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For the whole of March, we'll be sharing exclusive content centred around Innovation On A Budget. How can schools ensure steady progress with often-stretched funds?

"The need to innovate despite limited funds is a familiar challenge for schools," comments leading edu-preneur and Giglets advocate, Helen Bowen. "Innovation ought to bring improvement, but we’ve all encountered examples of ‘the latest thing’ that brought only confusion and delay.

"In this context, the thought of changing practices in an attempt at innovation is easily dismissed. Why spend money changing what we know? I can only recommend that each of us becomes extremely picky when trying new products and services. For example, Giglets is perfect for quickly updating a school library with high-quality fiction and nonfiction books."

Change is good, but it’s also challenging. The best resource is one where you can’t imagine how you ever managed without it – but you need to be ready to take the first step.

Finding the framework to save your school money

Neil Watkins

Think IT managing director Neil Watkins has long believed that education has the power to change lives. With over 14 years’ experience of working with technology in schools, colleges and local authorities, Neil is turning IT in schools around by providing them with the best educational suppliers the industry has to offer through Think IT’s EU-tendered procurement framework.

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Image credit: Pixabay. Image credit: Pixabay.

Time and time again, when my colleagues and I speak to schools, they tell us that choosing and buying edtech is an increasingly difficult process. They simply don’t have the time – or the expertise – to create a detailed specification, go out to tender, evaluate lengthy technical proposals, interview suppliers and negotiate the best deals. On top of this process, there’s the ambiguity around financial budgets and the legalities and requirements which must be followed under EU procurement law. Edtech moves so fast, how do they know what they’ll need in three years time?

When we look at this challenge, and the rising costs, how can schools become more efficient?

The answer has its foundations in supply chain.

Helping manufacturers to help schools

Currently, many schools invest in products and resources through resellers. What they might not be aware of, however, is the exorbitant price tag that often accompanies these purchases, which quite frankly, schools could do without right now.

By the time a product has made its way through the supply chain from manufacturer, to distributor, reseller, and finally to the end-user, it can be substantially more expensive than the manufacturer originally sold it for. Not to mention the additional costs associated with installation and training.

If manufacturers’ products are to remain an attractive proposition for schools, then they need to look at more efficient ways of reducing the supply chain layers and associated costs.

There is, however, a simple solution: procurement frameworks. For a while now, the Department for Education (DfE) guidelines have heavily promoted the use of these frameworks in order to help schools save time, and of “Schools could do without the exorbitant price tags right now!”course, ensure value for money. Not only do procurement frameworks cut out the arduous task of schools having to run full tender processes, ensuring everything is compliant with the legalities and EU and UK procurement legislation, but they can also provide new ways for manufacturers to cut layers out of the supply chain to reduce prices for themselves, and more importantly, schools.

Procurement frameworks can play a key role in disrupting the traditional chain, bringing benefits for manufacturers, while also ensuring better transparency and costs for schools.

For example, by partnering with high-performing manufacturers such as SMART Technologies, Microsoft, Google and Fujitsu, to name a few, frameworks are able to secure the best possible value pricing from the source. This means that from the outset, schools are given the reassurance and confidence that what they’re investing in will not only positively impact teaching and learning, but will also ensure they are receiving the most favourable pricing.

What to look for?

When it comes to selecting the right framework for the job, schools should opt for one that is education-sector specific, where the advice and support provided is tailored to schools’ specific needs. Using a framework “Frameworks can provide new ways to reduce prices.”that offers schools the highest calibre in terms of product, service, cost, suitability and customer care, and with a thorough knowledge of the education sector, can mean the difference between success and failure.

Ultimately, frameworks are there to make procurement easier for schools, but with the added benefit of also helping manufacturers to find new ways to reduce the layers in the chain, lower prices for the end-customer, and cut their own costs. Doing so will ensure that they can remain competitive for schools with increasingly shrinking budgets.

It’s a win-win situation, so the only question schools should be asking themselves now is, why wait? Reap the rewards now to ensure that what you’re buying will benefit the school and its teaching and learning. Head out there and find the right procurement framework for you. Here are some tips to get you started:

1. Before you do anything, identify what you need. Think about budgets and ask yourself, is it a necessity? How long will it last for? Does it require staff training? Will there be additional costs associated? What is the expected lifespan?
2. Next, work out a timeline and ensure there will be minimum disruption to teaching and learning.
3. Look for a framework with education expertise; while there are plenty out there, making sure you can call upon their guidance and knowledge will ensure you’re selecting the most relevant, efficient and cost-effective solutions for your school.
4. Different framework providers have different boundaries, and some will be restricted to a registered list of suppliers so opt for one with flexibility. The best ones are those that can add or remove suppliers when required, or even work with schools to identify alternative options which may not have been part of the framework initially.
5. Consult neighbouring schools or your local authority, as they may be able to recommend a framework for you

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