Jenny Williams, Commercial Director at the Department for Education

Making every pound count in schools

After Damien Hinds’ latest address at the NGA National Conference, Jenny Williams, Commercial Director at the Department for Education, updates Education Business readers on how the DfE is supporting schools to improve their buying of goods and services.

The Secretary of State, Damian Hinds has made clear that he is committed to helping schools make every pound count. Most recently, he addressed the NGA Conference where he discussed the Department’s latest initiative, a national deal to curb supply agency fees.

Schools spent £1.17bn on supply teachers in 2015-16, 72 per cent of which was on agency supply. Schools have reported supply agencies demanding as much as 30 per cent of a teacher’s annual salary as a finder’s fee where the school wishes to hire them permanently. We know agencies can play a valuable role for schools but far too often, they are not getting a fair deal. Our new initiative looks to curb agency margins and restrict the use of finder’s fees to ensure schools are getting best value.

The Risk Protection Arrangement (RPA), an alternative to commercial insurance for academies, is a prime example of how DfE intervention of this kind has saved schools money. A few years ago a school could have paid £75 per pupil for all their insurance requirements. We created the government-backed RPA where members pay just £20 per pupil. Since launch, 64 per cent of academies have joined which has led to reduced pricing from commercial providers to remain competitive, benefiting non-members too.

Agency Supply is just one of the initiatives developed by the newly formed Schools Commercial Team. If a school were to use the DfE’s recommended deals for schools, we believe the average secondary school could save enough money to recruit a new teacher.

We want to help schools save time and money on both daily running costs and larger scale purchases and we know that, over the coming months, schools are likely to be planning IT projects for the next school year. School buyers can still make savings across ICT services and hardware frameworks and utilities. Similarly, if energy, water supply or print contracts are due to expire I’d encourage them to review the deals on GOV.UK before they finalise their budget.

Search ‘buying for schools’ on GOV.UK and you will find guidance, templates and of course, money saving deals recommended by the DfE.

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