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Managing your contracts and suppliers

09 September 2016

Reminders and good practice tips for securing value for money both at procurement and during the life of major contracts.

Most readers will be familiar, or at least aware, of procurement regulations. Of course, the law on procurement is complex and the threshold levels requiring formal EU procurement processes are relatively high, so most of the time a very formal process is not strictly required under the procurement rules.

However, good procurement is also part of the general duties of day to day running of a school or academy and the principles are enshrined in the Academies Financial Handbook and other DFE guidance on procurement.

These general duties don't end when you have chosen your supplier. Another part of the process is ensuring that contracts and your suppliers are managed effectively to ensure that you actually receive the value for money you expect.

The following is a summary of the key principles:

1. Periodic benchmarking 

One aspect of these principles is to carry out a repeat procurement exercise or benchmarking exercise from time to time to ensure you are still getting value for money and discharging your duties.

2. Supplier reviews

Another aspect is to undertake supplier reviews. A supplier review is intended to check that the service you have received or are receiving is what you expected and is an opportunity to deal with any issues there might be. The first stage of any supplier review is an internal check. For key suppliers and any significant contracts it will also be worth having a review meeting to go through the terms of agreements and measure performance.

Much of the basic process and internal check is very obvious, such as was the cost as expected and was the deadline achieved? Reviewing quality "metrics" are dependent on the sort of services being supplied, so is more variable, but may include things like:

  • Knowledge of the Academy Trust 
  • Impact on educational outcomes 
  • Impact on business outcomes 
  • Impact on compliance outcomes 
  • Impact on [key risk / aim / objective] 
  • Added value beyond precise contract terms 
  • All the above and other points leads to the general assessment of value for money

There are lots of products on the market you could buy from financial and risk management suppliers to help with these processes and there is plenty of guidance available on the internet.

3. Policies and procedures

Finally, it's important that a) you have internal policies and procedures on these matters and b) that you actually follow your policies. These points will be picked up during audits or EFA inspection visits if you are not doing this or demonstrating how you discharge your duties in an equivalent way.

Suppliers should welcome these reviews as it is also a way for those of us who supply services to schools to keep improving and innovating to deliver the services that schools and academy trusts need and deserve.

Useful links

For more information here are a few links you might find useful from the Government website:

'Buying for Schools' – DfE advice on how to plan and run an efficient procurement process to buy goods, works or services for your school  

'Managing your contract' - How to review supplier performance, renew or end the contract, and review your procurement process

School procurement: bid evaluation scoring summary

Schools financial health checks: supplier registration form

HM Treasury guidance – 'Managing Public Money'


If you would like to discuss any aspect of this article further, please contact Tim Wrigley on 0113 244 6100.

You can also keep up to date by following Wrigleys Schools team on Twitter here

The information in this article is necessarily of a general nature. Specific advice should be sought for specific situations. If you have any queries or need any legal advice please feel free to contact Wrigleys Solicitors




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