In the sea with the commercialists for 'flexible' teachers
School boards in primary and secondary education have entered into 'partnerships' for many years with commercial employment and secondment agencies such as Roler, Monday or Randstad for the hiring of flexible teaching staff. “A short-term solution that will only make the problem worse in the longer term.”
Commercial cowboy agencies that rank teachers four or five steps higher, promise a better travel allowance, a lease car or other extras, and put the bill plus a hefty margin on the higher education institution. And if it gets too much for one school leader, another might say yes. They are excesses of the exhausted and over-demanded labor market for teachers, especially in the Randstad. A question of supply and demand, the teacher shortage as a revenue model.
“The temporary employment sector was able to make good use of shortages in the labor market by charging hefty prices,” says Wiely Hendricks, chairman of the board of The Hague Schools, a foundation with about 52 students at XNUMX primary schools. “And by charging hefty prices, they were able to offer interesting jobs for teachers. The margins rose to about fifty or sixty percent. And what I also didn't like: if a school wanted to take over a teacher, hefty takeover prices were paid, sometimes thousands of euros. Because the need for replacements is so great all over our area, they were able to play schools against each other.”
29 school boards in the regions of The Hague and Rotterdam submitted a huge European tender for the hiring of flexible staff with a combined value of more than 116 million euros excluding VAT for four years
That situation is a thing of the past, argues Hendricks. At least, for the 29 school boards in the regions of The Hague and Rotterdam that jointly participated in a European tender for the hiring of flexible staff. An unprecedentedly large tender in education land, with a combined where the*The estimated (maximum) value is usually based on expenditure in previous years and is not a turnover guarantee for agencies. An overview of the value for each of the 29 school boards in this large joint tender can be found here . of more than 116 million euros excluding VAT for four years, of which more than 14 million for The Hague Schools† Five commercial employment and secondment agencies were contracted in 2020 for a period of two years, with the option to extend to four years. Agreements have also been made to bring the remuneration and other employment conditions of the temporary employment teacher in line with the regular collective labor agreement for primary education – although neither Hendrikcs nor his head of P&O indicate exactly what a hired teacher costs.
An important, intended by-catch of this construction, Hendricks hopes: that smaller margins allow commercial offices to exert less attraction on teachers. But at the same time, the school boards will be working with them again for years, doesn't that hurt? Hendricks: “For years we used to employ enough people and were able to use our substitute pool, but that has also run out. The teacher shortage is huge, you just can't make it with the normal supply. Using employment agencies is not a sin, it is a labor market concept that is sometimes simply necessary and convenient. Also because you are not tied to any obligations and run no risks.”
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In the tight labor market, commercial staff landlords have a powerful position. This is causing great concern in political circles in The Hague, where a majority of the parties adopted motions to limit the leakage of education funds as much as possible. The Education magazine made an inventory of public, European tenders in the past two years and spoke with school administrators and market parties. Update: SP and GroenLinks have Parliamentary questions made pursuant to this article.
Last summer, the Limburgs Secondary Education Foundation (LVO) awarded a tender for 'non-salaried staff' with an estimated annual turnover of 1,5 million euros including VAT – teachers, teaching assistants and other support functions up to scale 9 – to Monday, Randstad and Roler. . The framework agreement will in any case last for four years, with the option to eventually extend it to six years. This hiring is necessary to be able to fill temporary gaps in the occupation, according to board chairman Eugène Bernard, such as in the event of illness, pregnancy or open vacancies. Why can't they be collected internally? “Occasionally this also happens, for example when tasks can be redistributed within a section. But that is often not possible or only possible to a limited extent and then you are soon finished talking. You have to look for a solution from outside.”
For the record: European tenders are required by law above a threshold value of 215 thousand euros. There is also room for interpretation in those rules and there was a gray area that was tolerated, but in recent years it has been more closely monitored. Tenders are time-consuming procedures that school boards often also outsource, so that intermediaries – in this case Purchasing Consultancy BIC – also earn a living.
