With many schools feeling the squeeze, the pressure is on school business managers to find ways to maximise their school or academy’s finances and deliver cost savings. However, with the freedom to choose how the budget is spent, and with countless choices on offer, you may be wondering how to get the best from that budget. This factsheet provides advice and guidance on this to help you make good choices.
Procurement is the term used to describe the full process of purchasing or buying goods and services. This includes all parts of the process; from the first step of identifying what you need and finding out what different suppliers can offer you, then selecting, buying and using your goods or managing your services, right through to disposing of the used products at the end of a contract, contract renewal and/or planning for handing over the contract to a new supplier.
Procurement organisations provide goods and services to schools and other public authorities. They negotiate deals with suppliers, ensuring quality, efficiency and compliance with procurement legislation, and achieving cost savings by combining your spend with that of other schools. Some are publicly owned, meaning their profits are directly reinvested back into public services. Others take a percentage of the money saved or a commission from the chosen supplier.
Going it alone
Going it alone means that you (or your buying group) are free to go anywhere to buy the required products and services, but this will take some time, could cost you more in the long term, and you may end up dealing with supplier organisations that have not been vetted.
A framework agreement or contract
A framework agreement or contract identifies one or more suppliers to provide a particular set of products or services after meeting certain criteria. Frameworks are drawn up by a public sector body, such as local authorities and their public sector buying consortia. Once awarded, a framework agreement is made available for other public organisations to purchase from (typically known as a call-off, where a ‘mini-competition’ between suppliers or direct award takes place). The rules can vary between agreements, so check the information provided by the organisation that manages it to see how it should be used.
The benefits offered by a framework agreement include:
- A pre-approved list of suppliers who have gone through a rigorous selection process and evaluation.
- Defined quality, pricing, delivery, and customer service etc.
- Defined terms and conditions are pre-established with education organisations and customers in mind.
- The agreement is created and managed by category specialists.
- Free to access, with time and resource efficiencies realised by using an established route to market.
Effective buying for your school
The Department for Education publishes guidance on Buying for Schools. This is non-statutory guidance for schools about buying practices and how to achieve better value for money. It also explains your obligations in relation to the basic rules of procurement when spending public money.
DfE procurement assistance
If you require specific help or advice on procurement for your school, you can contact the DfE via their procurement service