How to Create a Service Agreement with a Teacher
I had a conversation recently with someone interested in offering tutoring classes and an entire course through our Portal, but weren’t sure how to offer an official course, or set out the service agreement.
As a result, I thought I would write this article, offering my tried and tested and true advice for creating positive and effective service agreements for teachers and tutors. I have refined my service agreement process through years of teaching English internationally on 4 continents, and offer some tips at the end to avoid problems with your service agreements.
Should you use a Contract or a Service Agreement?
I have signed a number of contracts with International Schools as well as service agreements with parents for tutoring services and the main difference in my mind was that the contract was a legal instrument needed to get a working VISA and the other was not.
In theory, you are better protected legally if you have a contract, but it can cost you more in legal fees and lawyers fees to get a contract issue addressed that you could earn from getting paid for your teaching services so often a service agreement will suffice. Both a service agreement and a contract are agreements, in essence, and you want them to be clear enough to AVOID issues, not need to use them in a court of law. If it gets to the court stage, usually no one ‘wins’.
Contracts are necessary and useful in school contexts or when teaching in person classroom settings or when large amounts of money are involved.
The topics normally included in a contract can be covered just as well in a service agreement.
For tutoring, and after school courses I taught over the years, I used a service agreement.
First I will talk about contract components you will want to include if you choose to go the contract route, and then I will discuss service agreements.
The International teaching contracts I have signed are comparable to the kinds of teaching service contracts many will want to create when offering educational pods, or courses offered through our portal.
While the Life Force Education Portal is not responsible for any financial or contractual or service agreement arrangements made between parents and educators, here are some tips to help things go well.
There are many contract templates and samples out there. The contracts I have signed that were approved by legal teams in the International Schools I have worked for included the following sections:
1. Title – includes the names of both parties A and B (e.g. ‘Teaching Employment Contract between Party A, Jo Smith and Party B, the Institute of ….’).
2. Position – description of the teaching position and subject area
3. Place of Work – whether online, or in-person teaching, and the physical address of the ‘class location’
4. Term/Period of employment – give the exact start and end date of the contract period, often a year less one day. Include the date the agreement starts as well as the start of the first class taught.
5. Duties – you may wish to refer to an ‘attachment’ that lists the course particulars and deliverables, and a schedule of classes and topics to be covered in each class
6. Salary – include the grade on a pay scale if this is a contract that you expect to renew each year with the same party. List the payment amounts, taxes, and payment dates.
7. Benefits – include any amounts to be paid for health care premiums or professional development expenses and teaching materials.
8. Sick Leave and Personal Leave – decide ahead of time how many missed classes by the teacher for any reason is considered grounds for cancelling the agreement without further payment. You can also simply acknowledge that at times there are events outside the personal control of a teacher that prevent them from teaching (death in the family, serious illness and hospitalization, natural disasters and emergency situations) and that you will suspend classes until such time that teaching can resume, with no financial consequences.
Also include these parameters if the student is not able to attend classes for a prolonged period of time.
9. Late and Missed Classes- list what happens if if the teacher or student is late (e.g. class instruction time to make up for the loss will be provided for the following week). Be explicit about what happens if a student has attendance issues (e.g. how many classes can they miss before the contract is cancelled, or what percentage of class time can be missed in total).
10. Laws that must be observed
11. Termination of agreement– list how each party can end the agreement (e.g. either party my give notice to terminate this teaching agreement for any reason with 30 days written notice; funds paid for instruction time that has not been provided will be refunded in full)
12. Video surveillance and zoom class footage– it is useful to explain that all online classes will be recorded by both the teacher and the student for quality assurance and insurance purposes. This is for the protection of both the teacher and the student regarding unprofessional behaviour or inappropriate teaching materials.
13. Frustration of Contract – In the event that the ability of the teacher to perform their agreed upon duties is limited, directly or indirectly, by natural disaster or an Act of God, act of public enemy, war or social upheaval, acts of governments both foreign and domestic or shortages, this agreement shall be suspended and ended, without a breach of agreement or penalty to either party, with written notice by either party to the other.
14. Code of conduct – this details the behaviour and professional performance expected by the teacher AND the student. Teachers should be clear on the behaviour they wish to see and what will happen if the student is not cooperative or wiling to learn, and how this will be determined.
15. Breach of Contract (e.g. whether either of the two parties fails to fulfill this contract/ service agreement, the penalty shall be 1 month’s salary to take into account the inconvenience caused to Party A or B.)
