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How to be top of the class in procurement

David Johnston, Category Manager at ESPO, discusses how schools can tackle the procurement process

Posted by Lucinda Reid | July 08, 2017 | Facilities & buildings

It’s no secret that most of the UK’s state primary and secondary schools are full to the brim and that more places are needed to support our ever increasing population. According to official forecasts from the Department for Education, an extra 750,000 school places will be required by 2025 and to meet this need, two years ago the government pledged funds to provide additional school places and also for the rebuild, refurbishment and essential maintenance needs of schools across the UK.

We’re already seeing plenty of projects underway and for those schools yet to start spending their allotted expansion funds, there’s a lot to consider: planning, architects, choosing a contractor, tools and materials, and the facilities and equipment needed to furnish these new builds.

The impact of building work

School buying teams and facilities managers face a number of challenges when it comes to specifying a new build, or classroom extension or revamping project. If a whole team of new suppliers need to be sourced, is your school buying team equipped to run a competitive tender in the time they have available?

School buyers also need to consider the impact of building work on the day-to-day running of their site. Careful project management is essential to guarantee work is completed on time and within budget without hindering the day-to-day running of the school. Contractors will need to prove their ability to undertake a project safely and effectively while school life continues around them.

Expert procurement advice 

Increasingly school business managers or purchasing teams in multi-academy trusts are looking for expert procurement advice to help get these projects off the ground. Rethinking a school’s existing site to secure more classroom space and organise building services across one or multiple sites is a tough job for anyone without direct project management or procurement experience. But the good news is that, in spite of the complexities a project of this size brings, free procurement advice is available from professional buying organisations (PBOs) who can help guide the schools’ procurement from outline plan, to negotiating deals with suppliers and final project completion.

A PBO can offer much more than procurement advice to schools, it can also introduce them to buying frameworks that offer access to a range of pre-vetted building and ancillary services with all terms and conditions pre-negotiated. Set up for use by the public sector, specifically for public bodies, these frameworks offer a fast and easier way for schools to procure everything from water coolers to professional services. School buyers looking to procure building services can use a framework to access a list of suppliers, all with a proven track record of working for schools and other public bodies. Frameworks are EU/UK procurement regulation compliant and all suppliers are assessed during the procurement process for factors such as health and safety, insurance and the resilience of their supply chain.

An alternative approach

Once the build is underway, schools can then turn their attentions on how to kit out and service their new buildings. There are frameworks to help with any of the ancillary services you may need on completion too including facilities management, cleaning, washrooms or even security.

Whatever your requirements, procurement can be a highly pressurised task for any school or trust on a tight budget and faced with a host of timing and safety restrictions. Taking advantage of an alternative approach to purchasing that gives access to the best suppliers, removes the administrative burden of sourcing a team and the necessary supplies while also reducing risk, could be the best solution for helping your expansion run smoothly.

For more information about ESPO, visit their website.

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