If you suspect your school might be paying over the odds for its energy supply, then Education Secretary Damian Hinds’ recent announcement of a new government-provided online price comparison service may well be of interest.
Overseen by the Crown Commercial Service and supported by the DfE, the School Switch website will enable schools to obtain instant quotes from a number of gas and electricity suppliers, in a manner not dissimilar to the price comparison websites used by households when choosing between domestic energy providers.
The DfE’s stated aim with the site is to help schools avoid costly fees by enabling them to deal directly with suppliers, rather than having to go via an energy broker – some of which can levy additional costs of up to 5p per kilowatt hour, equating to four-figure sums over the course of a year. All schools have to do is enter the details of their energy use, and they’ll instantly gain access to a series of tailored quotes that can be easily compared against each other.
The most recent figures available show that state-funded schools in England spent a combined sum of more than £584 million on their gas and electricity costs in 2016/17. School Switch aims to go beyond the energy deals previously arranged by the DfE – which it says have helped some schools save up to 14% on their energy expenses – and contribute to reducing schools’ spending on non-staffing costs, currently estimated be around £10 billion per year.
According to Damian Hinds, “Many households shop around for the best deal on their gas and electricity – and I want to help schools do the same. By saving money on their energy bills and avoiding high broker fees, the more money schools will have to spend on what really matters – getting the best teachers into classrooms and giving their pupils a great education.”
The launch of School Switch is the latest of several money-saving initiatives kickstarted by the launch of the government’s School Resource Management Strategy last year. Others we’ve seen so far include an online tool to help schools navigate the rates and fees charged by teacher supply agencies; a regularly updated list of deals on frequently purchased supplies, equipment and services ; and the deployment of trained School Resource Management Advisors able to share impartial business advice with schools and trusts.
The initial launch of the School Switch service has seen a limited number of energy suppliers come on board, but the plan is for more to be added over time, including suppliers specialising in renewable energy. You can find out whether the service is likely to benefit you or not by using the government’s online financial benchmarking tool to compare your school’s income and expenditure with those of other schools in your local area.