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24 February 2013 | Anna Reynolds
An online register of suppliers to schools has been launched to address the procurement “minefield” in the sector, and has received a cautious welcome.
The register, Incensu, has been developed to give head teachers, school business managers and bursars objective information that will help them to make better buying decisions. Suppliers can only register if they have been recommended by a school. There are almost 200 schools recommending companies and approximately the same number of businesses have been registered.
Peter Melville, a school business manager at William Edwards School in Grays, Essex, developed Incensu with the help of head teachers from around the country. Melville said: “I found school procurement a minefield with so many companies trying to sell to schools. The education sector desperately needed to take control of its procurement process and schools needed to talk to each other much more effectively about which companies they recommended.”
The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) is lending its support to the new register. John Randall, head of marketing at the NAHT told SM: “Anything which supports school business managers and makes procurement easier for them is a good thing. Being able to quickly compare quotes and get better value will save time and money for schools.”
But Robbie O’Driscoll, director of consortium the Schools Buying Club, told SM: “While any resource that provides information to purchasing staff in the education sector is welcomed, this new register fails to address the core issues facing school procurement.
“There is still a severe lack of purchasing ability to make value for money decisions. Schools need to be spending money collectively and collaborating at a local and regional level to get the best deals and see where efficiencies lie.”
Information on suppliers on the register includes relevant industry quality marks and membership of any buying groups that could give schools the opportunity to negotiate lower rates.
Incensu has formed partnerships with national organisations including the Finance Directors' Forum – a collaboration of 900 UK school business managers – and the Independent Academies Assured Services, an accreditation initiative from the Independent Academies Association.