16. Confidentiality and Ownership of Materials created for the course ( or purchased for teaching purposes – not pirated or copyrighted materials)
17. Copying of materials and provision of materials – include who is responsible for buying and providing teaching and student materials, and the allowable budget for teachers materials if the parents agree to pay for them
18. Travel allowances or field trip allowances and other expenses
19. Signature section
A Service Agreement is similar, but less formal, and usually
Here are some of the common situations tutors face that could and should be addressed in advance in a service agreement or contract.
What are your attendance requirements? It is easier to miss classes when they are online than if they are taught in person. How many absences are acceptable to you? I recommend setting up text message alerts as well as email alerts 1 day, 4 hours and 10 minutes before class is to start.
How much money, if any, should be paid to secure a spot in a class? Is it refundable if a student decides not to take the class?
What is the maximum number of students allowed in class? Parents will want to know this in advance. In my experience, no more than 12, and ideally just 6 students are in a zoom class online, to enable all students an adequate chance to engage and participate and see others on the screen and therefore feel accountable and included in the class.
Will you allow one or two free classes to help both the teacher and the student decide if this course is a good fit for them? I would not accept payment for a class until I had decided I wanted to teach that student. Sometimes the parents wanted the child to take a class they child did not want to take, and in those situations, it never worked out well. The student either performed poorly and the parents were dissatisfied, or the student dropped out. Always have the student discuss and sign agreement to a code of conduct and set learning goals for themselves , and how they will measure achievement of them, to increase engagement and the chance of success.
What happens if a student or teacher becomes ill for a long period of time?
How will you demonstrate to the parents that the child is learning what is being taught? I usually included as an attachment the course curriculum and how I would assess the students progress, and details of the projects and marking rubrics I would use so everyone was clear on what I would teach and the measures of progress.
What is mutually agreeable in terms of behaviour management of the student? The teacher is advised to share with the parents how they like to keep order and manage behaviour of students, and explain the code of conduct expected from the students.
Will the parents be supervising the class? With online learning, I and many other teachers noticed that it is only possible to teach 10% to 25% of what can be taught in an ‘in-person’ class setting, and students suffer fatigue from constantly staring at the screen, so frequent breaks are necessary. To help them sustain their attention, it helps to have parents supervising in the background. Parents need to be explicitly asked to supervise; it doesn’t usually happen otherwise, and online teachers can feel more like babysitters of young children than teachers unless this is discussed at the beginning of the course.
At the minimum, I recommend that you ensure all classes are recorded by both the teacher and student, as evidence to discuss in a parent teacher meeting if necessary.
Make sure you provide both the teacher and the parents with a way to end the agreement (e.g. with 30 days written notice, for any reason) to avoid hard feelings later on. Sometimes a child loses interest in a course and there is no point in continuing, or sometimes the teacher struggles too much to manage or can’t connect with the child well enough to teach them, and it’s better to part ways with no financial penalty to either party.
Another area to address thoroughly is the cancellation policy. Parents usually don’t want to pay for classes their child has missed, so be clear about this in advance.
I used to allow no financial penalty if a class was cancelled with more than 24 hours and and rescheduled within that week. If it was a last minute cancellation because of forgetting there was a class, the parent was charged the full amount. If it was a car accident or sudden emergency, I would be more lenient. I always allowed 1 week at the end of the original ‘end date’ for a course for extra ‘make up classes’ to happen. My goal was to provide a guaranteed number of class instruction hours taught within a set period of time, not be a stickler to a schedule. If I had to cancel a class on a student, I would offer 2 hours of instruction time to help make up for the inconvenience.
When will payments be made? I found it essential to make up a payment chart, showing the deposit, the date of the classes and when payment were due.
If teaching a 6 week long class, I took a 50% deposit to hold a spot, then the remaining 50% was due half way through at the 3 week mark. By then my students usually had finished one project and there was ample evidence that the student was learning.
If teaching a 3 month long class, I would take a lesser amount as a deposit, and then require a commitment for full payment, payable monthly, at the start of each month. In China, the parents had no problem paying the full amount in advance for my courses, so it is a good idea to discuss payment plan options with the parents you are working with and come to an agreement of the amounts payable and dates payable before classes start.
I would only offer a full refund if a student did not meet the attendance requirements within the first 30 days or wished to withdraw from classes. After that, only partial refunds were available. I have to say that no one ever dropped out after the first month, or asked for a refund. I believe this was because I was very clear on the course content to be taught and how it would be evaluated, so progress was evident . Also, I made the classes fun, by adding in a lot of review games and imaginative activities.
I hope these tips help you get off on the right track to setting up your Service Agreements and Contracts, and help you forge positive relationships with those you are working with.