Earlier this month I wrote noting that it was now five years since the government put forward its paper discussing the issue of efficiency and money saving in schools.
As I mentioned, the government’s claims at the time were extraordinary including the notion that through some fairly simple changes the average secondary school could save £100,000 a year, while the average primary school could save £25,000 a year.
In essence the government’s plan was that schools should band together and approach suppliers and say, “We are now five schools working together and we are going to give this whole contract for the supply of envelopes (or whatever) to one firm. What can you offer?”
I wondered if this was happening and a couple of weeks ago asked readers to let me know of any developments in this field.
Normally when I ask such a question, I get a lot of replies, but the response in this case we just about the smallest ever. Here are extracts from three of the replies I got and after that details of another issue which I am currently following up, and which may perhaps prove useful to readers.
… in the interest of trying to see if I was missing anything I took up the local authority’s offer of a purchasing audit and they found potential savings of around £100- 200 per year on my non personnel spend. Not quite what the government report said.
… Because of our location and size we are part of a rural cluster and as such the SBM’s considered the options of bulk buying but the only time it seems to have effectively worked was with coach transport if two or more schools were attending the same event as long as numbers worked out conveniently.
In relation to energy this was done through a bulk purchasing scheme but arranged through the council on schools’ behalf although there was no requirement to opt-in if schools didn’t want to. In relation to everything else it just didn’t seem to happen and for a variety of reasons including (but not exhaustive):
● Schools used different suppliers and different products, even down to different types of class books in terms of size and colour;
● Sometimes a change of product was required to provide consistency across schools in order to facilitate bulk buying which caused tensions and staff (both teaching and support) often complained that it led to products not always being equally matched or of similar quality to those currently used by them and so weren’t always happy to change product/supplier or resistant to the suggestion of change full stop – they liked using what they had always used (unless it was them suggesting the change!!);
● partly because any savings made were usually offset by a higher delivery charge if the courier had to deliver to multiple sites – if the supplier only delivered to one site then it meant the other schools had to arrange staff to go and collect their items;
● It wasn’t always possible to schedule order timings at a convenient time for all schools which could lead to either shortages or surplus stock which for the smaller schools had it’s own problems due to limited storage space available;
Our school is part of a confederation made up of 19 schools. The Business Manager network decided to look at bulk purchasing stationary and resources some 4 years ago. Since then we have managed to make significant savings on paper, stationery and classroom resources etc.
In addition, CPD is being delivered at a significant reduced cost and more local to our schools, thus reducing not only our CPD budget but also our travel budget.
As a school, we have made significant savings across IT, energy, supply etc. by moving contracts or reviewing staff….
In this final case I am not quoting directly from a response, because I was told about this on the phone, and I am seeking further information before I come back on this.
The issue relates to minibuses – something I have touched upon in the past. It seems that some schools are working together with a minibus lease so that one school might have the bus for two days and the other three days, with each paying a proportion of the lease.
I’ve been told about this in terms of two smaller primary schools neither of which could take on a minibus on their own, combining in this way, and also of a primary and a secondary school, whereby the secondary needed a second minibus for part of the week, and the primary just needed it for two days a week.
As I say I am seeking to get more information on how this works, and when I have it I will report further.
Thanks to everyone who joined in the survey.