YPO expert advice: procurement

When it comes to procurement, how can you get the best value for your school? We put some commonly-asked questions to YPO's Executive Director, Paul Smith.

How often should our school review our service contracts, and what should we be looking out for?

I would say that, as a minimum, schools should review all contracts annually, but preferably more frequently. Start by looking 
at the relative importance of all 
your contracts, and ensure that 
the most critical ones get the most attention. Look at all areas – catering, cleaning, insurance, electricity, grounds maintenance – wherever you spend money!

There are a number of things that you should look out for. Note when contracts are due for renewal and ensure that they are not renewed automatically. If there is a minimum notice period on an existing contract, make a note in your diary to review it with enough time to 
give notice if necessary.

Most importantly, do you know that you are getting good value and good service? How do you know? Don’t rely on suppliers telling you that you are getting a good deal! Test the market by asking other schools or by running a benchmarking exercise (public buying organisations such as YPO can complete one of these for you, free of charge).

What are procurement 'frameworks', and how do they apply to schools?

Whenever public money is spent it is best practice to ensure fair and open competition for suppliers, and value for money for buyers. When substantial sums are involved, there’s a legal requirement to conduct a thorough tender process. Frameworks help schools achieve best value, and encourage fair competition between suppliers. Frameworks are available for a range of services, from ICT equipment to building maintenance and insurance.

Schools are required to operate a thorough and open procurement process to demonstrate that public money is being spent wisely. A framework is a public-sector contract where a professional purchasing organisation such as YPO has already carried out a compliance procedure to appoint suppliers for a particular need.

As a framework is accessed by lots of public sector organisations, it aggregates their buying power to negotiate better pricing. It saves organisations the time and manpower of conducting their own tender processes. It also makes it much easier for you to award a contract for your school without worrying about whether you are getting a good deal, having to manage a supplier throughout, and terminating a contract if it’s not meeting the needs of your school.

Apart from DfE guidance, what other issues do we need to consider?

EU procurement regulations apply to all public bodies, including schools. They ensure that suppliers are selected in a fair and transparent manner, and that public money is being spent efficiently. More information on procuring effectively for your school can be found in the DfE's guidance on buying goods and services for schools.

Can we save money by purchasing as a MAT or by working collaboratively with other local schools?

Yes! In fact, collaborative purchasing bodies, such as YPO, already exist to do some of this work for you. It is a great idea for schools to buy together to achieve the best prices, and YPO has been doing just that for over 100 years! We work with schools and suppliers across 
the country so we are able to leverage a better deal for everyone.

How can we guarantee good value for money when we're constantly asked to cut costs?

Working with a collaborative buying organisation such as YPO is a great way to ensure that your money is spent in an efficient way. Everything we do is compliant with legal regulations and is designed to deliver great value for money on all the resources and services you need to run your school. For example, schools have saved up to 40% on their printing costs by using our Multi-Functional Devices (printing and photocopying) Framework. This framework (ref: RM1599) was developed by YPO in collaboration with the Crown Commercial Service and ESPO to deliver a risk-free buying experience. It was specifically set up to help protect schools from unscrupulous suppliers, following media reports that many schools were being faced with large bills. For more details, email itservicces@ypo.co.uk. Frameworks are an ideal way of ensuring that you aren’t tied to contracts for lengthy periods that don’t meet the needs of your school. The documentation is already drawn up, so you don’t need to worry about any hidden charges.

We need to put your project out to tender – is there anything we need to know about this process?

It depends on the value of the project. If it is very high value you will need to follow more regulations. However, be aware that there may already be frameworks in place that could cover your requirements and save you the time and effort of doing more than you need. Consult with YPO or another professional buying organisation to discover how they can help.

About YPO's procurement services

YPO has over 80 procurement frameworks. To find out more about the procurement service and to get advice on how you can make the most of your school budgets, contact YPO on 01924 664664 or email procurementservices@ypo.co.uk. YPO works with suppliers across the UK to offer the latest products and services to schools at the most competitive prices. Explore over 30,000 products at ypo.co.uk/products.