Registering for the CCS Framework for supply teachers?  Time to get your skates on!

 The Government will be closing its list of preferred recruitment consultants for state schools for two years – so there’s no time to lose, says Sarah Johnston, Managing Director of payroll provider ePayMe

 If you provide supply teachers, then you should know all about the extension of the CCS Framework to cover the recruitment of supply teachers – but just in case you don’t, here’s a quick recap.

The Crown Commercial Service (CCS) is a UK Government agency which helps public sector bodies with their procurement. It advises its customers – hospitals, universities and colleges, the NHS, charities and schools – on making the right choice of supplier for over £12 billion of spend each year, helping save taxpayer’s money by improving government commercial and procurement activity.   One of the ways it operates is via Frameworks, which are sets of pre-tendered contracts that offer a range of approved suppliers from whom public sector customers can purchase goods and services. The CCS Framework scheme has been operating in the education sector for some time, covering equipment, maintenance building works and the like: but it has now been extended to cover the sourcing of supply teachers (temporary teachers).  Perhaps the most pressing issue here is that the Government has said it will only be signing up 134 agencies, and that once it hits that threshold, the register will then close to new applications for a period of up to four years.

So recruitment agencies which have been providing schools with large numbers of supply teachers over the past few years now face the issue of whether they jump through the hoops to get onto the CCS Framework list, which will involve quite a lot of work (more on that later) or run the risk of not being on it. How big a risk that will be is, as I’ve said, unclear, as we don’t know how many schools plan to use the CCS’s list of approved suppliers.  It might have been better for all concerned if the Government had made it compulsory for all state schools to use the CCS Framework register!

One of the big challenges for schools when it comes to supply teachers is that many agencies will charge a significant premium if an education establishment likes a supply teacher and wants them to become a permanent member of staff. According to the Times Educational Supplement, the fees imposed on schools when offering permanent roles to temporary supply teachers provided by recruitment agencies can reach five figures – up to 20% of their salaries. The CCS framework aims to reduce this cost by forcing agencies to charge a school nothing for recruiting a supply teacher to a permanent role if they have been working for the establishment for three months or more.  Great news for schools, who need every good teacher they can get, and great news for the teachers, as it will become more affordable for schools to take them on full time. Bad news for recruitment agencies, who run the risk of losing good supply teachers for nothing, hitting their bottom line.  Every school registered to CCS will save money when working with a similarly registered agency, which is what the government recommends.  Suppliers are audited and accredited to show they have the best practice standards in education recruitment. They will all be expected to have consistent Terms and Conditions and costs that are clear as possible.

Frameworks can also be used to hire employees on fixed-term appointments, who will be paid via the school’s payroll but have a fixed end date to their employment. It also ensures that temporary workers from registered agencies have been background screened to the robust standards outlined in “Keeping Children Safe in Education.” But because not all agencies will join the framework, schools could be restricted in terms of choice of supply teachers available under the scheme. What’s more, CCS-registered agencies are unlikely to offer their best teachers through the framework for fear of losing them to permanent employment without any compensation.

It’s one of those Government ideas which sounds great, but needs fine-tuning, however, let’s assume that there are agencies out there that do want to get on the CCS Framework register. Perhaps they already work closely with lots of schools providing temporary teachers, or perhaps they think they’d like to break into the market. Don’t forget, the CCS Framework system has been working in the health sector for some time now, so there will be agencies which know what it’s all about and have weighed up the costs and the benefits.  But if you are an agency considering applying for a place on the CCS Framework register, then there is one important thing you need to be aware of: one of the criteria for being allowed onto the CCS Framework register is that you have a “compliant supply chain”. What that means is that you must be sure that all of the people who supply you with the services you need to be able to work with schools and provide them with temporary teaching staff must follow strict codes of conduct and ethics.

You need to be looking for membership of the relevant professional bodies and adherence to strict Codes of Conduct. In our sector, payroll, that means ideally membership of a body such as the APSCO, or accreditation from a recognised professional standards scheme such as the Professional Passport Approved. Obviously, the different companies in your supply chain will have different trade bodies and accreditation schemes, but you should definitely be asking them to show you the proof that they are trade body members and that they have gone through the relevant auditing processes.

Given how short the deadline is before the school gates slam shut, you’d better get your skates on if you want to be considered for the register.

Sarah Johnston is Managing Director of payroll provider ePayMe, which has considerable experience of working with the CCS Framework.

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