Ian Taylor, Director of the DfES’s new Centre for Procurement Performance (pictured) told @ News “Many schools may have felt that they were struggling alone and have been crying out for better deals that reflect the purchasing power of the whole education system. This now becomes a practical possibility, using technology that is commonly available. The CPP is working closely with those local authorities which have schools in their remit. First of all we want to ensure that the good deals which authorities or the local government consortia may already have set up are freely accessible to schools in a way which works with the schools’ administration systems, so the process is efficient and paper-free. On top of this, we, the CPP and our procurement partners from local authorities, the consortia and from Universities and Further Education Colleges are working together to identify opportunities to combining our spending power to negotiate better terms from suppliers that can directly benefit schools. We expect real and significant results to start benefiting school budgets during 2006.
Dudley George, Marketing Director of @UK PLC, a pioneer in this area with its @Schools online network, took up a similar theme. “Our company objective is to “cut the cost of commerce” for buyers and suppliers. If we cut out the waste that is created for all parties by unnecessary paperwork, high levels of returns through errors and by delays in orders getting to suppliers, this allows everyone to benefit. Some arrangements –such as for instance plumbing, coach trips or grounds maintenance will probably be best set up at a local level-maybe by a Local Authority on behalf of all or some of its schools, maybe by the schools themselves. Our organisation specialises in providing the facilities so that even the smallest of suppliers can take part. Other arrangements can be made at the level of groups of authorities-such as various Devon Procurement Partnership contracts now rolling out throughout that county. In other cases of course the CPP may well be able to negotiate on behalf of all UK schools. This is not the end, because even when schools have had special arrangements negotiated, they may still want to put their high value and unique service needs out for quotation-for example using our “RFP” (Request for Price) facility. The same written specification, plus any plans, schedules etc can then pass securely online to 3 or more possible providers. Replies are then all available for comparison and stored as electronic records should any audit issue arise-so no need for filing cabinets of old quotes!
Schools should in the first instance ask their local authority whether they are taking part in this online initiative. Local authorities may see how the system works at no obligation to themselves by going to www.ukplc.net/trysimsordering
and requesting a trial login and password.
(Note that although the system was devised to work initially with SIMS FMS, it is equally applicable to all other compatible systems if your schools do not use SIMS FMS for financial management.)