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The fifth blog in our series looking at conversion to Academy status considers obtaining maximum value for money in the procurement of goods and services

As part of the daily working life an Academy will enter into a wide range of commercial agreements with third parties suppliers and contractors. There can be both a commercial need and a legal obligation to ensuring that the Academy is getting good value for money and following the correct process.

Effective procurement in schools is the planning and acquisition of goods and services representing value for money, for the benefit of the education and well-being of the pupils. It is important for schools to compare different contracts for services to ensure that they are getting good value for money.

Collaborate

The DfE provides guidance and recommendations on its website regarding the procurement process, the recommendations and considerations, such as collaborating with other schools to share resources, comparing prices and experiences, are a sensible starting point. There is also the option to buy together to reduce cost or influence a good deal which in turn reduces the onerous task of managing multiple contracts.

EU Regulations

There are a number of areas where external guidance might be necessary during the Procurement process to ensure that the risk of a challenge to the process is lessened; has the School followed its own procedures and complied with any Statutory Regulations, if the EU threshold applies to the estimated value of the contract, currently £164,176, then the School must follow the EU procurement directives.

There are a number of areas where external guidance might be necessary during the Procurement process to ensure that the risk of a challenge to the process is lessened; has the School followed its own procedures and complied with any Statutory Regulations, if the EU threshold applies to the estimated value of the contract, currently £164,176, then the School must follow the EU procurement directives.

The European public procurement regulations apply to schools and academy trusts in the same way as it applies to local authorities and can be a fast moving and sometimes complex area. There are strict rules about the methods Schools can use to select contractors with requirements such as transparency and fair procedures. It is not enough to select a contractor based on a low price other areas need to be considered.

If the Academy does not follow the regulations for purchases above the EU threshold, suppliers may be able to challenge the school’s spending decisions and contracts on the grounds that they have been treated unfairly. The school must not split its requirements into smaller orders to avoid advertising the contract in the OJEU.

Contractual Obligations

Another often overlooked but vital consideration is the management of the contract, which starts at the outset of the procurement process with the academy setting out its specification clearly, in terms that will allow the Academy to review and manage the contract. The parties need to understand their responsibilities and the Academy must be able to check the supplier’s delivery and deal with any issues. The terms of the contract are crucial to ensure that the School maintains control and is able to ensure that the procurement process delivers the value for money that is at the heart of the process. Entering in to a long-term contract on terms that is favourable to the supplier can be a costly mistake that will impinge on the Academies ability to deliver Education to its pupils.

DTM Legal Help You Achieve Your Ambitions

At DTM Legal we offer cost effective, commercial and risk assessed advice on the procurement process as well as straightforward commercial advice to ensure that the contract accurately reflects the commercial intention and purpose of the relationship; whether you want us to review supplier terms and conditions, need a bespoke agreement or want to develop your own standard terms.  We have experience not only in the setting up of such contracts but also in extracting schools from unfavourable contracts with minimal disruption.

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It is important the school continues to have support post-conversion. DTM Legal are able to provide advice and guidance after conversion. For legal advice on Academies please speak to Duncan McAllister on 01244 354 800 or email him duncan.mcallister@dtmlegal.com.

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