Since my in-depth article analysing the NTP last November, a lot has changed.
Randstad have taken over from the EEF (Education Endowment Foundation) and NTP 2.0 should have fully been in place for the start of the new school year in England (this week), however that’s not the case.
Randstad’s new regime has had a rough start. Here you have a prime contractor (Randstad) who is both the manager of the NTP (the contractor of the suppliers) as well as a supplier itself (‘poacher turned gamekeeper’). This was always going to be a tricky conflict of interest and the DfE are not transparent about the oversight processes in Randstad’s NTP contract.
Today Randstad announced their new list of contracted tuition partners, with the provision that they will be adding additional accredited partners. While the list is incomplete, it contains 12 new providers along with 14 of the previous 33 suppliers. Now while some of the missing 19 will certainly be added, the omission will hurt their sales given that schools are already deep in planning for the new school year.
So its a bad start for NTP 2.0 and from what I can glean there are two main problems:
- Randstad demanded that suppliers agree to a non-negotiable contract to be completed by the close of business on August 25. According to the Tutors Association, this was so skewed in Randstad’s favour that they wrote to their members urging that ‘no organisation sign the contract’ because ’the contract contains terms that are very likely to be gravely prejudicial to your future business’
- The DfE’s 2.0 tender specified tools to ‘develop the market’ but Randstad has introduced an additional new system to match schools and tuition partners which has been reported to me as cumbersome and unnecessary, adding an extra layer of administration and therefore cost to schools.
One bright spot is that the DfE and Randstad (by proxy) are now highlighting the option for eligible schools to provide School Led Tutoring, so schools can eschew the whole NTP accredited supplier fiasco and hire tutors directly with the NTP funding ‘75% of the cost of locally-sourced tuition (based on average costs of tutoring) with schools contributing the remaining costs’. While the focus is on using this for up to 40% of Pupil Premium students, schools also have discretion to use this grant ‘to support tutoring for non-pupil premium students’. This was possible last year but mainly for 16-18 year old students and was not really promoted under the EEF. This is the flexible, school-led system that most schools in England wanted and the model chosen for the NTP-style government tuition programmes in K12 schools in Australia (New South Wales and Victoria).
Perhaps ten of the NTP 1.0 suppliers, like the highly regarded Third Space Learning, will be added over the coming weeks, but the government and DfE still have a problem. The slow transition from the EEF to Randstad has impacted on the investment and planning for both previous and potential suppliers. At least schools now have more choice and the initial list of suppliers shows that Randstad have sensibly broken with the EEF’s ideological opposition to the mainstream tuition sector.
At this stage I will hold off on the massive financial analysis of the real cost of NTP 2.0 and getting into the nitty gritty of the organisations behind the accredited suppliers. So NTP 2.0 doesn’t look like it will deliver exactly what the government, DfE and schools really want, but if Randstad is prepared to be a bit more flexible (and I think the signs are good) then we may soon see an even better NTP 2.1. Unusually optimistic for this writer, but then that’s something perhaps we all should be at the start of a new school year.