When a school becomes an academy, it has to start thinking about procurement for things that were previously ‘just there’. I work at a school in Sutton that became an academy in September 2016. We belonged to a fairly small LA and made sure that we looked at what we’d be taking on beforehand.
We caused some upset within our LA for doing so, but we began setting up our own contracts prior to converting – for HR services, payroll services, photocopying and many others. When carrying out procurement for a school there’s no way anyone, even the best SBM, can cope with doing more than a couple of things at a time – you need a staged plan.
Start off with a few quick wins – energy, photocopying and IT supplies, for example, where changing suppliers can be done quite easily and most likely save you money. In Sutton we have a group of SBMs that share good practice with each other. We meet every term to swap our good and bad stories, which I use as a bargaining chip when getting initial quotes – “If you do a good job I’ll recommend you to other Sutton schools.”
We try to use local companies where we can for smaller jobs, but not for areas such as payroll. I’ve heard bad stories of people using standard private sector payroll systems, trying to make them work in education, so we now ensure that we only get quotes from companies that specialise in educational payroll systems.
After you’ve done it once, changing your existing providers again should be less involved, because much of the work will already have been done. I was recently doing a procurement exercise for fixed wire testing. The last company who provided us with the service gave us everything electronically, so instead of obtaining three separate quotes I was able to send out the relevant details to various companies, and received a number of quotes within 24 hours.
Put a system in place for keeping track of different contracts and don’t let things roll over without reviewing them – otherwise you risk getting tied in for another year. We use system called Every (weareevery.com), which includes a price comparison site we use for ICT and stationery supplies. Always make sure you’re comparing like with like, particularly when getting quotes for specific models of technical equipment.
Nicky Gillhespy is an SBM based at a primary school in Sutton and an NAHT National Executive representative