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FrameStar Education Moscow - experiences

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Joined: 19 Jan 2017
Posts: 31

PostPosted: Tue Jan 24, 2017 10:49 am    Post subject: FrameStar Education Moscow - experiences Reply with quote

Hi everyone, just thought I would share what working for this relatively new agency (circa 2012/2013) is like for anyone looking for work in Moscow.

In a nutshell - DON'T WORK FOR THEM.

It's owned by a woman called Ksenia, and her recently former UK husband, Rick (they recently divorced), marketed as a school in job advertisements but is in actual fact just an agency where they hire teachers and find them students whilst taking a cut of the price the student pays.

The payment system is relatively straightforward - the student pays a sign up fee (quite a hefty one usually) and signs a contract for lets say 20 lessons. Lessons start from around the 3500/90 minutes, including sign up fee, for classes held within the brown circle line, increasing with distance from there and from any metro station (e.g. a 5 minute walk from a metro stop is cheaper than a 10 minute bus ride). Students then also pay what essentially equates to roughly 50% of the total cost of each lesson directly to the teacher in cash, and they sign a sheet for each lesson.

For example, a student who is studying right by Universitet metro (Moscow State University area) would be paying 3900 per 2ac lesson (times that by 20, 78000rub total), and would give 2200 to the teacher each lesson. So the company would have a 44% cut from the total cost. This percentage can vary.

However, times have been changing, and now all students pay only 1500rub to the teacher regardless of how far away they are from the centre or a metro station, and the remainder is held by the company management. So the company in the above case would hold 700rub per lesson from the teacher, then pay the arrears on the 10th of every following month (so if this was all done in January, arrears would be paid 10th February). Before this, it was just 500rub less than the total teacher's expected price (1700 in this case), but the company is now ensuring they have even greater control of the money that is meant to go to teachers, and will actually go to great lengths to withhold it if they deem someone unfriendly or untrustworthy etc, even if teachers have a valid reason to get it.

So that's the payment bit mentioned, they market themselves as a school with a salary (as of Sept '16) of 1600GBP a month, and claim most people will have classes in their centrally located office. It was once a 10-15 minute walk from Dmitrovskaya metro, which is NOT in the centre, then had a brief stint behind Mendeleyevskaya metro, but is now located near Paveletskaya metro, with the 1st office being a bit too hard to find, and the 2nd office causing problems at security for everyone. And in the last few months, they even expanded their office to THREE rooms, instead of two, to try and get more people in there (with varying success). As for the salary...well...the only 'measure' in place is that if a student cancels within 24 hours, they must pay the teacher their fee. And recently, it was made a rule that any lesson missed still counts to their contract, thus they can actually get LESS lessons than they paid for. What a rip off!

The reality is, most employees will end up traipsing up, down and across Moscow at all hours, with some unfortunately having to venture out into Moscow region, either by public transport or having a driver pick them up from the metro. This also leads to poor scheduling, as one can have lengthy gaps between classes which are long enough to do something but short enough to prevent going home (depending on where the classes are and where the teacher lives). In turn, this equates to some pretty lengthy working days. Normal for Moscow, yes, but unfortunately management never seem to ever fully understand this, as they themselves live around Dmitrovskaya and are very begrudging to ever go far themselves. Particularly when it comes to giving teachers their "salary" (as they call it)

When a new student wants to sign up, they "choose" a teacher, in most cases it's true, but sometimes they just get lumped with someone who is available at the time the student requests. The teacher then must do an unpaid 45 minute trial lesson with the secretary, Ekaterina (or Ksenia is she is unavailable), after which the teacher leaves and Ekaterina continues to discuss the contract etc. These trials can also last longer depending on how it goes. Anything that falls flat and ends up being shorter upsets Ekaterina. And these trials can easily be organised with minimal notice, so if one had plans, they must be scrapped to do the trial, no matter what.

As the previous paragraph may suggest, teachers are essentially expected to be at the beck and call of management at all times. Even if all students have cancelled for a day (thus giving a teacher a free day, of which only 1 is scheduled per week!), if management need you, you must go. They won't consider anything else you may be doing like appointments etc.

When it comes to relationships between management, students and teachers, it's the teacher-student relationship that flowers the most, and also the most disregarded within the company. Ekaterina will quite happily make suggestions to students that suit neither them or the teacher, even if the teacher has previously given suitable alternatives. It MUST suit Ekaterina for it to work. And honestly, Rick and Ksenia very rarely ever do much to resolve anything unless it's Ekaterina complaining about it. Alas, management have little grasp on the reality of what goes on within the lessons or between students and teachers. They have even been against the idea of teachers continuing their classes via Skype (to which students agreed) while they were renewing their visas!

