Survey reveals schools “crying out” for budget help
Schools are “crying out” for training and support to help them make the most of budgets and prepare for a funding squeeze, according to a new national survey of school procurement professionals.
Results of the third annual National School Procurement Survey (NSPS15), carried out over the summer by national education supplier register Incensu.co.uk, reveals that while the desire for collaborative purchasing is at a level similar to those captured in 2014’s survey, calls for training to encourage schools to start working collaboratively with others has grown significantly - from 36 per cent in 2014 to 46 per cent today.
The survey results show that more than half of school business managers, heads and governors said that their school had generated savings by purchasing goods and services with other schools, but 49 per cent had not.
A lack of formal structures for joint purchasing appears to be the problem: just 28 per cent of schools said they had a partnership agreement which supported joint purchasing with other schools, but 70 per cent had not.
There’s no lack of desire to investigate joint purchasing: 74 per cent of respondents had considered purchasing in bulk for the benefit of other schools but 52 per cent said there were no incentives for them to purchase jointly with other schools.
Lack of time remains the chief barrier to schools - 72 per cent of respondents identified time is the key limiter on collaborative purchasing. There’s also a problem with this money saving approach not being seen as a priority and a lack of expertise within schools.
Respondents said that more time, training, the availability of legal frameworks such as partnerships or trading companies, and suppliers permitting collaborative purchasing were key factors that would encourage schools to starting working collaboratively with other schools.
These worries about collaborative purchasing mirror concerns about future school funding. The survey revealed that worries about school budgets have grown significantly since 2014’s survey. In 2014 54 per cent of respondents said funding was a key concern. This has jumped to 76 per cent in the 2015 survey.
The survey also asked respondents to identify the main way their school would try to address any future funding challenge. Nearly half (49 per cent) said that ‘staff optimisation’ – getting maximum value from existing staffing levels – would be their key approach. More collaboration either through structures or sharing of resources was cited by 30 per cent. Review of existing procurement practices was cited by 15 per cent.
Peter Melville, a school business director and co-founder of survey owners Incensu.co.uk, the national register of education suppliers, 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 and they are crying out for training, support and time in order to make the most of it.
“We’re hoping that the results of this survey will underline to the Chancellor that joint procurement is still a distant prospect for many schools so they need support and incentives to be able to embrace this approach fully.”
NASBM (National Association of School Business Managers) was a major supporter of this year’s survey. Bethan Cullen, marketing director at NASBM, said: "The system simply cannot afford to subsidise inefficient schools so collaboration will no longer be simply a desirable, but, almost inevitably, a necessity."
"SBMs can lead the way in identifying suitable structures, collaborative opportunities and operational efficiencies by working with partner schools and learning from shared practice."
NSPS15 was carried out online by Incensu, the national register of school suppliers, in summer 2015. The survey of 89 school business managers, headteachers, bursars and governors in mainly state schools across England was supported by a range of partners, including the National Association of School Business Managers (NASBM), analysis of which can be found here.