With the intended duration of the collaboration, LVO is committed to a 'close partnership' with the commercial offices. †Then it is not proportional to maximize the duration at 48 months. In order to keep this tender sufficiently attractive for SMEs, a period longer than 48 months has been chosen', the tender documentation states. Bernard: “The expectation is that we will continue to need this external hire in the coming years. And we outsource to multiple parties so that we are not dependent on a single market party. We are now not at the mercy of the supply and demand mechanisms in the market with exorbitant rates. And because the risk lies with the market parties, you pay a little extra for that. That's how it works, risk costs money."
“Because the risk lies with the market parties, you pay a little extra for that. That's how it works, risk costs money”
The Gooise Schools Federation also contracted an agency for the flexible hiring of staff for a period of possibly six years: the first two years, with the option to extend twice for two years. Estimated annual value: 1,4 million euros excluding VAT per year, 1,1 million of which for the hiring of teachers. “At the moment it is mainly about filling temporary vacancies”, says board member Tijmen Smit.
In addition, the school group wants to examine the “strategic personnel policy” with Randstad – the party that was contracted – in view of the long-term tight labor market. “We want to look together at what the workforce could look like in the future. You see that there are not enough people for certain subjects and that a market is emerging in which teachers are graded higher for those deficient subjects. This has been reinforced with the National Education Programme, it is almost impossible to find good teachers in deficient subjects. We are not going to hand over the personnel policy.”
Until mid-January, the Roelof van Echten College had opened a tender round for a European tender for the hiring of 'flexible staff' – estimated value of 250 to 310 thousand euros including VAT per year. This mainly concerns teachers, according to the documentation. It also states: 'If a candidate cannot be found for a vacancy, the temporary employment structure will be used. Flexible workers are given an agreement for a minimum of 4 months and a maximum of one school year.'
“Deficit courses cause the biggest problems in completing the occupation”, explains head of operations Ronnie Geuzinge. Then you have to think of the exact subjects, or for example French. “Of course we prefer not to hire through an agency, because that increases the cost price. We only do that if we really can't find anyone. Apparently there are lecturers who do not respond to a vacancy, but who do choose to let themselves be hired through an agency.” But if you go into business with such an agency, you keep that situation intact, right? “That may well be the case, but shouldn't you have a subject taught because you don't have anyone in front of the class?”
“Shouldn't you have a subject taught because you don't have anyone in front of the class?”
In the tender documents, the school noted:The Roelof van Echten College makes use of the legal position possibilities as much as possible to maintain the temporality. The reason for this is to be able to move along with the occupancy per school year and to be able to absorb any shrinkage.Geuzinge explains: “The north is a shrinking region, luckily we are still quite stable as a school. We are doing everything we can to remain attractive as a region. But that contraction will come, also with us.”
A replacement pool of secondary schools is not feasible because of the powers, according to LVO chairman Bernard. This was once investigated at his previous workplace, the largest employer in secondary education, Ons Middelbaar Onderwijs (OMO). “You cannot replace a Greek teacher for six hours with a physics teacher. Because of this fragmentation, such a pool is not feasible.”
It is inevitable that education money will leak to commercial service providers, says Bernard. He finds the political fuss about this exaggerated. “If I may also be a bit demagogic: money is also leaking away to plumbers and painting companies. We sincerely try to spend every dollar on education. But this tender we're talking about doesn't even account for one percent of our total personnel expenditure. What are you worried about?”
“Plumbers and painters are not involved in the primary process”, responds AObdriver Jelmer Evers outraged. “That is really something completely different. I find the increase in temporariness, flex and temporary employment structures for teaching staff extremely problematic.” Even if a school board has made price agreements to combat the excesses of the teacher shortage? “Then they are still making the problem worse. They are making these commercial parties increasingly important and are only becoming more dependent on them. It is a form of privatization and commercialization. A short-term solution that only makes the problem worse in the long run. That way you don't build a strong profession. All this temporariness is disastrous for professional autonomy: you don't stick your neck out when your contract ends soon.”
