Education suppliers should play a greater role in encouraging schools to collaborate more when it comes to buying goods and services.
That’s the view of school business managers, finance directors, bursars, heads and governors who shared their views in the National School Procurement Survey (NSPS15), carried out over the summer by Incensu.co.uk, the national register of education suppliers.
The results of the survey, now in its third year, were the first since the introduction of the Universal Infant Free School Meals programme, which has seen the largest number of kitchen refurbishments ever undertaken in the education sector.
School procurement professionals were asked which factors would encourage them to start working collaboratively with other schools. Suppliers permitting collaborative purchasing by groups of schools was one of the top factors, identified in 46%, along with more time, legal frameworks and more training.
There’s no lack of desire amongst schools to investigate joint purchasing: 74% of respondents said they had considered purchasing in bulk for the benefit of other schools but 52% said there were currently no incentives for them to purchase jointly with other schools.
Lack of time remains the chief barrier – this was identified as the key limiter on collaborative purchasing in 72 per cent of responses. There’s also a problem with a lack of expertise within schools and the perception that this money saving approach is still struggling to be regarded as a priority within schools.
Peter Melville, a school business director and co-founder of survey organisers Incensu.co.uk, said: “The survey shows that as funding fears grow schools are increasingly aware that collaborative purchasing will be a major plank in their money saving strategies, but they need support, training and time in order to make the most of it.
“It also shows that the businesses who supply goods and services to schools should step up and work more closely with the education sector to make it easier for schools to access the benefits of collaborative purchasing.”