These blogs are written by the authors in their own words to share their thoughts, insights and experiences on topics and are reflective of their own setting.
They are written as thought leadership articles to help colleagues to consider and reflect upon their own approach and not as guidance.
We would welcome blogs from colleagues wishing to share their own good practice and thank those colleagues already acting as system leaders through their professional generosity in sharing their experience.

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OOoohhh I do like a Bargain!

9 May 2019 | by Rowena Morris

Doing the jobs we do, we all realise the importance of buying intelligently. As salaries account for anything between 75% and 85% of our total budgets, it is important to ensure that the residue income is spent wisely. 

 A mixture of benchmarking and effective deployment of the workforce can help us to effectively manage these costs.  The irony of this, of course, is that the evidence suggests that high performing schools tend to have a higher proportional spend on staff costs, than those that perform less well (particularly when it comes to teaching salary costs).

The more we spend on staffing costs, the less we have to spend on all the other important school expenses. By the time we have budgeted for utility bills, cleaning costs, learning resources etc. the cupboard, for many of us, begins to look very bare! With some of the larger contracts it is very easy to fall into the trap of “if it works it doesn’t need fixing.” I may already be preaching to the converted here but my personal experience was quite revealing. We lead busy lives and it was only in the last eighteen months, having been in post for just over three years that I was, due to circumstances, putting our cleaning contract out to tender. The current contract had worked well and when faced with the need to look for a new contractor I was feeling a bit daunted – too long in my comfort zone! 

My experience taught me the benefits of employing a good consultant. Yes, it costs money, but not as much as I thought, and I’m not actually that good at drawing up cleaning schedules! The whole process was relatively stress free – I had someone to hold my hand and was pleasantly surprised at the number of companies wishing to tender. We are a very rural secondary school, so not many cleaning companies around. However, we ended up with a considerable saving and a better service. So, I would recommend to everyone that you re-tender on a regular basis. Even if you end up using the same contractor, you can benchmark what you are paying and keep the service “on its toes.” I have gone on to tender several contracts with good results. 

But, back to the bargains! There are some provisions that we need to procure ourselves and while ensuring that we get what we want, I do love a haggle. Our old school building is under-going some major works. Starting this summer and stretching into Easter next year there is a considerable amount of building work to be undertaken. So think of me, and the sleepless nights to come! However, it has set me to thinking about “future proofing.” Like the rest of the site, the IT provision, has been developed over the years, adding to it, pushing it to the limits, and resulting in cabling everywhere. This is the time to review it all. Can we build an infrastructure that is fit for the future? 

 With the knowledge I have gained of tendering processes I am quite looking forward to the stream of salesman and companies I am about to invite in. I have a clear agenda of what we need want to achieve, the opportunity to lay the foundations of a system, to develop moving forward…. and, importantly, the opportunity for a bit of a haggle to get what I want at the best price!