Education Secretary ‘strongly’ urges tutoring as senior MP questions Randstad contract

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi has written to headteachers ‘strongly’ urging them to embrace the government’s flagship tutoring scheme.

The news comes as a senior MP has suggested the government break its contract with Randstad, the Dutch company responsible for running the national tutoring scheme.

Mr Zahawi wrote to the Chiefs saying: ‘I strongly urge you to embrace this range of NTP support and maximize the opportunities available to you to support those pupils who most need extra help.’

He added that tutoring helps to build students’ “resilience and confidence” and that “we need each school to make maximum use of this offer to focus on the most effective approaches”.

Randstad has previously been criticized for providing an unwieldy online platform that schools can use to book private lessons.

“We are constantly improving our systems and have recently changed the registration process to reduce the administration required for schools,” Zahawi said.

“Our hope is to create a new and permanent part of the school system, providing the children who need it most an opportunity that has hitherto only been available to a few. I am grateful for your support in achieving this ambition.

The news comes as a senior MP said the government should ‘seriously consider’ breaking its contract with the provider of one of its flagship remedial education schemes.

Robert Halfon, chairman of the Commons Education Select Committee, said almost £5billion had been spent on the government’s education catch-up, but he feared “this funding could reach not the most vulnerable children in our communities”.

Writing for the Conservative Home website, he said more than 96% of schools in the South have committed to the government’s flagship program, the National Tutoring Program (NTP), which aims to help students recover learning lost due to the pandemic.

Only 50% of schools in the North have committed to it, he said.

He said the NTP, under contract with the Dutch company Randstad, “has the potential to be one of the largest interventions carried out to date” to support the recovery of pupils from the impact of the pandemic.

“And yet, despite significant investment, it is far from achieving its goals and it is not going far enough or moving fast enough,” he added.

“The government must review the contract with Randstad and seriously consider enacting the break clause. If Randstad can’t improve their game, it’s time to say goodbye.

In January, the Education Committee heard from headteachers that remedial tutors provided by Randstad were of “inconsistent” quality and not always “very good with children”.

In December 2021, Nick Bent, chief executive of Tutor Trust, one of the partners providing tutoring in schools under Randstad, told MPs that Randstad did not have “enough staff or the right expertise” and that there were “problems” with the tuition center. .

“There are huge problems with the tech hub that is supposed to organize all the tutoring and some of us still refuse to use this hub because it is so dysfunctional,” he added.

Mr Halfon drew attention to the fact that only 8% of tutoring sessions this year have started out of a target of 524,000.

He also warned that the notice issued for the exams, issued on Monday, could benefit more advantaged students.

Pupils have been given advance notice of the topics covered in some of their GCSE and A-level exams to help ease the disruption to their education caused by the pandemic.

Mr Halfon said: “We know that more than 13,000 children in exam period have mostly not returned to school.

‘Thus a system has been created in which advantaged pupils will benefit from the prior notice, but their less well-off peers will struggle. Additionally, we risk ignoring the 13,000 pupils in A-Level and GCSE classes who have not returned to school at all.

A Randstad spokesperson said: “More than 300,000 support programs were provided to students through the national tutoring program during the first term of the school year, demonstrating our continued commitment to closing the gap. in lost learning. We continue to work at a brisk pace to implement the national tutoring program, supporting students whose education has been most affected by the pandemic. »

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “We are not surprised that Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi is now resorting to pleas to get schools to join the National Tutoring Scheme.

“The problem is that the concept is inherently flawed. The logistics of arranging sessions and informing private tutors are difficult, and many schools decide they prefer to use their own staff, who already know their students and their needs.

“However, the government has invested considerable public funds and political capital in the National Tutoring Scheme and is now desperately trying to make it work.”

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