Schools struggling to buy local

Gurjit Degun
15 September 2014

An increasing number of schools are having trouble finding local suppliers for goods and services, according to the second annual National School Procurement Survey.

The research from Incensu said that many schools would like to buy local “but finding these suppliers remains a major barrier”.

The survey asked school leaders to rate which factors were most important to them when spending their budgets. Using local companies wherever possible was rated as very or fairly important to over 90 per cent of respondents – up from 88 per cent in 2013.

However, the study found that more than 49 per cent of respondents said the difficulty of “finding reputable suppliers and contractors remained a key barrier to them using local businesses”. The research surveyed 106 school business managers, head teachers, bursars and governors.

The research also found that schools are very influenced by other schools in terms of which companies they buy from. Businesses recommended by other schools was “very or fairly important” to 83 per cent of respondents. A recognisable quality mark was rated as “very or fairly important” by 54 per cent of respondents.

The study added that schools regard value for money, reliability, quality and customer service more important factors than price when choosing suppliers. It also called on suppliers to make it easier for schools to buy goods and services from them collaboratively.

Peter Melville, a school business director in an Essex academy and Incensu co-founder, said: “It’s clear that more schools want to use local suppliers which have a track record of delivering quality work to other schools, but a means of finding these suppliers and this sort of information still gets in the way for many school procurement decision makers.”

Meanwhile, public buying organisation ESPO has predicted a peak of buying among schools today (15 September), which it has dubbed Super Spending Day.

Rowena Thomas, head of category for education at ESPO, said: “We’re seeing a September peak in orders for IT and software and arts and crafts equipment as the new academy term gets going but we are seeing more enquiries throughout the year for school management services, such as facility management or cleaning contracts required over a period of years.” 

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