the evidence was that Randstad did not have the skills to implement the program, Bent said, “Our day to day experience of working with them is that they just don’t have enough skills. staff or the right expertise. “
A meeting is scheduled with the education secretary on January 19, “but there is currently serious talk of co-creating a new organization – a non-profit entity – which could potentially take over the management of the PNT from September 1, 2022” Bent said.
When the NTP was first launched, it was managed by the Education Endowment Foundation. Under this program, schools choose from a list of approved tuition partners and pay 25% of the cost while the government bears the rest of the cost, although the grant level declines over the next three years.
The DfE maintains that the program is on track and the figure of 28,000 does not take into account the school-led tutoring component of the program, which is the most important component. The data will be released next year to update the progress.
The DfE said: “The NTP is on track to reach hundreds of thousands more students this year, as part of a significant expansion to give schools more flexibility to offer tutoring that works for them and for families, and ensuring that no child is left behind. We have set high standards for the program and feedback from schools shows the positive impact it has in helping students catch up. “
Randstad said, “We are working closely with schooling partners to deliver an ambitious, high-quality program, at a steady pace, to help students whose education has been impacted the most. We absolutely recognize the importance of the program and take the responsibility of managing it very seriously. We are working closely with all of our stakeholders to provide further information and support throughout the program.
“We have received positive feedback from a large number of tuition partners on the support we have provided. Schools have also given positive feedback on the quality and impact that the program is already having. We are working hard to capitalize on this success and move forward collaboratively to ensure that high quality, targeted tutoring reaches the students who need it most. “