“All this temporariness is disastrous for professional autonomy: you don't stick out your neck when your contract ends soon”
Evers continues: “It really has to change and that is where school boards have a great responsibility. And when they say: we have our backs against the wall… then I would rather we all close the schools and put our shoulders to the wheel together to really sail a new course. Raid pools should be setting up your audience and once those have all dried up you should invest it higher. Then we all have to go to The Hague. If we don't do anything, this will continue.”
School boards have set up such a collaborative pool in Amsterdam public primary education. The Broad Selection tries to recruit teachers by addressing them about what makes employment agencies attractive to some: flexibility. “You can come to us at schools throughout the city. Some of the teachers would like to work in this way, for example to discover what suits them. Ultimately, we see that after a while teachers stay at a school that they like," says chairman of the board Arnold Jonk of Samen Tussen Amstel en IJ, a foundation for public education of eighteen schools.
'Fair pay' and From and for the schools' emphasizes De Brede Selection on its website: 'No profit motive.' A public counterpart to the commercial staffing industry. “I am not against commercial agencies. They also play a role. And we can learn from it. They are very good at recruiting, that is their expertise. If you register, you can go the next day and a folder is already ready. You would sometimes hear from us: in three weeks we have time," says Jonk. “We really do that differently now. If we do it right, we will make commercial agencies obsolete. That, of course, is the goal.”
“If we do it right, we will make commercial agencies redundant. That is of course the goal”
Amsterdam primary education is also struggling with the excesses of the acute teacher shortage. “In conversation with commercial agencies, for example, we said: we want to pay as much as possible. And then we heard back: we don't commit ourselves to anything, because there is always a school where we can still go. And in the meantime we also saw that there were agencies that, on the one hand, increase the problem by removing people with a higher classification and then coming to us with the solution.” School boards have now mutually agreed to cap the rates charged to external agencies in order to put a stop to excesses: 55 to 65 euros. Although the practice is sometimes unruly. “I get it too. You will only be a school leader and you will not be able to find anyone, and you will also have extra money from the NPO. Then I understand that you think: then you pay a little more, then it is solved.”
In the meantime, colleagues in The Hague and Rotterdam see something that could well be an unintended side effect of price agreements, after the large, joint tender of 29 school boards. “We see that agencies are struggling to provide staff. They are now also faced with a major shortage," said Hendricks board chairman of The Hague Schools. And at the same time, it wouldn't surprise him if agencies prefer to offer their teachers to other schools that are not included in the tender. “They can now earn less from us, so we have become less attractive. There is always a price you pay.”
Examples of tenders
|Board||Year award||contracted||Estimated size||Duration|
|Roelof van Echten Foundation||2022||Not yet awarded / known||€250.000-€310.000 incl. VAT per year||Max 4 years: first 2 years, with option to extend twice for 1 year|
|ZAAM . Foundation||2021||Randstad Uitzendbureau bv||€900.000 excl. VAT per year||Max 6 years: first 1 year, with option to extend 1 times XNUMX year.|
|Limburg Secondary Education Foundation||2021||Monday Interim Professionals BV, Randstad Uitzendbureau BV, Roler Personnel Services II BV||€1,5 million incl. VAT per year||Max 6 years: first four years, with option to extend twice for one year|
|Gooise Schools Federation||2021||Randstad Uitzendbureau BV||€1,4 million excl. VAT per year||Max 6 years: first 2 years, with option to extend twice for 2 years|
|Almere Schools Group||2021||Driessen BV||€1,6 million incl. VAT per year||Max 6 years: first 2 years, with option to extend four times for 1 year|
|C.S.G. Liudger||2021||Daan BV||€600.000 per year excl. VAT||Max 6 years: first 1 year, with option to extend five times for 1 year|
|29 school boards in The Hague/Rotterdam region||2020||Education Post, THIS IS WIJS Personeelsdiensten BV, Monday Interim Professionals BV, Derec BV, Onze Leerkracht Rotterdam BV||Added together €116,2 million excl. VAT over four years||Max 4 years: first 2 years, with option to extend twice for 1 year (until December 31, 2024)|
The Education magazine approached four employment and secondment agencies. Monday did not respond to a request for an interview.