As a result, Ekaterina has been branded as being rude and unprofessional by teachers and students alike. There was a girl and her mother who were taught by 2 separate teachers (the mother needed a Russian speaking teacher, whereas the girl didn't). The mother's teacher had a bad time with having to tell the mother they were going on holiday without being informed by Ekaterina, then got injured then ultimately ill, and stopped teaching the mother. This teacher was replaced by someone else, who complained constantly that for 2 lessons a week, it involved spending ELEVEN HOURS A WEEK just to do them, which was a huge lie, and management got rid of the mother for this teacher, who now has her 3rd teacher within 3 months. Ekaterina ultimately told the mother that the first teacher "didn't want to teach her anyway". This resulted in the mother complaining to her daughter's teacher (completely unrelated to this matter) for ages and wasting her daughter's time. Said teacher mentioned Ekaterina's unprofessionalism to Ksenia, only to get the response of "does it affect your teaching?"

Rick was also known for organising 'social events', in which the teachers paid for themselves. I believe only once did he pay for drinks for everyone, but on every other occasion, it was a very British 'you must pay for yourself' thing. In addition to bars and restaurants, he also organised karting once or twice, which is about 700rub per person. The third time he tried, he claimed it was going to cost 2000rub per person...a real moneygrabber. And absolutely no justification why the price was nearly triple what it was originally! Not to mention he once made a fuss over 200rub of change after one of the karting events.

Speaking of moneygrabbing, the company supposedly provides services like registration and airport pick ups. They do...but for a price. They tell new teachers AFTER they get into the taxi that THEY must pay for it themselves...and the registration they charge 4000rub for business visa teachers, and 9000rub for work visa teachers. Services which are actually otherwise FREE to do...they also no longer pay for the visas, so this comes up to an expense of about 800GBP a year. Americans simply use tourist visas, which is why the company only hires US and UK citizens (as Australian, Canadian, New Zealander, South African citizens would be too expensive to hire for them, and they never seem to hire Irish for whatever reason)

Even the teachers themselves are not so great. Almost none of them have a 'proper' qualification, usually just an online certificate, and are told to lie on their pages about their experience and qualifications. Rick himself claims to have 3 degrees and 8 years teaching experience before the age of 30, despite having been in Russia for 5 years at least. Some of the teachers have proven to be very antisocial, some have shown themselves as being incredibly boring and lie about themselves all the time to make themselves look better and some are snake-in-the-grass types who try to dig up dirt from others to get an advantage over them and brown-nose management for their own benefit. Because of several incidents of teachers leaving without notice, they are tightening things up and now segregating teachers once more, as they did until as recently as March last year, to prevent gossip spreading and isolating everyone, especially now almost no teacher speaks Russian, whereas previously, most of them did.

Furthermore, their webpage constantly shows people who haven't worked there for at least a year or more, just to make their own profile look better. Which of course makes them look bad should a student specifically request a teacher who hasn't been there for quite some time.

It should also be noted that Rick, Ksenia and Ekaterina are also rather narcissistic, with their constant selfies being uploaded onto Instagram (including scantily clad and topless photos), plus asking teachers to actually follow them on there! So much so that Ksenia made an Instagram page for her RABBIT, and posts to herself and Rick under that profile as if the rabbit was a real person. A 3 way conversation with 2 people, in effect. And these profiles are actually publicly available.

One final point, the labour contract. I've had several separate Russian lawyers specialising in employment verify that their labour contract is basically FAKE:

1) the notice period specified is 3 or 4 weeks, Russian Federation law dictates only TWO weeks is allowed.
2) the number of hours stated is 'no fewer than 40 academic hours' with a salary of 'at least 65000rub' both per month, and 30000 in the summer months. These numbers simply don't add up.
3) an 'exit visa' is specified in order to leave the country, which the company requests the employee gives them their passport in order to finalise this. Russia doesn't have such a system per se.
4) there's other general nonsense in it which I can't recall off the top of my head.

They rely on British stiff upper lips and hope that they won't cause a problem, even if there are serious problems going on, and know that most won't know much about visas or country specific laws, thus use that to their advantage in their 'contracts'

I would never want anyone to submit themselves to a company which would give them such a lousy time in such a magical city, which is why I implore anyone looking for work in Moscow to avoid this company as much as possible. I don't know a single teacher past or present who would actually recommend working for these people.

But that's my 2 cents anyway.
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Joined: 19 Jan 2017
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 29, 2017 5:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A further update:

Students who haven't been happy with the company have even gone to lawyers themselves and been told the contracts are awful and not very clear or good. So basically this company robs people blind.
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 28, 2017 8:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Anyone else had experiences with them? There seems to be no reviews about this place anywhere else online, they don't even seem to advertise for recruitment yet still manage to find teachers to hire!
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 08, 2017 11:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Update - after the bitter divorce of the Russian owner (who quickly married a Canadian and moved there leaving responsibility to the foolish secretary) and British DOS, the Brit has opened his own school with his new Russian girlfriend and made his parents pose in mobile phone made videos as actual teachers despite them living in Sheffield.
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