13 Mar 2018 | by Claire Edwards







Alan Carr is the latest host of the flashy gameshow ‘The Price is Right’.  The more ‘experienced’ professionals among us will no doubt remember Bruce Forsyth or Lesley Crowther asking the audience to come on down and guess the extortionate price of luxury household items.?


If you’ve been a business manager in the same school for some time, you will have a feel for the costs of the different contracts your school buys into.  However, with prices constantly changing and frameworks constantly expanding, getting the right price is an ongoing challenge.


It should go without saying that:

having an up to date contracts register and

regularly monitoring it

really does pay off. But, sometimes the value in this can be overlooked and we fail to challenge our suppliers and accept a lower quality of service or a more expensive one than we need to.


Simple challenge factors

If the service is not a legal requirement and not essential to pupil outcomes, do you need it at all?

What risks is it mitigating? e.g. are you continuing to pay a building company an annual fee to respond to maintenance issues when you actually use a local plumber to fix an urgent problem?  Similarly with any other retainers; are you really using the service?

Regularly review any SLA to ensure it reflects the service you receive and are paying for and that it is remains appropriate to the school needs.

Is there any overlap between services/licences? 

Overlap often happens in the school office where there maybe two or more systems that can communicate with parents.  Try to rationalise these.

When renewing a contract, always ask your supplier if they can offer you a better deal. 

More often than not they will do, rather than lose your business.  If they are a good supplier and you want to recommend them to other schools, they may give you a discount.  Consider joint purchasing with other schools for bulk discounts.

Don’t accept a lower renewal price from a supplier without considering whether your contracts would be better value on a framework

Compare the rates you are offered to frameworks, such as ESPO, CPC e.g. water coolers are usually better value when leased through framework contracts.  Some counties offer frameworks.  ISBL have an energy framework.  The Schools Buying Strategy is establishing national deals for energy, multifunctional devices, Microsoft licencing and ICT as well as the Risk Protection Arrangement for academies. 

When buying a new service – define the outcomes you want to see

Ask suppliers to use their expertise to demonstrate how they will achieve your outcomes; you can decide which approach best meets your needs

Always read the small print before signing up for any leases or contracts

Schools have sometimes entered into onerous lease arrangements which not only tie them in for a long time at high rates, but can leave them liable to send back the leased machine at the end of the contract after having to pay to wipe the contents.

Review the procurement strategy with governors

Demonstrate the services you have re-tendered and the better deals you have negotiated. 


Want to develop your procurement skills? 

With procurement opportunities ever changing, there is plenty of support to take advantage of, to strengthen skills in this area of the Professional Standards.  

ISBL are registering interest for the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply Corporate Award which will commence soon. This is a comprehensive procurement and supply learning programme based on CIPS Global Standard, specially adapted for the education sector:

Join a free ESPO workshop, being run around the country, to enhance knowledge of your procurement responsibilities and the legal requirements.

If you are in the North West and South West regions you may have registered for the School’s buying Strategy regional hubs which are running from February 2018 for one year, supporting schools with:

Advice and guidance

Support with complex contracts

Promotion of local collaboration and aggregation


By Claire Edwards - March 2018