The 4 biggest pain points for school staff and how to cure them
Procurement is a critical function in any organisation, schools especially so. While it may seem like a straightforward process, school procurement staff face unique challenges that can make it difficult and stressful. School Business Managers (SBMs) are responsible for sourcing, purchasing, and managing goods and services required to support education programs, including things like textbooks, equipment, technology, and other supplies.
Sounds simple enough? Well, they also have to ensure that:
- they are obtaining value for money in all procurement practices,
- the goods and services they purchase are of good quality and meet the needs of the school and its students,
- their school stays in compliance with laws and regulations, which can help avoid legal problems and negative publicity,
- they are transparent in their purchasing processes, which can build trust with stakeholders, including parents, students, and the community,
- all students have access to the resources they need, regardless of their background or socioeconomic status. By selecting suppliers based on merit and value rather than personal connections, schools can promote equity and fairness in their procurement practices.
We want to discuss all these pain points that school procurement staff have to deal with when procuring goods and services and provide some tips to help alleviate these difficulties.
1. Budget Constraints
One of the biggest pain points facing school procurement staff is budget constraints. Many schools have limited budgets, and SBMs are often tasked with finding the best value for money within these restrictions. However, finding the best value is not always easy, as procurement staff need to balance the need for quality goods and services with cost constraints. With the current financial climate, this challenge has only doubled in difficulty too.
While there’s no easy solution to this challenge, you should work closely with suppliers to negotiate prices and payment terms. Some other methods include taking advantage of collaborative buying options and making use of a pre-approved frameworks or DPSs, as suppliers have been pre-vetted and will work with you to achieve the best value for money, especially with your top spend contracts.
Recently, we worked with Park View School who needed to quickly procure for a new catering contract. They used Education Buying’s Catering DPS and, school dinner pricing remained at the same level as their previous contract, avoiding any hike in price, while the overall contract saved £528,000.
Another key way to look at budget constraints is to look at what your currently buying. That’s where a cost transformation process can help.
Analyse your contracts and gain visibility on the spend for each of them to gauge their effectiveness with a spend analysis report. Spend visibility can be a valuable tool for schools looking to improve efficiencies and gain savings. By implementing spend visibility initiatives, schools can identify areas where they can reduce costs, streamline processes, and make more informed purchasing decisions.
2. Compliance and Regulations
School business managers must also navigate a complex web of regulations and compliance requirements. Procurement regulations are constantly changing in the UK, with Brexit’s long-term effect on public sector procurement still being felt today.
Additionally, procurement staff must ensure compliance with various laws and regulations, such as the Public Contract Regulations 2015, which can add additional layers of complexity to the procurement process due to its continual updates. What could have been compliant six months ago, may no longer be, so it’s vital to stay informed!
Fortunately, we report on the updates of the PCR regulations as they happen, if you’d like to find the most recent thresholds and compliance regulations, you can click here
Ways to combat this pain point can include:
- Your school or MAT can establish a compliance program that ensures adherence to relevant regulations and laws.
- Regular training for staff, compliance audits, and documentation to demonstrate compliance.
- Additionally, you can leverage technology to help automate compliance tasks, such as record-keeping and reporting through the use of a Contracts Register.
3. Contract Management
Contract management can be an especially difficult pain point for schools, mainly because of the sheer amount of contracts involved with keeping a school running effectively. The time involved to ensure every contract is managed at an efficient level can be difficult to fit in the already busy schedule of an SBM, so here’s what you can do to make sure your contracts work for you.
The most important factor in contract management is that when a contract is secured and your supplier begins to fulfil their requirements, never stop working on the contract! Contract management ensures that your contract – whatever goods or service it may be – stays efficient over the contract period. It takes a lot of time but if you aren’t keeping in contact with your supplier, they may start to cut corners or add additional costs without contacting you first.
Some of the ways you can overcome this timely task is through setting strong KPIs for whatever it is you are tendering, and effectively reporting on them. Set up regular monthly meetings with your supplier and take the minutes/actions from each meeting, with plans to follow through on them.
You will often find that especially with your bigger spend contracts like catering or cleaning, suppliers will be invested in working with you to find innovative ways to accomplish the contract specification, this is doubly so if you have social value requirements implemented into the specification.
4. Time Constraints
Finally, we come to one of the most difficult pain points to overcome, time.
The procurement process can be lengthy and time-consuming, with numerous steps and stakeholders involved. You may have to gather bids, evaluate suppliers, negotiate contracts, and oversee delivery, all while balancing other responsibilities. This can lead to stress and burnout, which only makes everything else in your busy schedule more difficult to handle.
To address this challenge, school procurement staff can streamline the procurement process by leveraging technology and the expertise of other procurement professionals. Procurement software such as the previously mentioned contracts register can automate many of the manual tasks involved in procurement and if you are feeling like there’s too much on your plate, you can go to other procurement experts and ask for help.
Education Buying offers a wide array of procurement support, and can even put a retained procurement resource in place for however long you require them.
This can save you time and reduce any potential burnout related errors, allowing you to focus on more strategic tasks while giving you the breathing room required to work at your best.
The procurement process can be riddled with pain points that make the job challenging and frustrating. Limited budgets, time constraints, contract management and ensuring you’re adhering to constantly evolving regulations are difficult to keep track of all the time. However, there are ways in which you can ease these burdens for yourself and your school so that you are keeping yourself from burning out but also saving your school money.
If you are interested in any of Educations Buying’s procurement solutions, click here and sign up to our portal, get in touch and we will help you with anything you need.