“We have a lot of demand from schools”
"A school leader who panics and calls around on Monday morning to arrange a replacement, you would prefer to avoid that situation," says Berbel Vervat, business unit director at the secondment agency. Roler Personnel Services† “That is why it is important to make agreements up front at board level. Then school leaders know where to go for these services. This is how I see our work: as a service that matters.”
Roler second about 110 teachers and support staff to schools in primary and secondary education. This is explicitly not a short-term replacement, but for periods from four months. “At the beginning of the school year, it often concerns the period up to Christmas. And after the Christmas holidays, schools usually want someone until the summer holidays.” This can be maternity replacement, but also teachers who are hired for the rest of the school year to fill vacancies in primary education or shortages in secondary education. “We get a lot of questions from schools anyway. In regions where the shortage is greatest, such as Rotterdam, we are unable to fulfill all requests. The teacher shortage is clearly noticeable, also for us.”
What does Vervat think of school boards working together against commercial agencies that demand the top prize? “It's good to work together. I also think that education should become more accustomed to external hiring. The demand for schools is enormous. It is healthy that this question can be partly answered by an external party with a professional view of your flexible layer. It is something that comes with it, just like in healthcare.”
“There is a negative image around external agencies”
“There is often a negative image around external agencies. We want to work with school boards, not compete with them. We do not approach teachers who are already in their place at a school. With us, a teacher is not classified higher than the most recent salary scale.” Said Frank Voskuil, director of the secondment agency This is wise.
This is wise says to deploy about three hundred teachers and teachers in schools in primary education, of which about eighty percent in primary education. The teacher shortage plays a major role in external hiring, and the National Education Program goes a long way on top of that. “Then you think of extra supervision, teaching in smaller groups. If you completely flatten it, you just need more capacity in schools.” And the requested capacity far exceeds the supply.
The situation is urgent in the regions of The Hague and Rotterdam, where 29 school boards jointly contracted five commercial agencies through a European tender, including Dit is Wijs. “I understand that school boards make agreements up front to sideline market parties with cowboy practices. The reality is that we and that other contracted parties cannot cope with it either because of the teacher shortages. The demand is simply too great for us to meet. And then the back door is open again for school directors to hire staff through other parties.”
This is Wij also likes to think along with you about how to shape education with limited manpower, argues Voskuil. “We are strong in organizing differently. Such as a technique teacher who, for example, starts working with children in a different way on a regular Thursday. We help ensure that no classes are sent home. And it also contributes to the talent development of children.”
“Recruitment is a profession”
“We are seeing a shift in which school boards are calling on us more often for recruitment and selection. It is difficult to find people, you can invest a lot of time as a school organization or you can outsource it. Recruitment is a profession, for us it is daily work. Many schools do not have this specialist knowledge in-house," says Tamara Petter, business development manager and sales manager at Randstad† The agency deploys an average of 721 temporary workers per week in all sectors of education, about one third of whom are teachers. The average deployment time of a teacher/lecturer is 18 weeks. “We never actively recruit from school boards. For example, we are looking for people in promising professions whom we can guide to education as lateral entrants, or people from education who are at home on unemployment benefits.”
You will not encounter excesses such as at cowboy agencies at Randstad, says Petter. “I honestly think it's a bad thing if these practices take place. As temporary employment agencies, also from the ABU (Algemene Bond Uitzendondernemingen, ed.), we have been working for years to create awareness about this.”
A shorter version of this story can be found in the February issue of the Education Magazine. Also read the article: Flex addiction puts pressure on educational quality from the January issue.