At the beginning of the summer, a court case between the Government and Simply Learning Tuition came to a close – and with it came a swathe of new rules which affect tutoring agencies and how they run.
At first, information was thin on the ground, and the guidance was almost impenetrable, but as more and more businesses are working to adjust their business models, and legal forms like Law Hound are putting together templated contracts and legal guidance, things are becoming a little clearer (not much, but we live in hope!)
I am no lawyer and have spent much of the past few months much like many tutors, going slightly boggle-eyed at the slim guidance and trying to work out how this legalese might look in practice. For guidance on the law I have found the Tutoring Association, and Law Hound to be the best sources of information, and heartily recommend them for questions of a legal nature.
As a team of virtual assistants, myself and my team are more focussed on how these new rules and guidance can be practically put into operation – what systems can be used to put them into place and how to reduce the manual labour involved in setting them up!
Below is a PDF which you can download with a broad checklist of practical tasks which any tutoring agency is going to need to check off before they can say that they’ve put the guidance into place – it’s a free download, go ahead and grab it by clicking the image – no email address required.
Let’s work through the points in a bit more detail:
Decide if you are working on the tutoring "business" or "agency" model.
This decision can ONLY be made by you, and you should make sure you read all guidelines before you do it. My recommendation is to work out if the model you are running at present falls under the definition of an agency, or a business – then decide if that is how you want to move forward, or not.
For many, the decision will rest on whether they want to pay VAT or not, since tutoring businesses that turn over more than the threshold, will be liable to pay this. You will also want to consider if letting go of control over invoicing on behalf of tutors, and being able to resolve disputes, along with other things over which you have up to now been in charge of, is something you can allow to be put into your tutors' hands - or if this is a deal-breaker for you. There are some fantastic resources available from Lawhound, which I heartily recommend.
Pull together your statutory information from your tutors
The new rules state that you must have compliance information on tutors who work with you – at the very least, proof of DBS and two references. Whether an agency or a business model, you will want to see proof of qualifications and have those on record – it’s all about making sure that you are as certain as you can be that your tutor is qualified and safe to work with a vulnerable person. You will therefore need to start asking your current tutors to provide this if you haven’t already, as well as putting systems into place to request this information from new tutors.
Work out how you're going to store the information
Following on from the previous point, you will now be storing confidential information about your tutors – you need to make sure this is done safely and securely, with GDPR rules at the forefront of your mind. I’ve been doing this by setting up a Single Central Record for my current clients using Airtable.
Decide on any systems you will need to make sure the new rules are adhered to
There is a lot of guidance to go through, and if you’ve been running your agency fairly manually up until now, you will be likely to want to use some automated systems, particularly when it comes to invoicing, which is now far more complex for tutors operating under the “agency” model. TutorCruncher is helping these businesses by offering the ability to send out one invoice which covers both agency and tutor, and which can be paid all at once via Stripe Connect, while complying with the new rules around agencies being unable to pay tutors directly.
Update your policies and procedures and publish them
You will very likely want to update your policies and standard operating procedures to take account of your new operating model. It is a good idea to log all the policies you have, along with any SOPs so you can check them off as you go along. These policies will form the backbone of your proof of compliance, should HMRC come knocking, so they will need to be checked over carefully! Why not update your safeguarding policies to take account of the new KCSIE '22 guidance while you're there?
Communicate the changes to your tutors
Tutors will be feeling confused and worried. Some of them are likely to be working for several different agencies, all of whom could be working on different models!
It is a good idea to create a handbook for them that details exactly how things work in your agency – include details about what you can and can’t do for them under your present operating system, links to policies and procedures and any resources you might have created for them (I’m making some templates for one client that their tutors can use to chase invoices for clients, or to give notice now that their agency is unable to do it for them).
They will really appreciate having a central resource to check.
Communicate the changes to your clients
Finally, if you are making changes that will affect parents (perhaps putting prices up to take account of VAT, or changing the invoicing model as an “agency” business, this will need to be communicated both to ‘old’ clients and new.
Decide how you are going to let your current clients know about the changes, and how you are going to adjust your onboarding process so that new clients are well informed from the get-go! If you don't have a formalised onboarding process, now is the time to develop one - I can help with that!
Distilling the work that needs to be done down to 7 points is perhaps over-simplifying what needs to be done – make no mistake that it is a great deal of work – some is strategic and involves you making decisions about the direction of the business, but a lot of it is administrative.
Why not pass this administrative load off to a team who specialises in education businesses? My team and I are all ex-teachers with a good understanding of the education sector and strong organisational skills – we can help you to implement all the systems and processes that result from your strategic decision-making!