School procurement professionals want detailed, objective information on prospective suppliers, such as those providing kitchen equipment, so they can be more confident about their buying decisions.
That’s the verdict of around 100 UK schools that took part in the first annual National School Procurement Survey (NSPS13).
The survey of business managers, headteachers and other personnel responsible for procurement decisions revealed that more than 60% of those in charge of school purchasing don’t have complete confidence in their buying decisions.
Although almost 40% of respondents said they were “completely confident” in the procurement decisions made by their schools, just over 60% were only “fairly confident”, with some “slightly concerned” about the buying of goods and services.
Despite their concerns, 78% of school equipment buyers said they achieved best value for money “most of the time”, although just 14% of respondents were assured enough to declare that their school “always” achieved best value for money in its procurement.
Peter Melville, school business director at William Edwards School in Grays, Essex and founder of Incensu.co.uk, which carried out the study, said schools needed to share information with each other about which companies are best to do business with.
While the survey did not distinguish between products or services being purchased, Melville said that it certainly applied to catering products.
He told Catering Insight: “From my point of view, I have my own kitchens here which I have to constantly maintain and buy new equipment for. I am always looking for companies that are reputable, whether that be in cleaning, deep clean or equipment repair and maintenance, and wanting to know which companies out there come recommended by other schools.
“A recommendation is so valuable with schools looking to spend their money wisely, as they always have done, but with the pressures they are under they want to know that every penny they spend is value for money and they are buying in a quality, reliable service.”
The findings of the survey revealed that the issue of confidence was underpinned by what respondents regarded as key procurement challenges.
According to respondents the five most significant challenges are lack of funding; keeping abreast of the latest policies and legislation; accessing grants; getting enough information about companies before using them; and finding companies available to work with schools.
Schools want to use local suppliers but feel limited by the apparent lack of reputable companies. 84% of those surveyed believe that schools could be encouraged to buy locally as long as they could be reassured that they would receive best value for money.