Schools know that they need to get better value and more tailored service contracts to suit their needs but often don’t have the resources or expertise to manage compliant tender processes, and tend to let contracts ‘roll over’. Here we speak to Claire Delaney of the Schools’ Buying Club for a fresh and effective perspective
Let’s take a positive view (after all, it’s the beginning of a new year) and work on the assumption that most suppliers (not forgetting to include local authority traded services in the generic term ‘suppliers’) are not unscrupulous and don’t use this lack of resource, expertise and time to take advantage of their clients. However, what if you’re one of the schools in the minority where this isn’t the case? You think you’re getting a good deal, but do you have the evidence that your governing body needs to show that, by rolling over, you are getting the best possible service and maximising value for money? What happens when the auditors come in? Do you have the correct paper trail in place?
Headteachers and SBMs are focused on making their budgets stretch as far as they can; expert procurement practice can provide a much-welcomed source of additional funds
Claire Delaney, managing director at Schools’ Buying Club, urges schools and MATs not to leave it to the last minute to renew their existing contracts. “At the beginning of the year it may seem like there is plenty of time to prepare a tender for a new contract starting in September, but the more time we have to help you develop an exact requirement and manage the procurement process, the greater level of competition we can drive from the supply market and the better value solution each school will receive. We know many individual schools and MATs that have made real and significant savings by renewing contracts in a timely manner and not allowing contracts to simply roll over.”
Collaborative procurement approaches should also be considered. A dedicated resource to help drive procurement efficiency can be challenging to organise, especially if there are different school contract requirements, specific needs and varying contract end dates to take into consideration but, if schools are prepared to invest some time and are willing to work together, collaborative procurement across key categories of spend can achieve genuine efficiencies and savings – Claire gives the example of a trust of ten primary schools for which Schools’ Buying Club procured a new catering contract generating £250,000 of savings over the three-year life of the contract.
Looking at your alternatives is a great opportunity for schools and MATs to exit poor quality services or to support those which simply need help with what to do next
“Outsourced cleaning and catering tend to be the two categories where most gains can be made through collective procurement,” Claire points out, “but all the schools must sign up at the outset to the appointment of a single supplier, selected by using evaluation criteria that suit the needs of the entire group. We encourage groups to assign a representative who works with us to ensure that the needs of each school have been captured and who can be part of our tender evaluation team.”
Looking at your alternatives is a great opportunity for schools and MATs to exit poor quality services or to support those which simply need help with what to do next; ensuring you have the right support is and information is paramount to doing this effectively. At a time when school finances are coming under increasing pressure, and headteachers and SBMs are focused on making their budgets stretch as far as they can, expert procurement practice can provide a much-welcomed source of additional funds.