Purchasers in schools not confident in buying decisions

Gurjit Degun
3 October 2013

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More than 60 per cent of procurement professionals in schools are not completely confident in their buying decisions.

That’s according to the first annual National School Procurement Survey, carried out by Incensu – a supplier for the education sector – over the summer.

Almost 40 per cent of those questioned said they were “completely confident” in their buying decisions, while some were “slightly concerned”.

The findings revealed that confidence was undermined by challenges such as lack of funding; keeping abreast of the latest policies and legislation; accessing grants; getting enough information about companies before using them; and finding companies available to work with schools.

Almost 80 per cent of respondents believe that schools achieved best value for money in their buying decisions “most of the time”. Only 14 per cent agreed that this was always the case, and 8 per cent said best value for money was “not always” achieved. 

The results showed that schools place value for money and reliability above cost when deciding on awarding contracts. Almost all respondents (96 per cent) said value for money was “very important” and 97 per cent of schools said reliability was “very important”.

According to the study of 98 people, which included headteachers, governors and bursars, schools want to use local suppliers but feel limited by the apparent lack of reputable companies. Eighty-four per cent of those surveyed said that schools “could be encouraged to buy locally as long as they could be reassured that they would receive best value for money”.

Peter Melville, school business director at William Edwards School in Grays, Essex, and founder of Incensu, said the survey highlighted the need for action to improve the procurement experience for both schools and suppliers. 

“Schools still lack complete confidence in procurement,” he said. “The question now is how to increase this confidence. We need to work together to provide school procurement training and also share information with each other about which companies are best to do business with.”

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